Energy saving start-up secures investment after Catapult event

Promising start-up companies looking to secure investment for their innovations gathered at the Shard in London last February to pitch their business propositions. One year on, we speak to event participant Gregor Hoefter of energy saving platform GridDuck about his firm’s journey.

Rising energy prices have forced many businesses and consumers to scramble for the best deals, but significant savings can also be made by ensuring machines and devices are not wasting energy.

At home, the task of switching off what isn’t needed is relatively straightforward, but for businesses operating large factories, shops or warehouses it can be harder to keep track of consumption and whether hundreds of pieces of hardware are operating as efficiently as possible.

Step forward GridDuck, a cloud-based platform that monitors consumption data associated with electricity, gas and water and provides users with a dashboard of usage. Clients can use the information to make changes themselves, or the system can be programmed to switch appliances off when they are not being used – or for their times of operation to be scheduled to take advantage of cheaper energy at certain times of the day.

Company founder Gregor Hoefter launched the product  in 2019 and took part in the Net Zero Investor Day at the Shard last February, organised by Connected Places Catapult to introduce financiers to start-up companies. “The event was great and I received lots of excellent advice on how to pitch my proposition from Yusuf Chadun of the Catapult and its consultant Arnold du Toit.

“I was introduced to several prospective investors, but only managed to close our funding round of £500,000 when an energy consultant came on board who offered us just what we needed to reach the total,” he adds.

Gregor Hoefter, founder, GridDuck

“Last year was tough for investment and I spent at least half of it looking for money; it is a really hard process. But we are now in a strong financial position with a turnover of several hundred thousand pounds. Our revenue has doubled in each of the last few years, we have a few big clients and are now working with our energy consultant investor to secure more partners in the field.”

Gregor says that the funding round he closed last year helped him to scale up his company’s operations and continue developing the product.

He started raising finance for the business towards the end of 2022, but his proposed valuation was deemed by several investors to be too high. Once a valuation was agreed, it took him six months to complete the round.

For other entrepreneurs looking to follow in his footsteps, he advises: “Keep an open mind in terms of who you would look for investment from. We were introduced to several venture capitalist funds by investors and that didn’t work out, but now we have investment from an energy consultant. It is worth consulting widely.”

Large savings realised

GridDuck uses Internet of Things enabled sensors attached to devices inside buildings to monitor and control energy consumption. The software also allows for energy costs to be divided fairly between different tenants under one roof; such as in the case of ‘dark kitchens’ where multiple chefs cook meals for different delivery firms in one large space.

Gregor says that wasted energy is a much bigger problem than many businesses realise.

“Generally there is a need to better understand how much energy is being used and how efficient we could all be. Some of our clients have realised savings of up to 50%.”

He points to skyscrapers in major cities, where several floors have the lights on, even when no-one is working such as on Christmas Day. “But this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he adds.

“I have it on good authority from an energy consultant that many schools are fully heated in the holidays because the thermostats are set to heat classrooms every day. Unless it’s a large secondary school or university, there is unlikely to be a dedicated building manager to look after heating on site.”

Not only does unnecessary heating and lighting cost schools and businesses money, but it is bad for the environment too and makes achieving sustainability targets harder, he adds.

GridDuck's dashboard

Aiming to better match demand and supply

Readers familiar with energy networks will understand what the first half of GridDuck’s company name points towards; but why ‘Duck’? Gregor explains that it refers to the ‘Californian duck curve’ showing energy demand versus solar power generation in the US state during a typical day. When plotted on a graph, the supply rises of a morning, tapers at lunchtime and rises steeply of an afternoon as more solar power is generated – so that it somewhat resembles the outline of a sitting duck.

Earlier in his career, Gregor worked in marketing, product development and telecoms where he got involved in smart homes and analysed projects focused on tracking energy demands from businesses and encouraging its use at off-peak times.

“They would ask very large energy users like cement works to switch off their plants for short periods of time in return for a discount, so that during the evenings when there is a surge in demand from public transport, televisions and people cooking there would be enough supply to balance the demand,” he remembers.

“If every company could save 5 or 10% of their energy, maybe additional power generating facilities would not be needed. Or if we could reduce the enormous peaks in demand just slightly, it could make a massive difference.”

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