15 Mar Free Electrons Global Energy Accelerator Reels in over 450 Applications across 51 countries
Twelve energy startups will be selected to embark on a journey of customer discovery and market fit
Minutes before the February 28 deadline, the last of the Free Electrons applications rushed in, finishing with over 450 applications across 51 countries. This is not your typical startup accelerator: no equity is taken to participate, the training modules take place in Silicon Valley, Lisbon, Dublin and Singapore, and the success factor is not the number of exits, but pilot projects between the startups and utilities.
“The relationship the utilities will have with startups will be a very commercial one, and the push will be for innovation which the startups can duly provide to the utilities. We’re incredibly thrilled to begin the selection process to find our next unicorn.” – Florian Kolb, Managing Director of innogy, one of the eight utility partners supporting the Free Electrons program.
Startups are recruited from nine categories: clean energy, smart grids, energy efficiency, energy management, e-mobility, customer experience, business model innovation, IoT and digitization and energy access. The ideal startup is one that is pilot-ready and open to scaling in new markets around the world. Startup applications will be shortlisted and teams will be interviewed. The finalists will be announced in early April.
“In designing and managing 28 demonstration projects, we’ve seen a growing demand among the most innovative utilities to be closer to Silicon Valley, and to help filter and derisk the best technologies. Bringing some of the world’s largest utilities together to track trends, share lessons learned, and work hand-in-hand with startups is an innovation in corporate collaboration, and we are excited to embark on this journey.” – Ramsay Siegal, head of Recruiting and Pipeline at Energy Excelerator. Energy Excelerator is leveraging its experience building a portfolio of over 50 companies to run the Free Electrons due diligence process and utility-startup project design work.
Across the World
Startups learned about Free Electrons through an international network of partners, utilities and accelerators. Over 50 network partners and ambassadors support the Free Electrons program and the partner list can be found here.
Twelve energy startups will have the opportunity to travel to three, week-long customer adoption modules held in four countries. Each module will include facilitated meetings by New Energy Nexus members’ Energy Excelerator, Powerhouse and Beta-i, and informal meet-and-greets with local entrepreneurs, industry executives and investors.
Module 1 starts in Silicon Valley, where startups learn about ongoing pain points and challenges within the utilities. Module 2 continues in the culturally rich town of Lisbon, hosted by EDP (Energias de Portugal) where tech is flourishing. Startups will learn how to navigate through the European utility market with the help of local industry executives. Module 2 finishes with a ‘Best Pitch’ competition for $25,000 in Dublin, Ireland, hosted by regional utility ESB (Electricity Supply Board). Lastly, Module 3, the last leg of the program, will be held in Singapore, hosted by Singapore Power (SP). Startups and utilities will finalize conversations about launching pilots in the following year, all the while competing for a ‘World’s Best Energy Startup’ award for $175,000.
Free Electrons is a global accelerator set to make the perfect match between a startup and utility. At the same time, it prepares energy startups to scale into new markets.
Free Electrons is backed by an international alliance of utilities and accelerators: AusNet Services, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), ESB (Electricity Supply Board), EDP (Energias de Portugal), innogy, Origin Energy, Singapore Power (SP) and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and accelerator partners, New Energy Nexus, swissnex San Francisco, Energy Excelerator, Powerhouse and Beta-i.
The Free Electrons program is managed by New Energy Nexus, a California Clean Energy Fund program and swissnex San Francisco.