Voltfang is the Startup of the Week 9: The first eco-friendly household energy storage


Energy & Environment, Energy Storage
Batteries for electric cars do not live forever, but will eventually be discarded. To give the older batteries a purpose, Voltfang makes them fit for stationary operation. Our Startup of the Week thus creates a solution that bypasses the resource-intensive new production of necessary batteries for home storage. We spoke to David Oudsandji, one of Voltfang’s managing directors, on the subject.

Hello David! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. What are you doing at Voltfang?

We supply the accelerator of the energy transition: sustainable battery storage from used electric car batteries.

What does that mean exactly?

The Voltfang is an environmentally friendly battery storage system made from reconditioned electric car batteries. Through our “Sonnect”, used car batteries from different manufacturers can be integrated into the storage system. Through our test procedures and intelligent charging algorithms, we can guarantee a long reuse.

The number of used vehicle batteries will only increase, so the question becomes “Where to put them?” So you continue to use these batteries instead of storing or destroying them?

Exactly. By integrating used electric car batteries, Voltfang reduces the environmental footprint. The investment costs compared to competitors in the storage market are very low as well. Both advantages are offered with the same service life or warranty of the battery systems.

How did you structure your business model?

Revenues in the business model are initially generated through the sale of the storage system. We make a distinction between a home application for private customers and a commercial application for larger systems. Once the storage systems reach a certain capacity in the market, we can combine them to form a virtual power plant and thus act in a grid-serving manner for the energy transition while generating extra revenue streams.
 Who belongs to your target group?
Initially, we will focus on the market for commercial users, e.g. bakeries, retail companies and car dealerships, which can use the storage system for both self-consumption optimization and peak load capping. The focus will be on the German market at first. Here, storage systems are particularly worthwhile due to the regulatory framework. From 2022, however, the home storage variant will also be launched, addressing an extreme growth market. Last year alone, sales of home storage systems rose by around 30% despite the Corona pandemic. Almost every second new installation of PV systems is currently equipped with a home storage system.

What stage are you in right now?

The first pilot system has been running without problems since May last year and is generating valuable data for us. We are currently working on finalizing the storage system and obtaining the necessary certifications for market entry. In parallel, we are setting up the assembly line in Aachen. The first projects in the commercial storage market should be implemented as early as May 2021. To enter the market, we are currently planning a pre-seed financing round, which should be completed in April. We then plan to enter the mass market with home storage from 2022.
 
David, thank you very much for the interesting interview! We wish you continued success with your first projects.
 
If you want to know more about Voltfang, you can find more information here.

AIMS Technology is the Startup of the Week 8: Smart metering systems


Energy & Environment, Energy Efficiency and Environment

Work on the energy transition is in full swing. The goal of creating a more sustainable and connected energy industry is also shared by AIMS Technology. Our Startup of the Week is particularly concerned with the realisation of products and services in the field of smart metering systems. We met founder Steven Braun for an interview.

Hello Steven! Nice to have you here today. How would you describe AIMS Technology in one sentence?

AIMS Technology specialises in the development of digital technologies in the field of smart metering.

One of your solutions is CaptEnergy, an app for “climate heroes”. What can the user do with this app?

The app is a visualisation solution for municipal utilities and energy supply companies. The B2B2C application offers end consumers the possibility to control, manage and optimise their energy consumption per kWh and their CO2 emissions per kWh. On the one hand, such sustainable consumption behaviour contributes to grid stability. On the other hand, the end consumer makes an active contribution to stopping climate change. In addition, our application offers a playful learning approach for a sustainable and efficient use of energy.

What is special about this solution?

Our application promotes climate-conscious consumption behaviour. The end customer knows at all times when the most green electricity is available in the electricity grid and how he can optimise his behaviour accordingly. From the perspective of municipal utilities and energy suppliers, the application contributes to grid stability and customer loyalty. In addition, the legal requirements for consumption visualisation (§ 61 MSbG) are fulfilled.

Our USP is the recording of the actual energy consumption per kWh and the resulting CO2 emission per kWh. 

Our focus is not on monetary savings, but on conscious climate-protecting behaviour. We want to build a community in which municipal utilities/EVUs and consumers jointly pursue the vision of making the world a little better every day.

How does your business model work?

We pursue a B2B2C business model. The municipal utility/EVU acquires a licence for the white label app for each end user and pays the corresponding set-up and licence fees. The pricing is based on the modular content of the app, which arises in the further expansion stages.

You aim your solution at municipal utilities and energy suppliers, right?

Exactly. Our target group is primarily the 1289 municipal utilities in Germany. In particular, the 860 municipal utilities that are particularly interested in value-added and visualisation solutions. In addition, the 24.4 % (annual growth of 2.4 %) of those who already offer a green electricity tariff are also included.

Is CaptEnergy already usable?

We are currently in the process of implementing the MVP. We are also focusing on marketing and selling our visualisation solution. In spring, we will launch our visualisation app. But our website is already live in order to enter into an exchange with interested parties, investors and customers.

