As ever Jan Michael Hess and the Ecosummit team put on a good show, and a great event. The coffee wasn’t as good as Berlin, but otherwise an excellent, full and eventful day. It was great this time to be involved as a speaker, and as a sponsor, but the best thing about Ecosummit is the opportunity to see so many innovative and creative start-ups. I think we had 38 pitches during the day, plus of course plenty of chance to network with institutional and corporate investors, VC’s and Angels. (Video below).
The day is another reminder of why we at Hyperion have always, and always will, be focused purely in the cleantech sector; and why we love working with post-investment start-ups. The passion, the innovation, the sense of broader purpose and of changing the world never ceases to inspire the team at Hyperion to continue playing our part.
This year three key themes stood out for me, from the days pitches and discussions.
It’s all about the people! Of course, you would expect me to say that, we’re in the people business, but from start to finish, people and teams were a key feature. Jan started with a slide showing the four pillars to success, People, Products/services, Customers and Capital. People up front from the start, and the topic stayed there. Almost every start-up pitching mentioned their team, most showed photo’s of the team or at least the founders and management teams. Why, because no start-up can survive without a strong team. Of course the other side of this coin is the investors, so often you hear them say we invest in people/teams, as much as in the technology (not just on Dragon’s Den!). That was the conversation over coffee with the investors we met. Some of the comments from the panel I sat on were around this topic also. To win investment you need a strong team, once you have the investment you invariable have to add to that team, or sometimes move or replace some of that original team. Who you need at start-up stage isn’t necessarily who you need at round A or B fundraising, and that’s likely to change again pre-IPO for example. It’s about having the right people, in the right place, at the right time. And getting this right is as much about getting the company culture, and team blend right, as much as the right skills. That is why we love working with post investment start-ups to help build teams and open new territories, markets or divisions.
It’s all about software and service! It might sound an obvious thing to say, but increasingly the big growth is in companies that provide SaaS or Maas solutions. We are moving towards the digitisation of everything, the internet of energy and IoT. There were some really cool companies pitching, many announcing new investments, as well as future funding requirements, and some nice project wins. It was also cool to see that the Utilities, or at least their investment arms, truly get how they need start ups and new innovation, from outside, but also that they need to nurture them, not absorb them into a corporate hell hole of process and coercion.
It’s time to talk diversity! Incredibly we are still at a stage where we ignore a huge slice of the talent pool. Gender and ethnic imbalance in the sector is such a waste. Whilst cleantech is much better than dirty old energy, we still have a very small proportion of women represented at all levels, from corporates, to investors to entrepreneurs and start-ups. Fair play to Jan for having an all female panel to discuss and highlight this topic. We are working with a superb London based energy storage (late stage) start-up, Arenko Group, who truly see the benefit to the company of greater diversity. Not for any PC or quota reasons, but because they really see the benefit to the company in terms of innovation and opinion. Diversity of experiences, genders, ethnicity and nationalities can only bring a freshness and positivity to any business (or country for that matter!). The cleantech sector needs to embrace this, and to encourage girls from a young age into STEM subjects and into engineering. That’s me off of the soap box, for now.
I even got a round of applause for it being my birthday! And a beer.
Our panel discussion (from 4 mins our first contribution).