12 Jul Free Electrons, the Global Startup-Utility Accelerator Lands in Europe
Photos of Module #2 can be found here.
THE COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION MODEL BEGINS TO BEAR FRUIT
Last week, Free Electrons, the global startup-utility accelerator reconvened in Lisbon and Dublin for the second module of a three-part module program. After a fruitful gathering in Silicon Valley, both startups and utilities were eager to continue their pilot discussions at a former coal-fired power plant turned electricity museum, hosted by local utility EDP and local accelerator, Beta-i. Startups and utilities engaged in a string of workshops and off-site activities that built trust and project alignment including surf lessons, board breaking with Lisbon’s fiercest Tae Kwon Do master and tours of local successful tech companies and incubators. Local ecosystem immersion is an essential component of the Free Electrons framework and philosophy.
The grand finale of the second module took place at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland hosted by utility partner ESB. Twelve startups were randomly selected in pairs to compete against each other in a friendly pitch-off. Audience voted and winners moved on to the final round. Seven startups made it to the final round, where judges and utilities grilled the startups with tough questions. APERIO, a cybersecurity startup, wooed the judges to win the grand prize.
The Strength of a Cohort
After the first module in Silicon Valley, a phenomenon transpired within the cohort that in part was by design, but happened stronger than we hoped for, that is, the relationships and bond the startups formed with one another. At the end of the first module, entrepreneurs were calling each other “colleagues” and “family.” The sense of camaraderie between the startups carried on to the second module and was ever so apparent when APERIO, the winner of the Dublin Pitch-off event decided to share $25,000 among his peers through a collective contribution to a charity that would support all of them,
“As for the cohort of us startups, it was simply fantastic, and almost a relief, reassuring and tremendously motivating to meet likeminded people. When you are busy to convince yourself, your investors and a whole industry that disruption is around the corner but nothing happens quickly enough according to your own expectations, sometimes you feel you are the only stupid one swimming against the stream. But not so, there are many of us. Free Electrons was like a whistle calling us all into a swarm heading into the same direction. Still upstream, but not alone any more. And then in combination with utilities that do believe in disrupting their own industry, finally…. that was our Free Electrons experience.” – Peter Müller-Brühl – Chief Operating Officer, GreenCom Networks
Deals, Deals, Deals
Since the start of Free Electrons, the number of deals between the startups and utilities is the measure of success. Origin Energy and AusNet Services are working with Driivz to develop and deploy an EV charging infrastructure trial in Melbourne. Furthermore, Origin Energy is working towards a demand response trial with Tempus Energy. Several other utilities are in trial discussions with startups which will be disclosed at a later date.
Dhammika Adihetty, General Manager of Emerging Energy Markets, AusNet Services (left) and Joanna Nelson, Group Manager of Future Energy, Origin Energy (right) announce they will be working towards a trial with Driivz CEO, Doron Frenkel (middle).
Next Stop, Singapore
The third module and last leg of Free Electrons will take place in Singapore in late September. At least 8 deals are expected to be finished or in progress between startups and utilities. In addition, startups have collected a list of potential non-utility partners during the local immersion activities, including speed dating with investors at Powerhouse, pitch event and breakfast with local VC’s in Lisbon. Deals are in motion. The module in Singapore will conclude with a pitch event and grand prize offering of $175,000 to the winning startups.