This article was written by Daphne Tomlinson, Senior Research Associate at Memoori.
In Europe, the energy sector is leading the way in developing accelerator programs to strengthen their efforts in supporting business ideas as part of their increased focus on digitization, decentralization and decarbonization of energy.
Two leading German energy companies, E.ON and Innogy have both established accelerators which support startups, underpinned by their belief that new technologies, business models and consumption patterns will redefine the energy market of the future.
E.ON :Agile is an accelerator program and seed investor, founded in May 2013 in Düsseldorf. Six of the accelerator’s participants are described below. 5 are based in Germany - Aedifion, DABBEL, Enerthing, KUGU, Vilisto - and Lancey Energy Storage is based in France. These new entrants have developed new digital approaches to energy and building management in non-residential buildings and the smart home.
Berlin-based proptech startup KUGU founded by Christopher von Gumppenberg and Leopold Kuttner have developed a new approach that enables its customers to handle submetering services themselves, rather than outsource it to a specialist provider. The KUGU platform digitizes building technologies focusing on heat cost billing and optimization of heating systems for residents in apartment buildings. Its software platform and hardware collects data from any radio meter, sensor or smoke detector in the building and transfers the data automatically to the cloud, bundling consumption data with tenant information and making all relevant billing and management processes transparent.
KUGU started cooperation with the :Agile accelerator in July 2019. In October 2019, they launched the first joint pilot with grid operator and E.ON subsidiary E.DIS, serving 3,000 apartment units in Henningsdorf near Berlin with their submetering system. The firm completed its seed investment round in February 2020 with a seven digit amout backed by Wecken & Cie., IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft, E.ON :agile and angel investors around High Rise Ventures.
Enerthing, founded in Leverkusen in 2016, has developed “solar energy solutions for things”, a scalable and maintenance-free IoT solution powered by light. Their photovoltaic technology converts artificial (indoor) light into electricity thus allowing autonomous operation of IoT devices. By tailoring the device to the application, Enerthing´s solution extracts more power from ambient light than commonly used batteries and translates it to a gain in performance, such as higher data rates and quality of data. This IoT solution opens up new possibilities in the areas of sensors for building automation, asset tracking and indoor navigation.
Enerthing received seed funding in March 2019 from NRW Bank and the Smart Energy Innovation Fund of Swiss energy provider Energie 360 as well as existing stakeholders including Fraunhofer Venture.
Founded in 2018, DABBEL, a Düsseldorf based start-up, is changing Building Management Systems with the introduction of AI that promises to simplify, improve transparency and efficiencies that allows for smarter self-managed building control systems. DABBEL can independently make its own decisions through a self-learning, self-adapting and self-configuring system with cognitive artificial intelligence. With a focus on office buildings, schools and hospitals up to 250 000 square meters.
Compared to classic BMS systems, the firm claims to improve energy efficiency by up to 40% and to provide better working conditions for people in the buildings in a much more cost-effective way and without manual programming of the system. DABBEL closed the first seed investment round with the EON :Agile accelerator at the end of 2018.
Vilisto GmbH, founded in 2016 and based in Hamburg, is the developer of self-learning radiator thermostats for office buildings. The digital heat management solution is based on intelligent thermostats with integrated presence detection, learning algorithms and room climate sensors. The startup completed a new seven figure investment round in July 2019 backed by current and new investors including Christoph Birkel, technology park operator and office property lessor in the south of Hamburg, managing director of hit-Technopark GmbH & Co. KG, as well as Manfred Garz and Matthias Fricke, Managing Directors of Garz & Fricke GmbH and EIT InnoEnergy.
Founded in 2016, the Grenoble-based startup, Lancey Energy Storage has developed the first electric radiator with a built-in battery, which allows users to control and lower their energy consumption and save up to one third on their heating bills. Equipped with sensors and a cloud-based energy management system, Lancey is a "smart radiator" able to learn from user behaviour and adjust heating settings accordingly.
Lancey received $1.5 milion seed funding in June 2018 from French IoT and E.ON :Agile Accelerator. Since then, in September 2019, the company completed a second funding round of €8 million backed by Engie New Ventures, Yves Chabot (President of Stelpro, Canadian leader in the manufacture and marketing of electric radiators), the European Union (SME instrument grant), as well as from Business Angels and bank loans.
Since 2017, the Cologne-based Proptech startup, aedifion GmbH has been focused on developing software for the automated optimization of buildings, based on research at RWTH Aachen University. With its plug and play solution, Aedifion offers an IoT platform for efficiency-enhancing measures, both in existing buildings and in new construction projects. The solution is already used by E.ON SE, ROM Technik and ZWP Ingenieur-AG.
Aedifion completed a seed funding round in February 2020 from Bitstone Capital and three business angels. The company received a seven-digit euro amount from the four investors.
The identification of game-changing technologies, ideas, individuals and businesses is an important element in the development of smart buildings. We believe that leading energy incumbents and major proptech stakeholders have an important role to play in providing access to funding, mentoring and a platform for co-creation and collaboration with startups.