 

Steven, thank you very much for this exciting interview! We wish you every success with the launch of your first product in spring.

If you want to learn more about AIMS Technology and the CaptEnergy product, you can find additional information on their Innoloft profile.

ES∙FOR∙IN is the Startup of the Week 7: Optimization platform for electricity and gas


Energy & Environment, Energy Supply, IT & ICT

This week’s Startup of the Week is an independent, digital energy service provider and optimiser for electricity and natural gas. ES∙FOR∙IN enables customers to take advantage of opportunities for energy turnaround on the energy exchanges in milliseconds. How? By focussing on individual flexibility marketing of electricity. We wanted to know more about how this works exactly and spoke to Christian Hövelhaus from ES∙FOR∙IN.

Hello Christian, thank you for answering our questions today. Let’s start right away: How would you explain ES∙FOR∙IN in one sentence?

We are the future-oriented optimization platform for electricity and gas in European markets.

Sounds exciting! Could you elaborate further on how you are doing this?

We focus on innovative flexibility marketing of electricity on the consumer and generator side. With over 2.2 million intraday trades in 2020 on EPEX Spot SE, the company is the leading provider of flexibility marketing in the power sector.

Tailor-made solutions enable energy-intensive and producing companies to adapt their power flexibility to the price signals of the intraday markets on EPEX Spot SE. In addition, ES∙FOR∙IN is a direct marketer focusing on biogas/biomass power plants, enabling highly flexible plants to earn additional profits through flexibility marketing on the intraday markets. In summary, ES∙FOR∙IN is THE future of innovative and smart flexibility marketing in short-term energy trading. 

Price signals indicate an imbalance in the power grid and ES∙FOR∙IN algorithms respond as a service on behalf of our customers. In this way, we help to stabilize the grid and actively contribute to the energy transition.

What makes you stand out from your competition?

The energy transition is increasing the importance of flexibility provision. So far, the required flexibility is mostly covered by the supply side, while the demand side is almost neglected. Therefore, the most important distinguishing feature of ES∙FOR∙IN is the flexibility marketing on the demand side as well as on the supply side.

Another key differentiator is our asset-specific trading algorithms, which can be adapted to any flexibility option. In addition, the entire flexibility marketing process is fully automated, coordinated and optimised – from the transmission of the flexibility restrictions via the web portal or the user-specific API, the trading on EPEX Spot SE, the control of the flexibility by a specially developed remote control technology or the schedule transmission via the user-specific API to the final settlement. We have thus created our own system with a focus on flexibility marketing that runs independently 24 hours a day without human intervention.

Another major differentiator of our flexibility marketing on the intraday markets of EPEX Spot SE is the unparalleled profitability (up to 85,000€/MW per year!) – in contrast to highly regulated control power. In particular, there is no need for prequalification of the different flexibility options. Moreover, the control commands are predictable and last at least 15 minutes.

Could you explain how your business model works?

The exchange electricity price on EPEX Spot SE is to be seen as a central control signal for the trading participants to balance supply and demand in the wholesale electricity market and thus also in the grid. Balancing supply and demand in the grid leads in the long term to a lower need for grid as well as generation expansion with new lines or routes through the country. Flexibility options are used to economically optimize the electrical energy needs of consumers. When exchange electricity prices are low, consumers buy more energy. When prices are high, consumption is reduced. Conversely, electricity producers will increase production when prices are high and reduce production when prices are low. These responses to price signals always occur within all plant-specific constraints. 

In the future, the need for flexibility options will increase with the number of distributed generation plants due to the feed-in characteristics of renewables and the resulting forecast accuracy. Electricity generators and consumers will be encouraged to adjust to the feed-in of renewables and thus support the negotiation of forecast errors by passing on electricity price signals. In this way, we reduce customers’ energy costs while stabilizing the power grid and promoting the energy transition.

As a full service provider, further services include balancing-group and portfolio management, direct market access for electricity and gas for industrial companies, and market-communication services.

You already mentioned the consumer side being an important factor in the design of your services. What is your target market?

Yes, ES∙FOR∙IN is a highly automated flexibility marketer for the generation and consumer side. The value of flexibility is determined by the response to price signals – the different offers and demands of electrical energy on the continuous intraday markets of EPEX Spot SE.

Our solutions enable energy-intensive and manufacturing companies to respond with their electricity flexibility to price signals on the intraday markets. These markets are designed to meet the needs of utilities and balance imbalances between electricity supply and demand.

The target group of customers are industrial companies, flexible biogas plants, energy suppliers as well as coal and gas-fired power plants. In the future even energy sales and distribution companies with thousands of households as prosumers will be our target group.

Where are you standing now? What are big milestones that you like to look back on?

