In many participants’ view, Green Angel Syndicate’s sixth pitch event on 26 June was the best so far. Once again hosted by Baker Botts in its beautiful premises in the City of London, we had a packed room of motivated angel investors listening to – and interacting with – the founders of four innovative companies tackling four very different problems, all with great potential green benefits:
If you are interested in knowing more about any of these investment opportunities, or watching the video recording of the event, or indeed hearing more about our other live deals, Alusid and Greenspur, please contact Nick Lyth or Simon Acland.
Open Utility – Trading platform for flexibility in the electricity market
Ambition – Open Utility has developed a marketplace that streamlines and optimises trading between buyers and sellers of spare energy in the electricity market by offering an online auction system. Open Utility is offering the right solution, at the right time and in the right place, as the UK is seen as a global leader in the field. The aim is to secure a leadership position in the UK and then to replicate it globally.
Market and business model –Open Utility’s online auction system puts buyers and sellers of spare electricity capacity in touch, helping to create a smart grid to benefit everyone. National Grid and regional grid operators such as UK Power Networks are interested in buying spare electricity capacity on a highly localised level, which is essential to solve local congestion problems in electricity distribution networks.
For those of us who are not experts in the field, the key is that grid operators are ready to pay companies to reduce their demand on the network at a given time, in a given place, because this enables them to avoid large investments in network upgrades required when they are at capacity and cannot meet demand. The industry calls this marginal electricity requirement “flexibility”, hence “flexibility buying and selling”, or “flexibility trading”.
On the other side, there is a growing number of potential sellers of flexibility, including aggregators (e.g. Limejump, Open Energi), battery operators (e.g. Powervault) and fleets of electric vehicles – which are all willing to adjust their demand on the network if they can benefit financially.
Hence the opportunity to trade. By creating a new and simple platform for online trading, Open Utility can unlock the long-tail of flexibility providers that cannot negotiate old fashioned bilateral procurement contracts with incumbent grid operators, creating a more diverse and liquid market.
What it’s achieved so far –Open Utility was founded in 2013. Its first commercial product, Piclo Match, is a peer-to-peer energy trading service for electricity suppliers, which has secured a multi-year SaaS agreement with Good Energy and launched trials in Italy and the Netherlands. The new platform, Piclo Flex, was officially launched in June 2018. Open Utility has secured trial partnerships with three of the six UK regional grid operators (DSO’s) and a growing number of flexibility sellers are joining the platform.
Team – The three cofounders are James Johnston (CEO), Andy Kilner (CTO) and Alice Tyler (CPO). James’s experience includes founding Solar Sketch, engineering at Arup and research at the University of Strathclyde. Andy was a systems developer at NTT Europe and a senior developer at Smesh. Alice was previously UX designer at Mint Digital and graduated from Glasgow School of Art. The board is chaired by Volker Beckers, former CEO of RWE NPower.
Exit – Open Utility’s ‘plan A’ would be a trade sale to a global tech firm or an IPO, and its ‘plan B’ a trade sale to a regional energy player.
Fundraise –£500k, EIS, to secure its position as market leader in the UK. Open Utility will be looking to raise a Series A in 2019.
Polysolar – Transparent solar PV glass technology
Ambition – Polysolar’s vision is that solar generating glass windows will become a significant source of renewable energy, turning buildings into power stations. Polysolar delivers architectural glass solutions using aesthetic solar photovoltaic panels for windows, but also skylights, carports, canopies, balustrades, etc.
Market – Polysolar’s target market is called Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), sitting at the intersection of the renewable energy microgeneration and the glazing market for building materials.
The BIPV opportunity is expected to reach $26bn globally by 2022. In the short term, Polysolar estimates its target UK market at £1.2bn.
Business model – Polysolar’s proposition to its clients is that energy efficiencies alone are insufficient to reach zero carbon building standards, and its technology comes in to make the whole building surface area, but particularly windows, available for solar energy capture, as well as mitigating thermal gain. Its glass looks attractive, at a price point that is not prohibitive compared with quality architectural glazing. The company has a full product range and a service offering to support commercial application.
The company initially targets the B2B market, focusing on the different players in the value chain, from architects to property investors and developers. It will also start working on the residential market with a trial later this year.
What it’s achieved so far –Polysolar is a revenue generating business with the first generation of its PV glassdeployed in c.50 sites. The company has won several awards (Shell Springboard, Cognicity, Pitch@Palace, Innovate UK) and has received over £1.5m in grant funding.
