Featured image credit: Dieter Schalk
It has been a 100 days since nine startups from all over the world joined the Rockstart Accelerator Smart Energy Program 2015. This means it’s time to hold a Demo Day to draw a symbolic line in the process of growth and development of these young companies. On April 30, 2015, every participating startup got a chance to get on stage and pitch to a 250+ audience of investors, corporate representatives and journalists.
The Smart Energy Program of the Rockstart Accelerator is tailored for those startups that are contributing to solving the challenges of the energy transition, particularly through a novel application of software and IT. Potential participants can come from areas such as energy savings, cleantech hardware, sustainable buildings and others.
All the nine companies that were selected for the Smart Energy Program in 2015 out of more than 200 initial applications have a real potential to positively alter the way energy is being produced and consumed today.
This year’s line-up consisted of:
During the course of three months before the Demo Day they’ve been receiving extensive coaching, while meeting investors and tapping into Rockstart’s vast network of mentors. At the Demo Day the startups put their best foot forward in order to appeal to potential investors in the audience, although some of the participants of class 2015 have already managed to raise a part of the necessary funding even before the event.
Mo El-Fatatry, who is a founder and a CEO at Masar, one of the startups in the Smart Energy Program, is explaining the possibilities that are open to participants during the Demo Day. He says: “About 30% of people in the audience today are investors interested in green startups. All the possibilities are open. In the best case scenario an investor can get interested and begin formal negotiations with a startup about placing an investment. It is not unheard of that startups close funding deals on spot, it has happened before.” Masar itself is looking to raise €1m in order to build their first solar power plant on a patch of land 25 km from Cairo. The company aims to provide big cities of the Middle East and North Africa with stable electricity grids by means of harnessing the power of sun through medium-sized solar installations.
Three out of nine companies pitching during the Demo Day were Dutch, namely: Bleeve, the online marketplace/social network for those seeking to find the best energy saving solutions; Capacity Energy, which presented a fully automated platform for balancing the electricity grid; and Finch Buildings, a startup specializing in sustainable wooden modular houses.
Peter R. Koster, co-founder of Climate Consulting Group BV, has been offering his advice to the startups of the Smart Energy Program as both an investor and mentor. At the event he shared: “Bleeve looks particularly promising to me. Their product is understandable for the public and it is scalable both in Europe and in the United States.” As mentioned before, Bleeve is an online community for people who are interested in lowering their energy bills and making their houses more energy efficient. Users of this platform can connect to their local communities, suppliers and energy corporations. The team has already signed a deal with 15 Dutch municipalities and secured funding from DOEN foundation. Koster explains that Bleeve makes a good candidate for an investment from him too, partly because the scale is right for a private investor like himself and also because Bleeve is a Dutch startup—the latter being an important factor for him.
Martin Weissmann of Apple Trees, another investor at the event, weighs in: “Two startups stood out to me today: Bleeve and Wirewatt.” The latter comes from Mexico and connects solar projects in emerging economies to capital investment through an online marketplace. Wirewatt’s activities ensure that each solar project has a compatible investor, first in Mexico and then outside of the country. “Their market potential is huge, and they have a proven business model. The only thing they have to do is move really fast,” continues Weissmann. He also shares that he is planning on approaching one of the startups: “To me it really doesn’t matter where they come from. The team is something I will look at. Human personalities play a big role: either you are an entrepreneur or not. Some people are just entrepreneurial, but not entrepreneurs. That’s the first thing I look at. Finch Buildings is an exceptional startup with this regard, headed by a really passionate guy. I have no doubt that he will make it as an entrepreneur. I made some suggestions when working with them, but I’m afraid that in this case I just don’t have a proper understanding of architecture and an investor has to have a feeling of the industry he is investing in.” Finch Buildings, headed by Jurrian Knijtijzer, makes real estate from sustainable wooden blocks. Their model revolves around the idea of building almost any kind of housing out of a combination of same particular modules. Knijtijzer mentioned during his pitch that Finch Buildings is already operating a pipeline of 400+ modules in student housing and their expected revenue by 2016 is €25m.
According to Yme Bosma, Smart Energy Program Director, Dutch startups were well represented in the pool of applicants this year, however the intent is to make the Programs of Rockstart Accelerator international. He commented: “This Program is short and very intensive, and participants are working day and night to achieve the best results. If you have too many Dutch startups, it becomes too easy for them because they have friends and families around the corner, they cannot feel the pressure and focus, and achieve the best results. We want to keep the balance between the Dutch and the international startups in the Program.”
The Smart Energy Program won’t be over after the Demo Day. The startups will go on pitching at various events across the globe and negotiating deals with investors and strategic partners with the help and support of Rockstart Accelerator. At the end of May all of them will be pitching at the Ecosummit in Berlin.