An interview by 53°N with Jeffry Broek and Mark Zaal from De Energiebespaarders (The Energy Savers) – your (digital) partner in making your home sustainable, as easy as online shopping.
It is another great day for solar power in Amsterdam when we meet the two founders of De Energiebespaarders, two old study friends from Delft University of Technology. Jeffry and Mark started their company 4 years ago with a clear mission to positively impact the energy transition. After “first spending all our own money, borrowing our girlfriends’ money and eating peanut butter sandwiches for a very long time,” they are now gearing up quickly… no worries, they still look healthy.
An easy way to find out how much you can save
“We figured out that many people wanted to go green, but do not really know where to start,” Jeffry explains to us. From a sustainability perspective, a building can be made more energy efficient in many different ways: solar panels, different kinds of insulations (roof, glass, walls, etc.), heat pumps, you name it. Moreover, the competitor field providing services and installation in this field is very much splintered. “We figured out that there was no player in the market that did it all, and it is very hard for consumers to figure out what works and what does not work for them.”
This is where De Energiebespaarders come in. Currently only focusing on the Dutch market space, they provide a quick digital assessment to home owners and give an instant indication of how much you can save on a yearly basis (if you are Dutch, click here for a free assessment).
If you like what you see, the next step is to buy an ‘Energy Passport’, which means that somebody from De Energiebespaarders comes by and does detailed measurements within your house. HQ will pick the results up and gives the home owner a set of offers; one for solar power, one for roof insulation, etc.. “We saw so many different pain points for customers when we started. It took us days behind a white board to build a much simpler end-to-end customer journey. When testing our new concept on the streets in Amsterdam, we got really excited: this works and nobody in the market is doing this!”. Now, 4 years down the line, they have a splendid 65% conversion rate after customers bought the ‘Energy Passport’.
A lean business model
For a customer it seems that De Energiebespaarders do it all, so you would expect a pretty sizable company with many installers already. However, with about 12 employees quite the opposite is true. “We are outsourcing all installation work. Let the installation companies do what they are traditionally good at: installation. Then we will do what we are good at: carving out all the efficiencies in the journey and the customer acquisition, digitally.” In that sense, De Energiebespaarders is the platform, getting revenues out of the ‘Energy Passport’ and commission from the installers.
Having traction in the market now, the next step is scaling up fast, which comes with new challenges. “We are now changing to a metric driven company and if we are operational break-even we can start doing really cool stuff with data, for instance a much more tailored messaging to customers.” Furthermore, there are many partnering opportunities that they are currently looking at, for instance with banks, mortgage providers and insurers. “These players also have a mission and goal to be more sustainable, and we can provide that to them. We see many win-win-wins in this market.”
The entrepreneurial journey
Mark and Jeffry both started a different career after their Masters; Mark in offshore and Jeffry at the utility company E.ON. “We saw the pieces of the puzzle coming together during that period,” Jeffry explains. They talked about it many times before jumping and finally they did. “After a couple of years, we are actually just at the beginning. Our mission is to become the number 1 company for sustainable housing.”
Asking them what they have learned along their journey: “It is definitely inconvenient; you have to do everything yourself (e.g. doing your own accounting, scanning receipts) and there is always that money problem. At the same time, we touch upon many people’s lives, whether it is within the houses of our customers or within our own team. This is extremely rewarding, especially when we get positive feedback. But it also comes with the feeling of responsibility and pressure. It feels bad when something goes wrong.”
A couple of things we can learn from Jeffrey and Mark:
- It is very important to keep focus, carve out enough time for the strategy, and rule out the risks within your business model one by one.
- Always expect a key team member to leave – it costs time to find a replacement and time is the scarcest good you have.
- Also celebrate the small wins, which is not always easy.
Thanks a lot for a very insightful and chilled interview!
And finally, our two wacky questions…
…If De Energiebespaarders was an animal what would it be? “A tiny ugly donkey with no horn yet, which does a lot of hard work… but one day it could be a unicorn”
…And if you can hire anyone in the world for De Energybespaarders who would it be? “Somebody that went through the scale-up phase multiple times”