ES∙FOR∙IN is a fast-growing company – nationally and internationally. With more than 2 million fully automated intraday trades in 2020 on the power exchange EPEXSpot SE, we are already the leading provider of flexibility marketing for power and pioneers in flexibility marketing for gas. We have developed more than 50 individualised trading algorithms and unparalleled expertise in algorithmic intraday trading of power as well as algorithmic intraday trading of gas. In addition, we are continuously developing new products to identify new flexibility options and provide our customers with additional revenue.

 

Christian, thank you so much for this great interview! It was a great opportunity to get to know ES∙FOR∙IN and its services. We wish you continued success and look forward to hearing more about your development.

If you want to know more about ES∙FOR∙IN and what they have to offer, check out their Innoloft profile for more information.

EH Group Engineering AG is the Startup of the Week 6: Fuel Cell Technology


Energy Efficiency and Environment, Energy Supply

With the mission of implementing a decarbonised future, our Startup of the Week EH Group Engineering AG is working on Hydrogen Fuel Cells. A Fuel Cell is a device that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (usually hydrogen) into electricity with an electrochemical reaction. We wanted to know more, so we interviewed their Co-Founder, Christopher Brandon for our weekly interview series.

Hello Christopher! Thank you for doing this interview with us today. Let’s dive right in: How would you describe EH Group Engineering’s mission in one sentence?

Compact, low-cost fuel cells for a decarbonised future.

You do that with your own fuel cell technology, what are the characteristics of your fuel cells?

EH Group’s uniquely redesigned fuel cells offer a market leading power density of 1.5-2 times that of leading competitors. In addition, our innovative production and assembly process reduces their cost significantly at scale. Finally, our fuel cell technology coperates with minimal effects of gravity and in any orientation. This is making it a great candidate in the automotive, maritime and aviation sectors as a power generator.

You already mentioned the leading power density, as something that makes your solution different from your competitors. Is there anything else that makes your product stand out from the rest?

We offer two things, the Fuel Cell Stack  (FC Stack) and the Fuel Cell System (FC System). The first one, has greater power density characteristics. It is also able to operate with minimal effects of gravity and in any orientation. This allows it to work more effectively in mobile applications and opens up the avenue for aviation related applications.

Our innovatively designed FC stack means that we are consequently able to eliminate and/or simplify some of the auxiliary components of a complete fuel cell system. This leads to higher overall system efficiencies, simplified system architecture with fewer overall components and lower costs.

Also there is a great cost advantage: The marketplace for fuel cells is currently around 1,000-1,200 EUR/kW.  Our first-gen production implementation should see us drop to below 200 EUR/kW, dropping to below 100 EUR/kW at larger volumes. 

Our FC stack has inherent design scalability which allows it to be deployed from small 1kW applications, through to 100kW mobile applications and up to multi MW microgrids using the same underlying technology platform.

How did you build a successful business model out of it?

Our revenue model is primarily focusing on manufacture and direct sales. In addition to that,  we focus on joint development projects where our FCs are integrated into customer products. Our pricing model is focusing on getting costs as low as possible. This is to accelerate the widespread deployment of FC technology, emphasise its operational benefits and safety, so as to scale up rapidly.

When speaking about your technology, you talked about the automotive, maritime, and aviation sectors as a good fit for your FC’s. Could you elaborate on your target groups and the situation in your market?

In the face of fast-approaching decarbonisation targets, in many cases (such as heavy vehicles) there is no practical alternative technological solution.  We believe we can significantly influence the market by achieving significant cost reductions. And hence a more rapid industrialisation of the technology. 

Our product offering can be used in stationary applications such as commercial and residential buildings, data centres, telecom towers, hospitals, etc.

Furthermore, due to its compactness, our technology will be a front-running candidate for commercial mobile/automotive applications (buses, trucks, vans, forklifts, trains, ferries, aviation etc.) where weight and volume reduction are two key criteria.  The key is to focus on applications which require range, extensive use and payload and are better suited to FC technology. 

The market is accelerating rapidly, given the increased emphasis on hydrogen in the EU’s Green Deal. Deployments should grow from 1GW in 2019 to over 3GW in 2021.

Where do you stand at the moment?

We are currently at TRL6-7, and have deployed our fuel cell solution across a variety of pilot projects in both stationary and mobile applications. For example in microgrid projects, range-extender for electric vehicles, etc.  We currently have three stack platforms from 1-100kW, with a larger one soon launching soon.


Christopher, thank you so much for this fascinating interview. We wish EH Group Engineering a successful 2021!
If you want to know more about EH Group Engineering AG, check out their profile in our B2B Network.

OpenPhase Solutions is the Startup of the Week 5: Microstructure Simulation


Industry 4.0 & Logistics, IT & ICT

This week’s Startup of the Week is located in Bochum, Germany. OpenPhase Solutions are experts in the field of microstructure simulation. They offer tools that enable the development of innovative materials and the optimization of production processes. We spoke to Managing Director Johannes Görler to find out more.

Hello Johannes, thank you for doing the interview with us! How would you describe OpenPhase Solutions in one sentence?

OpenPhase Solutions develops microstructure simulation software for metallic materials.

