Voltgoed – Accelerating the energy transition

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Voltgoed – Accelerating the energy transition

One of the 5G Hub Innovation Challenge winners, Voltgoed is an energy transition company with headquarters in Eindhoven. After several pivots and changes in different directions since their start, they now see a feasible track ahead and great opportunities on the horizon. Horst Fietje, on behalf of his team, tells us about their story, how the company is planning on moving forward, and talks about their participation in the first edition of the competition promoted by the 5G Hub and its partners. 

The first idea for what Voltgoed would come to be began to be drafted at the end of 2020 when the three founders, Horst Fietje, Jasper Verhoeve, and Stan Hoppenreijs, started to question how they wanted to move forward with their careers. “I had just left a startup; Jasper had finished his bachelor’s; Stan was doing his master’s internship. We thought: ‘We’re almost done with our studies. Do we want to start working for a company, or do we want to make an impact on something important?” Horst remembers. Connected by what the three had in common – the perception that the energy transition should be going way faster –the trio started to brainstorm. 

Stan’s experience at an energy supplying company brought the team amazing insights into the mechanisms behind the energy market. So much so that their thoughts on how to improve housing sustainability ended up combined into a research proposal. 

From April 2021 on, they headed in a concrete direction. After winning the TU/e Challenge and others, the team hit a reflection moment: “There comes a time, the hardest part, when you have to transform your brilliant idea into a business. We cannot have free groceries in the supermarket: we have to earn something. That’s when you must think about how you are going to make money out of it.” As the group realized their idea was not financially viable, they searched for other ways to start an enterprise, rethinking their process. 

Optimizing heating solution 

Now, Voltgoed’s focus lies in writing a proposition centered on a service solution for property owners. “Imagine a social housing company with a 150 homes-apartment building, all of them in need of heat supplement. Due to the regulations, this heat cannot be provided by natural gas anymore. The solution, then, is to install one massive heat pump for the entire building to share the heat among themselves. However, these installations are quite complex, difficult to understand, and very expensive,” Horst clarifies. Voltgoed helps property developers with the development and exploitation of these collective heating systems. They fully monitor and optimize the heating system in order to reach the lowest total cost of ownership. This includes services such as predictive maintenance and smart energy consumption optimizations. With this service, housing companies are not dependent on third parties anymore for the exploitation of their heating system.  

Voltgoed’s new proposition comes as a crucial assessment moment for the three entrepreneurs. Horst says the document was initially written for themselves: “If you force yourself to write a business plan, you force yourself to think about all the different aspects that you need to cover.” The team is working on showing interested parties they understand what their revenue model is and how they could collaborate with other parties in the value chain. Voltgoed is now in conversation with a company that is both a partner and a possible investor: one of the largest installation companies in the Netherlands. “That’s really exciting,” celebrates Horst. 

Support from the community 

Voltgoed heard about the 5G Hub Innovation Challenge during their participation in the TU/e Contest in 2021, as 5G Hub’s Senna Kloosterman was part of the jury. According to Horst, one of the biggest motivations to apply was the possibility of getting into contact with the 5G Hub ecosystem. Now, they have an office on High Tech Campus Eindhoven. The team is also waiting for the best moment to use their prize as the 5G Hub Innovation Challenge Audience Choice winner: a consultation with Strict and the 5G Hub. For them, who were already on a winning streak, with boosted confidence, being up on the stage during the final round was a great experience as “in any transition, beyond companies or technicalities, the social aspect is crucial,” Horst remarks, and continues: “So if the audience votes for you, it’s extraordinary because, in the end, you’re doing that for the people living in a house and paying a bill. That’s amazing that they see the potential in what you’re doing and support you.” 

The range of learning opportunities that joining such a competition provides is immense. That beautiful process, however, cannot arise without its challenges. Horst mentions, for example, that mastering how big corporate companies work can be an arduous task. A startup environment is typically agile and easily bendable. Directions can be dynamically changed in the blink of an eye. A very diverse scenario from what we encounter in big companies, as he explains: “We had to learn to adapt towards the corporate way of working, and that was quite challenging because we, as a startup, are super flexible. However, in that environment, you must plan meetings for months in advance, and you’re not even sure if you’ll get any response. It can be complicated and frustrating at times. But we learned a lot from the experience, so that’s always valuable.” 

The entrepreneur also believes that companies should collaborate instead of only competing, especially regarding energy transition. As each party has different expertise in the field, those ideas and knowledge should be combined to accelerate this process positively. “We have to communicate with each other, listen to each other, try to work together, and not see each other as enemies. And I think that the 5G Hub is a perfect example of that as they are open to helping and providing access to their network; it’s an environment where everyone can show their concepts and work together on making the world a better place. All this context is crucial to accelerate the energy transition,” Horst emphasizes. 

Next steps 

While developing their first pilot, the Voltgoed team is now on the search for a partnership with one of the social housing companies in the Netherlands: “That’s our opportunity to test out the feasibility of what we have in mind,” Horst says. They are also putting the final touches on the mentioned business plan, the first step towards a growing and resource scouting phase. With all the market research done, he explains, they expect to show to possible investors that “this is something companies are willing to pay for, and we can make a profit out of it.” 

As such, Jasper, Stan, and Horst are always eager to learn and discuss opportunities. So, they invite real estate managers within social housing companies and property developers to get in touch with the team via horst@voltgoed.nl or +31630066953.