Team –Hamish Watson (Founder & CEO) has 10+ years’ experience pioneering BIPV commercialisation. Aidan Cumiskey (COO) was a business leader with GE AD Renewables and is ex-owner and CEO of Monsal (PE backed and trade exit to GE). Niall Henderson (Advisory Chairman) is a former M&A manager with BP.
Exit – Polysolar targets an exit either through a trade sale, with potential interest from players in the solar, energy and building sectors; or an IPO, with public markets showing interest in specialist renewable energy technology companies with a clear potential for global expansion.
Fundraise –£1.5m, EIS, to be deployed across three years to fund an expansion of the team, enhance marketing efforts, product development and overseas licensing.
BetterPoints – Delivering positive behaviour change
Ambition – BetterPoints is a behavioural change technology company which commercialises a reward-based, app-based system to motivate greater numbers of people to adopt sustainable, healthy and positive social behaviours.If successful, health care, social care, environment and government infrastructure would benefit from a reduction in demand and cost, supported by evidenced behaviour and outcome data.
Market – Globally, BetterPoints has identified an overall opportunity of £600bn, including health organisations (e.g. the NHS), the sustainable transportation market and corporates (dedicating funds to improve their employees’ health and wellbeing).
Business model – At the front, for end users, BetterPoints is a free-to-use app that records behaviours – e.g. whether they walk, cycle or drive to work; which activities they engage in and for how long, etc. End users accumulate points which can then be redeemed for vouchers or charity donations. At the back, for the B2B customer, be it public bodies or private organisations, BetterPoints is a software-as-a-service platform which can be highly customised (activities, incentives and many other options) and delivers hard evidence of end-user behaviour change. Such a SaaS business model is high margin, generates recurring revenues and is highly scalable.
What it’s achieved so far – BetterPoints is already trading effectively, with significant turnover in 2017 and 30% growth forecast in 2018. The company has 15+ live client licenses/programmes, 20+ academic and programme partners, and 75k users who have completed 4m km of sustainable miles. BetterPoints has received several grants and awards (Winner of Best “Mode Shift” Programme - Healthy Streets 2017; Winner of CIVITAS Bold Measure Award for pioneering work in Bologna).
Team – Daniel Gipple (cofounder and CEO) is a seasoned entrepreneur with expertise in behaviour change and sustainability related services. The team also includes Chris Bristow (COO/CIO), a former senior tech executive; Joe Oldak (Head of Development); and Hannah Bowden (Director of Programmes) who is seeking a PhD in machine learning, incentives and behaviour change at UCL and has 20 years’ experience in digital marketing and community engagement.
Exit – Potential acquirers envisaged by BetterPoints include insurance, transport and infrastructure providers.
Fundraise –£500k, EIS, to enable further behavioural machine learning software development.
Entomics – Modular Insect Factory
Ambition –Entomics’s vision is to tackle the two massive problems of food waste and growing food consumption by industrialising the transformation of organic waste into high quality, sustainable and natural animal feed – in other words, to use organic waste to breed insect larvae, to feed farm animals. It has developed a modular, autonomous 'mini-factory' for on-site live insect production for poultry feed. Live insects are already a natural feed in free range poultry. The larvae that Entomics produces are nutritionally superior to soy and enhance poultry health and welfare.
Market – The poultry feed market is worth $134bn globally, £32bn in the EU and £2bn in the UK.
Business model –Entomics has developed a turnkey bioconversion unit located on-site at poultry farms that transforms traceable food waste streams into live insect larvae. Live insects produced from this system are cost-competitive with soy. The system comprises standardised, low-cost 40ft shipping container modules that can be cheaply mass-manufactured, installed quickly with minimal permits, and scaled up/down to fit end-customer requirements. This ‘productised’ design enables seamless transport and global export opportunities. Computer-vision software monitors and controls this system autonomously, maximising sustainable productivity and decreasing operational costs. Entomics’s target revenue streams are annual service fees for the use of its system plus a per-tonne royalty fee.
What it’s achieved so far –Entomics has been working on innovative technologies within the emerging ‘insect bioconversion’ industry for over 2½ years, operating a prototype insect rearing operation with an input capacity of over 2 tonnes of food waste per week and successfully completing live insect poultry feeding trials with Stonegate. The company has received several grants, including a recent £750k from Innovate UK; it was selected for EIT Food KIC and has won several sustainability awards (Shell, Unilever, Hello Tomorrow).
Team –The founding team is formed of Matt McLaren (CEO), Fotis Fotiadis (CTO) and Dan Potter, all recent University of Cambridge graduates, with expertise in sustainable engineering and design.
Fundraise – £300k, EIS, to match-fund the Innovate UK grant which will enable Entomics to build a ‘first revenues’ prototype, a two-year project due to start in October 2018.