Which method do you use for this?

We use the phase-field method to simulate microstructure evolution on the nano- to millimeter scale. In OpenPhase, we implemented a wide variety of physical phenomena that are crucial for simulating microstructure evolution and the properties of the resulting material. They can be simulated concurrently. The result of such a simulation is a realistic, three-dimensional simulation of a material and its properties. The simulation shows the process from production to service, e.g. additive manufacturing, creep deformation, or conventional casting.

What is the great thing about this method and your microstructure simulation?

Materials microstructures dictate materials properties. Improvement in microstructure leads to better materials, which enables innovation. Simulating microstructure evolution gives insight into the material. These insights are difficult to gain through experiments. 

With OpenPhase Studio and Core, two powerful microstructure simulation software solutions are available. We develop OpenPhase together with ICAMS, one of the world-leading materials simulation institutes. We aim to design OpenPhase Studio as user-friendly as possible. OpenPhase Core gives users access to most of the source code and thus offers maximum flexibility.

And your business model consists of the selling of your software?

We license our software solutions either on an annual basis or perpetually including two years. Both options include maintenance and support. Next to software licensing, we offer custom software solutions, e.g. implementation of an interface to different software or a new physics model.

What is your target group? 

Our software is physics-based. You can apply it to a wide variety of processes and materials. Thus, we target industries, institutes, and academia with a material science connection and an interest in metallic materials. Microstructure simulation is a quite complex topic, so it is necessary for our customers to have some prior experience in materials simulation. We are operating internationally since the beginning, we have customers from Japan, Australia, and the USA, but also some in Germany.

Are your solutions already ready-to-use?

Yes, Our two products (OpenPhase Studio and OpenPhase Core) are ready-to-use. With our partner ICAMS, we are planning a new major release in the coming months. If you are interested, please check the trial version of OpenPhase Studio on our homepage.

 

Johannes, thank you for this interesting interview. We wish you a lot of success this year and hope to hear from you soon. 

If you are looking for more information about OpenPhase Solutions, check out their profile on our B2B platform.

Vaira is the Startup of the Week 4: Digitizing the house connection documentation process


Industry 4.0 & Logistics, IT & ICT

Simple house connection documentation is a very multi-layered process: customer onboarding, job creation, scheduling, surveying, and all the documentation. Digitization can help bring order and efficiency to this process. This is exactly what our Startup of the Week Vaira is dealing with. With their platform, home connection documentation can be automated and digitized. We spoke with CMO Dennis Bienkowski about Vaira’s solution.

Hello Dennis! Thanks for taking the time for us today. Let’s get right into it: Who are you at Vaira?

We are a team of currently 13 people from Paderborn with different specializations. We transform the processes, documentation. Also, we are surveying work of network operators, municipal utilities, and construction service providers and simplify their work.

How does this work?

Vaira is a software-as-a-service platform consisting of a web application (Vaira Office) and a smartphone app (Android/iOS). In the interaction of these two solutions, we can map all process steps digitally on a central platform, from the household customer to construction documentation and billing.

We designed The Vaira Office for office work. Network operators, public utilities and construction service providers can communicate with each other via chat, create and schedule orders, manage users and keep track of the progress of orders. Using the integrated workflow builder, entire process chains can be designed without extensive programming knowledge, so that later instantiations only have to be triggered, which then run fully automatically. A notification system keeps process participants up to date and informed about the status of their jobs at all times.

In real-time, all data is exchanged between the Vaira Office and the Vaira App. An installer in the field receives a message directly as soon as a new job is assigned to them. They can then select an order from his order list and process it. Besides, they can fill out prefabricated forms completely digitally, carry out surveys using only their smartphone via augmented reality – without any extra hardware such as a GPS antenna -, and much more. All collected data is directly available as digital data sets and is shared with all authorized process participants in a matter of seconds. 

Vaira follows three principles: Modularity, generalization, and user-friendliness. Our platform is built in such a way that process participants only need to use the features they need to complete their jobs. The interface allows Vaira to be flexibly connected to other ERP, SAP, and GIS systems, ensuring a smooth exchange of data. Also, the modularity allows us to easily add more features to Vaira. Instead of an individual software solution for individual players, we give users the opportunity to map their requirements flexibly and easily. We provide a construction kit in which users can intuitively map their own jobs and processes. After all, acceptance of the digital transformation stands and falls with the manageability and user-friendliness of digital solutions.

That sounds like a very comprehensive solution. What features make you stand out from your competitors?

Vaira offers the possibility to skip all process steps that have to do with the transmission of data through real-time synchronicity. Since we collect all data digitally, it also eliminates all process steps that involve scanning, printing, or manually transferring data to in-house ERP, SAP, or GIS systems. This can significantly reduce errors that are common when manually transferring paper into systems. Jobs are searchable and filterable, and process stakeholders can communicate directly through the platform and assign tasks to each other. The progress of jobs can be tracked live and priorities can be communicated quickly, even in the follow-up. Features such as a reporting module generate fully automated reports. 

