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Last week we sat down with program director Freerk Bisschop to get details and examples of the types of businesses and ideas he’s pursuing for Rockstart’s 2017 Smart Energy Accelerator.
The first focus area of the smart energy program is micro-grid autonomy. What does that mean? It refers to the fact that on a local scale, it’s not just about energy use anymore. We see a lot of energy production occurring, and also energy storage coming into play on a very local level – houses with solar panels, or industries that generate their own power & heat. By connecting local use and production with local grids, a local balance can be achieved, and we don’t need as much energy from the big power stations. We achieve autonomous situations on a local scale.
Let me highlight two examples that are relevant both for emerging economies and the western world. First, an African example. BBoxx, an English company, is providing solar and battery solutions to Africa. This allows consumers in Africa to participate in a bottom-up organization of their energy sector rather than using the existing infrastructure.
Another example is an Italian startup I’ve worked with through Rockstart, called Dajie. They have established an operating system for microgrids including block-chain technology that also allows payments to be easily made between users and allows neighbors to share their excess energy.
Data Intelligence and Security
The second Smart Energy area I’m interested in is data intelligence and security. Intelligence comes from algorithms & self-learning, using data from sensors, databases, users & meters. As we get more and more information out of the energy system, smart meters, we can also relate that information to data that comes from weather data or user data, that use specific apps. By combining data streams we can help customers and installations be more efficient, make better use of their availability, aggregate capacity at the right time, in the right moment of the market, when it has it’s highest value, and create a better balance between demand and response.
On the other hand, the increasing amount of data and connectivity also creates an increasing security risk for us. We’ve all read about the hacks and the hackers tapping into different systems across the world. We haven’t, fortunately, seen that they’ve been able to hack into power stations, but since this system is growing, and becoming much more widespread, we think security becomes more of a threat, and also an opportunity for startups to provide solutions to make sure that the whole energy system is robust and safe. In fact, last year a massive DNS attack that took down much of America’s internet was mounted on US company DYN by making use of IoT home devices including smart thermostats, digital cameras and DVRs.
Let me again give you two examples of startups that I know that have been active already and providing solutions in this space of intelligence and security. One is the company Sympower, a graduate of Rockstart’s 2016 Smart Energy program. Sympower allows devices in home, offices and greenhouses to be switched on and off at the right time or moment in the day. This load balancing ensures we don’t need big coal power stations running all the time.
The second example is a Dutch company, Energyworx, that allows energy companies to make use of all kinds of data within their company, but also outside their company, combining the different data sets to have efficient and well-managed relationships with their customers or the energy assets that they run. Recently New Energy Works has received a large investment by a Dutch VC.
The third focus area for us is game-changing business models. For a rapid acceleration of the transition towards a clean energy system, which is vital for this planet, we need to identify startups that have developed business models or are thinking of business models that can help us have a rapid take-up of new technologies. I’m looking for startups that know how to increase the use of renewable technologies, speed up utilities, enable existing players, or establish new marketplaces.
Let me give you two examples of game-changers that I know here in the Netherlands. One is Vandebron – meaning “From the Source”. They connect users and energy producers – like a farm or a house owner with their own solar panels – enabling them to directly transact with one another, and they even provide the energy efficiency services with that.
Another is WeShareSolar – a 2014 Rockstart Smart Energy alumnus. WeShareSolar allows people who don’t have their own roof available for solar panels to invest in other solar systems on other roofs, or the other way around. Their business increases the possibilities for customers to have their own systems and reap the benefits of that. Notably, WeShareSolar won a UN Climate prize in September for their game-changing business.
Why Join Rockstart Smart Energy 2017?
I get this question a lot. I think, most importantly, running through an accelerator program like ours is winning you a lot of time. Actually what you do in 150 days would normally cost you two years or more and it’s not certain whether you will survive. That’s a strong claim, I know. By being able to directly connect to peers, to partners, to investors, in such a short period of time, it increases the chances of being successful enormously. Ask our alumni!
Now we don’t look for startups that are just working on an idea. We want startups that are ready to work on their prototypes, or already have sales. We do think if you have a team you believe can grow, we want to hear from you. If you’re accepted into Rockstart Smart Energy, we can help you to be high impact, scalable, investable, and have a lot of fun in the process.
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