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PowerUp! 2018, Andy Baynes: Utilities to Be More Like Platforms Than Services

PowerUp! 2018, Andy Baynes: Utilities to Be More Like Platforms Than Services

Date: May 31st 2018

Author: Jasna Kofol, Alenka Lena Klopčič

Category: En.vision

Topic: New technologies , Economy

The PowerUp! 2018 Slovenia country final, which was held at the Ljubljana Castle on Monday as part of the biggest pitch competition for innovative startups from the cleantech sector, hosted not only Slovenia’s most promising energy startups, but also Andy Baynes, a former executive at Apple, Nest, and Google, and an investor in innovation and startups, as well as one of the mentors at Slovenia’s ABC Accelerator in Ljubljana. According to Baynes, startups can help large energy companies prosper and engage with their consumers. In an interview with the Director of Energetika.NET, Alenka Lena Klopčič Klopčič, Baynes also talked about the breakthrough innovations which the energy sector is hoping to see in the future and how large companies can achieve greater consumer engagement.

andy baynes1To start off, can you tell us what kind of approach you use as an investor when assessing whether a startup has potential to grow and succeed in the world?

It is a simple recipe with three essential ingredients: first, there are the people (this includes both the founders and the entire team), who need to have not only the idea, but also the talent and the engineering or managerial know-how. Most importantly, they must be highly ambitious, as working for a startup is difficult, no matter if you are developing an online platform, software or hardware. It demands a very high level of personal engagement and diligent teamwork. The team’s ambition, drive, and energy play a key role in its success or failure, especially in the first years of operation. The second criterion is the intellectual property of the company, not necessarily in the traditional form, but also in the looser sense, referring for example to the quality of market entry or services. The third criterion is time: we need to ask ourselves whether the market, that is, the particular segment, is truly ready for a disruption at a certain moment. At Apple, for example, we were not necessarily the first on the market with a new technology, but we always made sure to secure a position in the market which would allow us to beat the competition in creating a good purchase experience.

So where in the energy sector is there space for a disruption?

This depends on whether we are talking about production, transmission, or customer relationship management. There are opportunities on each level. If your startup does not have much capital, the greatest potential lies on the demand side, whereas if it does, there is ample opportunity in the supply side. Additionally, large companies and corporations can truly benefit from startups as they can find a way for them to reach and engage with their customers. An average company gets only 4 minutes of customer’s attention, and this is not enough if you want to expand and diversify your profitability model. They need to start communicating with clients in a different way and startups can help them do this.

How can traditional companies achieve greater consumer engagement?

andy baynes2They have two main options: spending money, in the sense of launching funds and hackathons to generate interest among young ambitious entrepreneurs from universities, which can be operated by the universities themselves, whereas the other option relates to the actual field of management in energy companies: making positions available for young managers, who will focus on growth and who will be open to innovation, as well as risk, and work beside older managers, who will ensure the stability and the safety of the network. There are good models out there, which companies could use to sponsor the riskier projects outside of their core corporate culture and, once they reach a certain level of stability and independence, integrate them into their operations.

Is there a proven model for successful partnerships in this field?

Large energy companies in Europe and the U.S. are not only integrating young innovative companies into their operations, but are also helping them grow. Germany’s E.ON and the U.S.-based Georgia Power are good examples of this.

What kind of breakthrough innovations can we expect in the energy sector?

We can clearly see some futuristic aspects in the field of energy generation, but let’s wait and see what Elon Musk has up his sleeve. However, in the field of customer orientation, I believe that we can expect voice processing, that is, voice platforms, which will function via devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Home Hub, and others – I believe these kinds of innovations will dominate the interaction between members of households and energy companies. This will open the possibility for energy companies to become more like platforms than services.

To find out more about the breakthrough innovations of the startups presented at Monday’s PowerUp! 2018 Slovenia country final, read Energetika.NET’s report PowerUp! 2018: New Urban Source of Water 'myWater' Announced Best Cleantech Solution in Slovenia



This article is available also in Slovene.



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