The innovative surveying component enables fitters to carry out high-quality surveying quickly. That frees them from tedious after-hours office work on the construction site. Automatic plausibility checks and mandatory fields can be stored in the form fields, which drastically increases the quality and completeness of the documentation during the documentation process.

Vaira bypasses superfluous process steps, reduces the probability of errors, raises data quality, and accelerates the process. Less time, fewer costs, more overview.

An important unique selling point of Vaira is our holistic solution. We think of the construction site and its documentation as one process.  The platform does not only serve a single process participant but connects all players and enables a smooth exchange of data and work. In this way, construction site documentation can be carried out consistently digitally for the first time – including an innovative surveying component that enables everyone to carry out high-quality surveying.

How did you build a successful business model from that?

Currently, we are financing ourselves through larger project deals that pay directly into the final product. In addition, there are financed test deployments and the first license customers of the first basic version: Vaira Basic. These then run on the software-as-a-service principle (SaaS for short) – Vaira is therefore not purchased, but you pay for a license to the platform. Depending on the desired scope of features, the prices for orders, process instantiations, and users are automatically adjusted.

Compared to purchased software, the SaaS model also includes support, maintenance, and update services. Unlike purchased programs, Vaira does not become obsolete but is continuously developed further. We constantly add new functions, which can be flexibly implemented in the user’s own license. The user experience is also continuously improved.

You’ve just briefly mentioned potential customers, could you go into more detail about your target audience?

Our target group currently includes network operators, public utilities, and construction service providers, including surveyors, with the use case of the house connection process. In Germany alone, there are around 500,000 new house connections, 700,000 FTTH connections, 150,000 emergency and 25,000 dismantling orders per year. Existing buildings bring in another 100,000 connections. Normally, you need to document and measure all of them in the process. 

In theory, however, Vaira can also be used to map any other process. Public authorities and municipal administrations such as land registry offices, police and fire departments, and forestry have already shown interest in Vaira. Together with the Paderborn cadastral office, we are striving for the implementation of a funding project. By developing a module for splice documentation, we were also able to attract the attention of telecommunications providers in particular. Accordingly, the potential target group for our platform is large. 

Our focus is currently still on the German market. However, we have already been able to establish contacts in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria, and Switzerland via trade fairs. Through partnerships and projects with large international companies, we are also expanding our network beyond national borders. For example, we work together with Veolia and the fittings and piping system manufacturer Georg Fischer.

You are currently selling a basic version of your solution. Where do you want to go with Vaira and what successes have you already had?

Exactly, since last year we have been offering “Vaira Basic” for testing and productive use. With Vaira Basic, the complete documentation can already be carried out on the construction site on an order basis. The basic functions of Vaira Office are also fully usable and are being further developed. 

In the background, we have already been working for some time on a major upgrade for the app and the web application. This update will fully align the logic behind Vaira with process flows. The upgrade will be rolled out seamlessly and at no additional cost to all license customers in the respective app stores – in line with the principle of Software-as-a-Service. Vaira Office is constantly being developed further and all new features can be viewed directly.

We are currently developing Vaira on the basis of a project together with the municipal utility association Thüga, the German subsidiary of the French group Veolia and the municipal utility Braunschweig. This cooperation came about as a result of our participation and victory in the U-Start competition in March 2020. Our cooperation with Georg Fischer allows us to take our application to a new level. Also, since this fall, EWE AG has become a shareholder in Vaira, which gives us better access and insight into the market. In addition, we have been working with a major network operator on a project basis to further expand the platform approach.  

Increasingly, network operators, municipal utilities and construction service providers are also becoming aware of us through recommendations or web searches for digital solutions. Test deployments are being requested and productive uses of Vaira are also already in the pipeline. Especially in this unusual and difficult year, we have noticed that interest in process digitization has increased significantly. The industry is ready to optimize existing processes through far-reaching digital transformation – and we are very happy to help.

 

Dennis, thank you very much for the exciting interview! We wish you continued success. We are sure that we will hear a lot more from you. 

If you want to learn more about Vaira, you can have a look at theirInnoloft profile here.

Joulia is the Startup of the Week 3: Shower with heat recovery


Energy Efficiency and Environment

A sustainable shower? Maybe not the first thing you’d expect from a Startup of the Week. But the Swiss startup Joulia has implemented just that and has won multiple awards for its solution. We wanted to learn more about what the sustainable shower experience is all about. To do so, we caught up with CEO Reto Schmid in an interview.

Hello Reto! Nice of you to take time for us today. How would you pitch Joulia in one sentence?

Instead of flushing the valuable heat of the shower water down the drain, Joulia’s shower channels recover this energy and easily ensure sustainable showering enjoyment with full comfort.

How did you implement that?

In Joulia-Inline and Joulia-Twinline, the fresh cold water is fed into the heat exchanger, which is located directly in the shower channel, and over which the warm shower water flows.

