After over an hour in the conference room giving a panorama view over the rooftops of Essen-Rüttenscheid, it is quite clear: the first get-to-know-you meeting between the international energy service provider ista and the NRW start-up EnergieSparSchein (ESS) will not be the last.
An article by Carmen Radeck from ruhrgruender.de
In their exclusive meeting, ista CEO Thomas Zinnöcker and the two Düsseldorf-based ESS founders, Oliver Dix and Frank von Fraunberg, found enough common ground to discuss possible collaboration in a subsequent workshop.
It was the “Smart am Start” project of Initiativkreis Ruhr that made this meeting between corporate and start-up possible. The aim of the project initiated by the business alliance is to open the boardroom doors of companies in the Ruhr area to innovative and technology-oriented start-ups.
Calculating energy consumption efficiently thanks to digitalisation
ista is one of the first member companies to agree to participate in Initiativkreis’s support programme – and it did this not only to offer support to a young company, but also very much in its own interest. In the introduction round, Thomas Zinnöcker already made clear: “In light of digitalisation and the changes it is bringing, we are open to new ideas.”
The Essen-based energy service provider is considered to be one of the world’s leading companies when it comes to improving energy efficiency in buildings and has specialised above all in the metering, billing and visualisation of consumption data for energy users in multi-family buildings and commercial properties with radio-based water and heat meters.
Common interest: energy consulting in a fun way
It is precisely the ability to automatically record consumption data with the appropriate hardware which makes ista an exciting potential partner for the Düsseldorf-based energy start-up.
The two founders, Frank von Fraunberg and Oliver Dix, have developed an app, the EnergieSparSchein, which not only introduces the subject of energy efficiency to tenants and property owners in a fun way, but also shows that a lasting change in their behaviour is enough to reduce energy costs. The core target group for their business idea is municipal utilities which can use the app as a customer loyalty tool and – in a later extended app version – for product offers specially tailored to the individual energy user.
For their app, the two founders devised the fictional character Mark Berger, a digital 24/7 energy efficiency coach. He gives the app users tips on energy efficiency and, by requesting and visualising their individual meter readings, encourages them to reduce their heating costs and water consumption.
In the current version of the app, the users still have to enter their water and heat consumption manually. Here experience has shown that, after initial enthusiasm, having to enter data manually often causes people to stop using the app. “That’s why we are looking for collaborations with companies like ista so we can retrieve the consumption data automatically,” explains Oliver Dix, when presenting the business model.
Collecting as many individual consumption readings of tenants and house occupants as possible and as quickly as possible is vital for the further development of the app. “The next stage in the extended version is the virtual household,” says Oliver Dix. The aim is to digitally reproduce the actual household of the energy consumers with aid of artificial intelligence. Then it will be possible to not only just give the user tips on energy efficiency, but also make recommendations that are individually tailored to his consumption profile.
Saving energy through transparency
It is this approach in particular where ista boss Thomas Zinnöcker sees exciting common ground between the two companies. “Our approach is also based on creating energy efficiency through transparency,” he says. A recent study has just shown that the regular, transparent visualisation of consumption data often makes consumers change their behaviour. However, Zinnöcker warns that the disclosure of data is a difficult area.
Nevertheless, after an hour of presentation and frank discussions, the ista CEO and the two Düsseldorf-based founders were sure: there is enough common ground to discuss collaboration or joint business models. Both companies do not want to wait too long. A joint workshop is already to be held in January.