Cleaning up

Power & Utilities

Stephen D. Johnston had everything going for him. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, he landed a job with Wachovia Securities Inc. and the young investment banker went to work making a name for himself.

Then, one day, a local entrepreneur offered Johnston a job at his start-up company. At the time, the new venture consisted of a three-page business plan, a three-bedroom house and five employees.

If he accepted the offer, Johnston would have to withdraw from his EMBA program and take a 60 percent pay cut, but he followed his intuition and joined SmartSynch in 2000.

Almost as soon as he came on board, he discovered that the company — which develops smart grid intelligence solutions for the utility industry — was nearly out of money. Johnston used his prior experience in banking to secure millions in capital and revamp the business plan. Prospects looked grim once again in 2001, when the company’s largest vendor, Motorola, decided to discontinue its product line that was vital to SmartSynch’s survival. To avoid a mess, Johnston arranged a deal to purchase the division from Motorola.

In 2004, the company faced significant turnover, including the loss of its founder/CEO. Confident in his commitment and vision for the company, the board of directors named Johnston CEO. After settling into his new position, Johnston persuaded AT&T to buy in to his company’s technology. Every other public carrier soon followed AT&T’s lead and bought into the smart grid, resulting in a 100 percent increase in revenue from 2008 to 2009.

The future looks promising for Johnston and his company. Recently, the company gained recognition as “One of the Most Intriguing Green Tech Innovators in America” by BusinessWeek and the total potential benefit of implementing smart grid technologies over the next 20 years is estimated to be $75 billion.

How to reach: SmartSynch, (888) 362-1780 or