This simple detour of the cold water line allows the energy of the outflowing shower water to be recovered where it accumulates. Neither complex components nor a control system is necessary for this highly efficient type of heat recovery.

We heat the cold water from 10°C to up to 25°C and reaches the shower mixer already preheated. Consequently, less hot water needs to be added there, which saves a lot of energy, CO2, and money. Due to the highly efficient design, Joulia-Inline can recover over 40% and Joulia-Twinline over 60% of the otherwise lost heat.

What other advantages does your approach offer?

Our design complies with the strict drinking water guidelines of KIWA, SVGW, WRAS & DVGW. In addition, the installation is simple and permanently reliable. 

The shower channels do not need electricity and with their double separation between fresh and wastewater, they have a high degree of safety.

We have received over 15 national and international awards for the idea, high efficiency, and easy handling. A nice recognition for our work.

What is your business model for this?

We offer our products to both sanitary companies, wholesalers, and resellers. Our heat exchangers are also distributed as OEM products by business partners, such as in Corian shower trays. Depending on the distribution channel, quantity, and target market, different pricing strategies exist. Currently, we are working together with specialists on the development of cleaning products and accessories.

Where are your shower channels used? Who is your target group?

At present, half of our business is in Switzerland and the other half is international. In Switzerland, we sell our products directly to plumbers, to sanitary wholesalers such as SABAG, Richner, the Bringhen Group, and HUG-Baustoffe, as well as to project-specific general contractors. Our products are used in the private, public, and semi-public sectors. In addition to bathroom conversions, the focus is on new buildings. 

Interesting are also places where many people meet few shower places, be it fitness centers, sports facilities, gyms, gymnasiums, and hotels. Increasingly, school facilities and employee showers of companies are also equipped with the Joulia shower channels.

Exports are becoming increasingly important. The strongest growth is currently in the Netherlands, where a local distributor sells our products. 

The following countries are also under development: Belgium, Japan, Faroe Islands, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Swaziland, and South Africa.

What phase are you currently in?

We are currently growing both nationally and internationally. In recent years, we have been able to equip more than 3,500 bathrooms with the WRG, and the trend is rising sharply. Thanks to a new strategic partnership, we are now continuing our internationalization and investing in further product development.

New markets sometimes require some time, as drinking water regulations are nationally regulated. So far we have the following certifications: SVGW (CH), KIWA (NL), WRAS (UK) , DVWG (DE). In process are Belgaqua (BEL) and Solarimpulse.

In the field of building labels, you can credit our products to Minergie as well as MUKEN. Looking ahead, other labels will be added, such as Passivhaus.

We look forward to all customers helping us with the goal of saving energy every day.

 

Reto, thank you very much for this exciting interview! We wish you continued success in the future.

If you want to know more about Joulia, you can read their profile in our network.

MotionMiners is the Startup of the Week 2: Analysis and optimization of manual processes


Industry 4.0 & Logistics, IT & ICT

Human flexibility and adaptability continue to play an important role in industrial value creation in the age of digitization. However, the analysis and optimization of manual work steps often proves to be costly and complicated. Our Startup of the Week, MotionMiners GmbH, uses Motion-Mining ® technology to automatically analyze and optimize manual work steps. We spoke with CEO Sascha Feldhorst to learn more about this technology and MotionMiners as a company.

Hello Sascha! Nice to have you here today. Let’s get right into it: What is Motion-Mining?

Motion-Mining ® enables an automatic analysis and optimization of manual work processes with regard to efficiency and ergonomics (e.g. determination of heat maps, travel, waiting and process times as well as unhealthy movement sequences). This all happens with the help of sensor technology and machine learning. As a result, it creates added value on both the employer and employee side.

How does Motion-Mining work?

Motion-Mining ® helps companies automatically analyze the efficiency and ergonomics of manual work processes. Using wearables, beacons (miniature radio sensors) and machine learning, we anonymize and collect process data to reveal hidden optimization potential. This allows process analysis to be performed without the need for a process engineer with a stopwatch and clipboard to document the entire process. Compared to today’s manual analyses (e.g. using REFA), this leads to a reduction in effort and ensures a 40 to 80 times larger data pool. 

If a customer decides to carry out a Motion Mining® project, we equip the work environment with beacons. The employees in the processes get wearables. Following the measurement, we evaluate the collected data using machine learning algorithms. Based on the data, our employees develop individual catalogs of measures and implementation priorities in close cooperation with the customers. In this way, we not only identify ways to make logistics processes more efficient, but also draw up implementation plans that customers can then follow up. If desired, the implementation of the optimization measures can be accompanied by success measurements. 

Motion-Mining ® is marketed in the form of various products and services. In consulting projects, MotionMiners employees analyze and optimize processes with the help of the technology. In addition, a motion Mining-Product solution, Manual Process Intelligence, has also been offered since 2019. The MPI is a combination of a hardware and a software license and enables customers to perform process analyses independently. In addition to fully comprehensive measurement equipment, the offer also includes access to the analysis dashboard. This allows users to create their own measurement scenarios and evaluate data according to selected key figures. They can use the results for their own optimization measures. 

