Emily Bernstein, Veronica Fresneau

Meet New Energy Challenge 2020 finalist: Simreka

“Learn the language of your customers as fast as possible” -Akshay Patel, co-founder and CEO

In order for companies to create products that are functional, cost-effective, safe and environmentally sustainable, experiments are crucial. The problem? In addition to being extremely time-consuming and costly, many of these experiments fail.

Simreka, a scaleup working in the energy sector, has developed AI-powered data and simulation software that significantly reduces experimentation time and costs. With Simreka’s powerful technology, R&D and manufacturing teams can carry out a large number of reliable, virtual experiments, rather than the time-consuming physical experiments typically involved in product development. This empowers companies to bring products with the potential to solve climate change to the market faster than ever, helping billions of people as a result.

At the same time, building strong bridges between corporates and scaleups requires more than innovative solutions – it also requires clear processes, expectations and knowledge on how to collaborate. This is where Rockstart’s ecosystem comes in. We are cracking the code of collaboration by helping corporates, startups and scaleups to connect, set expectations and build strategic partnerships to reach the right model of collaboration.

We are thrilled that Simreka has been selected as a finalist for the New Energy Challenge 2020, co-organized by Rockstart, Shell, YES!Delft and Unknown Group. The competition is intended to fuel collaborations between the most promising European and Israeli startups and scaleups and industry leaders in order to accelerate the development of breakthrough technologies that will shape the future of low-carbon energy.

We reached out to Akshay Patel, co-founder and CEO of Simreka, to ask him a few questions about his history as an entrepreneur and his team’s experience with the New Energy Challenge 2020.

Akshay Patel, Simreka

What first got you into entrepreneurship? Have you always been a ‘creator’?
I would say I have been a cautious creator. What drives me since my childhood (credit goes to my parents here) is always ensuring that I am spending my time on things that would potentially create a significant positive impact on our society and world. A curiosity around biofuels in my 12th grade to better utilize our farmlands was the starting point of a journey which took me from chemical education in India to Iowa in the US and brought me to Utrecht, the Netherlands. Towards the end of my PhD, I saw entrepreneurship as an excellent medium to utilize the learnings from my research in a globally scalable manner to achieve the significant positive impact that I have always been after. My friend from high school, Deboprio, also saw the same and we started the Simreka journey.

What is unique about Simreka?
Simreka offers a holistic solution to the problem of creating sustainable, safe and cost-effective products from the manufacturing industry. It offers a globally scalable solution that empowers creators to create better products that will help solve the challenges such as climate change and affordability of products that make life better for billions of people around the globe.

What is your long term vision for Simreka?
To put this extremely powerful Simreka tool in the hands of every scientist, engineer and creator across the globe. So they can go on to create and launch sustainable, safe and cost-effective products in a much shorter timeframe of the next 15-20 years. Simreka’s solution will act as a catalyst for this global change.

Why did you join the New Energy Challenge (NEC)?
We joined for two reasons: First, it provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how a company such as Shell can exponentially increase experimentation to create sustainable and cost-effective products with the same R&D investment. Second, it enables us to explore a potential collaboration opportunity with Shell to further scale the Simreka solution in a rapid manner.

How was your experience so far with NEC?
It has been great. There have been a lot of activities towards developing specific value propositions and translating what we do within Simreka and the value that the solution provides, in the language of Shell.
Learning the language of your customers as fast as possible is also advice that I would have for first time founders.

What do you expect to achieve moving forward?
Via NEC, we first aim to pilot our solution with Shell and roll it out across Shell based on the success of the pilot. Next, we would look at establishing a collaboration with Shell to take this solution across different various manufacturing value chains where Shell is already involved in through existing products and services.

Do you have any advice for first time founders?
I would say do not be afraid to ask questions (that you might think are uncomfortable) to your customers. And remember that you are dealing with humans. So an understanding of what drives your customers, team mates and partners as human beings will go a long way in helping you build a successful business.

Do you have a motto or a saying that inspires you?
Inspires: “The future depends on what you do today”, Mahatma Gandhi, and “Change brings opportunity”, Nido Qubein. Guides: This is a translation from a Sanskrit quote so it might not be exact: “Perform your duties diligently without any expectation of the fruits or benefits to you personally”

In order for corporates and scaleups to succeed together, clear goals and communication are key. As Akshay says, successful business building requires a human approach and you have to “speak the same language” in order to thrive. We at Rockstart couldn’t agree more, as creating long term connections and partnerships is only possible if all parties are transparent and open to learning. This includes ensuring that a scaleup’s goals are fully aligned with a corporate’s innovation goals – a process that requires having the right conversations early on. That’s why Rockstart dedicates four weeks of the New Energy Challenge program to facilitating discussions with Shell experts who know the business well and can guide the conversation in the right direction.

To ensure success, early stage startups should also seek market validation, pilot projects and co-innovation projects with business units or R&D departments, and onboard a corporate VC (CVC) as a strategic investor. If done strategically, this can lead to the opportunity for later stage startups to sell their products to corporates, partner through technology licensing models or even be acquired by a corporate. To this end, we have designed the New Energy Challenge program so that scale-ups are involved in mentor sessions prior to the Finals Week, during which time they discuss their pilot propositions with experts.

Don’t miss the chance to tune in to the New Energy Challenge Finals, which will take place this Thursday, November 19. You can register for the event here.

Best of luck to the Simreka team!

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