In June 2020, we added the Motion-Mining® Tracing Solution (MMTS) to our portfolio. The MMTS is a combination of an app, micro radio transmitters and an analytics dashboard. While the solution has a lower level of data protection than the federal app, it can realize more accurate location and compliance with hygiene measures. The solution specifically targets business customers. In addition to the contact tracking options in the event of infection, our solution also provides various prevention options.

What is special about motion mining?

In contrast to manual analysis by human observation, where a process engineer manually documents the work processes, process recording using motion mining works automatically. The technology is based on sensors, beacons and a self-developed deep-learning algorithm that converts raw data into process metrics. Currently, multiple activities can be detected and tools and workspaces can also be identified. Our USPs include that measurement technology can be deployed without IT integration and can be set up and taken down with little lead time. In addition, we obtain the KPIs for process efficiency and ergonomics from the same dataset and the anonymity (according to DSGVO) of the employees is maintained at all times.

How have you integrated this form of automated analytics into a business model?

Our main source of revenue is currently still the service/consulting business. In addition, we have been offering our Motion Mining® product solution, Manual Process Intelligence (MPI), since last year. 

We bill the consulting service to customers via a consulting fee. The price varies depending on various factors such as the number of processes, employees, shifts as well as the complexity of the analysis questions. For the product, on the other hand, we charge a basic license fee. However, the license model also includes a usage-based price component. Against the backdrop of the Corona situation, we have also developed a tracing solution, a prevention tool, for use in companies. With the help of an app and additional radio transmitters, users of the Motion-Mining ® Tracing Solution can, among other things, trace infection chains, identify frequently frequented areas, and maintain safety distances and hygiene measures. To support this, the app provides real-time feedback. 

This informs the employee: 

  • If the contact time of 15 minutes is exceeded. 
  • For reminders of regular hand hygiene and ventilation of rooms (through the use of additional sensor technology). 
  • To warn of critical and high-traffic areas for contact reduction 
  • In case of infection to inform further measures

The Motion-Mining® Tracing Solution relieves employees and helps to avoid a company-wide lockdown.

What is your target group?

Our main source of income is currently still the Our current target market consists of various industrial companies. The focus is on companies in the production and logistics sectors. Here, for example, many repackaging, packaging, production and picking activities take place and automation is often not worthwhile due to short contract terms, high business dynamics or low margins. An initial pilot project was recently carried out in collaboration with a hospital. The aim in future is to win more customers from the health care sector. 

Our target group includes the logistics services, e-commerce, wholesale and retail, manufacturing, air freight and healthcare sectors. In addition, our customer base now also includes consulting companies that license the technology and use it as part of their own customer projects. 

At the moment, we are working primarily with companies in Germany. Our goal is to operate more internationally in the next few years. So far, we have sold consulting projects and licenses to Switzerland, the Netherlands and Malaysia.

Where do you stand right now with MotionMiners GmbH?

We are in the growth phase and are moving towards the next scaling stage. Among other things, this involves achieving a larger footprint with individual customers and also further professionalizing the production of measurement technology. We can already show more than 20 customer references, which we have gained in more than 40 consulting projects and from our product business. So far we were able to convince 15 customers to license our technology and have grown from 3 founders to a team of 30 without an investor. However, we are not averse to further growth and cooperation with investors.


Sascha, thank you very much for this exciting interview. We wish MotionMiners continued success, especially for 2021. 

If you want to learn more about MotionMiners, you can check out their Innoloft profile.

investify is the Startup of the Week 1: Customized investment solutions


Banking & Finance

The financial world is digitizing – and new challenges are emerging. For this, we need technology-based solutions. Our Startup of the Week investify provides these solutions. investify is a Luxembourgian-German technology and regulatory provider. Their goal: to improve investment actions through innovative solutions. We caught up with CEO Dr. Harald Brock for an interview to learn more about investify.

Hello Harald! Nice to have you here today. Tell us about what investify does briefly.

investify TECH was founded to solve the current challenges in the securities business in a technology-based way – our customers include renowned financials, such as banks etc., but also non-financials such as financial portals and technology companies.

How do you implement your mission technically?

The investify iP3 platform is the basis for customer-centric white label solutions. If required, our spectrum covers all processes from onboarding to customer service. This allows partners to focus on sales in the best possible way. 

With all our products, our platform approach and the automation of processes ensure that  we create not only high-quality but also efficient solutions.

Our partners’ investment solutions are developed from front-end, back-end, algorithmic and regulatory modules. Our microservice architecture allows us to achieve maximum customer centricity (tayloring) based on proven platform standards. This, together with the Software as a Service (SaaS) approach, significantly reduces implementation costs and risks.

If required, our API interfaces ensure comprehensive integration into the partner’s systems. Alternatively, our solutions can also be built completely autonomously and operated in standard cloud technologies.

What makes you stand out in the digital finance world?

Fewer and fewer customers want off-the-peg services. This is just as true for sneakers as it is for financial services. investify addresses this customer need and creates personalized products. This is how we achieve:

  • More customer satisfaction
  • More customer interaction
  • Higher willingness to recommend
  • Lower price sensitivity
  • Less comparability

In line with the mass customization approach, we make the necessary processes simple for partners and your customers, such as the selection of thematic investments as part of a core-satellite approach. Our fitting algorithms, for example, ensure that the services offered are a perfect match for customers and their risk appetite. 

One of our strengths is that, as a regulatory provider, we can take over regulated processes and activities for our partners within the framework of business process outsourcing (BPO) (loss threshold monitoring, reporting, etc.). Security and compliance are our top priorities.

Our regulatory modules are based on a financial portfolio manager license with the CSSF in Luxembourg. Within the framework of EU passporting, we can offer our services throughout Europe. As a technology-oriented company, we have also digitized numerous regulatory requirements and processes.

With our regulatory and digitalization offering, we support our partners in implementing state-of-the-art value creation architectures. Particularly in the current market environment, it is becoming increasingly important to outsource regulated and unregulated activities. This enables partners to save costs and improve their competitiveness.

We also offer comprehensive service packages for non-financials, enabling them to offer investment solutions even without their own license. In this case, investify acts, for example, legally as asset manager or closing agent under a brand of the B2B partner.

How did you build your business model?

We have three revenue streams: 

  1. setup fees: for connection of the platform and customization based on customer requirements
  2. assets under management (AuM) fees: for regulatory activities etc.
  3. software as a service (SaaS) fees: for the use of the software.

We adapt our pricing individually to the business model of our partners.

What is your target group?

We have a track record to be proud of! Renowned financials and non-financials from different sectors rely on investify’s excellent technology, regulatory and investment expertise.

Our target group consists of banks, insurance companies, financial service providers and asset managers, but also non-financials such as financial portals and technology companies.

Primarily, we operate in the German-speaking region, but we want to expand our sales network here. For example, there is also an English version of our B2B site where interested parties can find more information.

What are proud moments in the development of investify, that you like to look back on?

Our own Robo Advisor has been on the market since 12/2016 and has been continuously developed since then. In various performance comparisons, investify can be found in the top group and we are also regularly awarded in customer reviews (e.g. BankingCheck Award as best Robo-Advisor 2020).

Since 2018, we have also steadily expanded the circle of our B2B partnerships. The special feature is that our customers can obtain solutions in a modular system or completely individual solutions. This gives each partner the opportunity to contribute their individual strengths and corporate values and, as a consequence, to focus completely on their core competencies.

 

Harald, thank you very much for this exciting interview. We wish you continued success, especially in 2021. 

If you want to learn more about investify, just check out their Innoloft profile.

Smart-me is the Startup of the Week 51: Energy of the future


Energy & Environment, Energy Efficiency and Environment

The decentralization of energy systems is a consequence of the rapid changes in the energy industry. We expect these changes to increase in the coming years in particular. Decentralization and digitalization pose new challenges for control at all grid levels, which is why new solutions are needed. Our Startup of the Week smart-me has developed precisely such solutions. We discussed what these solutions look like with Martina Hickethier from smart-me.

Hello Martina! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. How would you describe smart-me in one sentence?

In short: energy in the digital age

An exciting and important topic. What exactly is the role of smart-me?

We develop both the energy measuring devices and the software needed for a comprehensive energy management system. 

But you are not the only ones to offer these services. What makes you stand out from your competitors?

Energy is used more efficiently with smart-me at both the household and distribution grid level. Because we develop both the energy meters and the cloud software to control energy in real-time. Why real-time? Thanks to renewable energies, energy systems will change rapidly in the coming years; they will become more digital and decentralized. And thus pose new challenges for control at all grid levels. Besides, the smart-me platform offers connectivity to numerous third-party systems. We are therefore a neutral provider and do not compete with smart home or smart energy manufacturers.

How did you turn it into a successful business model?

smart-me sells energy meters and energy management software. The latter is available by subscription or as a lifetime license.

Do you also operate internationally?

We concentrate on the DACH region. The European market is served by our subsidiary, smartRED GmbH in Germany. 

Electromobility plays a special role in the further development of the company. The sector coupling of real estate and mobility brings unique opportunities for optimizing self-consumption. That is why we are launching our own Pico charging station in 2021.

What special successes do you like looking back on?

Since its founding in 2014, over 100 partners have brought more than 55,000 measurement points into the cloud. The company consists of a 20-member team and has its headquater in Rotkreuz (ZG), Switzerland.

 

Martina, that brings us to the end of our interview. Thank you very much for the exciting conversation! We wish you continued success, especially for the launch of your own charging station next year!

If you want to learn more about smart-me, you can find out more on their profile in our network.