Ampeers Energy offers a solution for locally generated energy. The Fraunhofer spin-off wants to do it’s part in successfully pushing forward the energy transition. We asked the founders our Seven Questions.
Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!
Ampeers Energy: Hi, we’re Karsten Schmidt, Gerrit Ellerwald and Tobias Müller from Ampeers Energy. We decided to found Ampeers Energy because it was impossible for us not to. The market didn’t have our idea of a comprehensive software solution that makes decentral business models profitable and simple. So we had to seize that opportunity.
Karsten and Gerrit met while both worked at Eon, but that didn’t last very long because Gerrit soon left Eon to found his own company “Grünspar.” Once he had made a successful exit and was available again, Karsten had already started to identify the topic for a new startup and spin-off from Fraunhofer. Because they already knew each other and got along well, it quickly became clear that collaborating would work.
Tobias was brought on board during the development of the spin-off, market analysis and structuring of the subject matter. He brought with him valuable expertise from the field of direct energy from his time at Polarstern, and we quickly got along extremely well as a team of three. On a personal level as well, we were on the same wavelength and agreed on how we view the challenges and opportunities presented by the energy transition. That was how the three of us started Ampeers Energy in 2019.
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Ampeers Energy: In simple terms, we want to make decentral business models simple and profitable to promote the energy transition. As a software startup, we offer cloud-based applications for managing energy and data flows in a district. That sounds complicated at first, but it really isn’t. On the contrary, our three products are designed to simplify the complex issue of “energy management” and to optimize and automate processes to save cash.
In addition to our AE District Manager, which is a comprehensive solution for cross-sector energy management in a district, we also have our AE Local Supplier. This fully automatic and integrated direct energy software takes care of the administrative side of direct energy projects. We also have our AE Fleet Optimizer. By pooling all relevant data, this smart software assumes control of the discharge and charge management of e-vehicle fleets.
This SaaS solution is based on particularly high-performance Fraunhofer software that, thanks to self-learning technologies, is able to interlink, optimize and effectively manage all decentral processes involved in power generation and consumption.
“Being a Fraunhofer spin-off was both a blessing and a curse”
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Ampeers Energy: It is true that the energy transition is nothing new. But many decentralized power producers and technical components are not coordinated very well yet. As a result, energy is not generated optimally, nor is it distributed optimally or sold at the best possible price.
Due to redundancies, blockages and unnecessary parallel processes, the current energy market doesn’t operate very efficiently. That is where our smart cloud computing platform comes in. We don’t offer partial solutions, but instead view decentral business models comprehensively: We link all decentral players and technical components in one single system, which makes it possible for producers and consumers to optimize their coordination. Surplus power is reduced, increased demand can be anticipated and accommodated for and every component functions optimally within the framework of a complete single system. With artificial intelligence and data analysis, we can also give our customers precise forecasts about future developments, allowing them to perfectly modulate their own business.
With us, you get all of the software support for implementing a complete decentral business model from one place. And it is so user friendly that it clearly distinguishes us from our competitors thanks to how simple and intuitive it is to use.
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Ampeers Energy: Our biggest challenge could be considered our spinning off from Fraunhofer. The fact that we’re a Fraunhofer spin-off was both a blessing and a curse in the beginning. We deliberately emphasize “blessing” because Fraunhofer is obviously a strong brand and we can fall back on a technologically mature backend. That is an advantage held by hardly any other startup on the market.
At the same time, Fraunhofer is a public institution, which makes all of the legal issues, activities and formalities involved in a spin-off process lengthy and sometimes slow. The spin-off process from Fraunhofer, which was handled very well and professionally, is still a formal process in the end that required the legal establishment and conclusion of cooperation frameworks and license agreements. But now we’re benefiting long term from our cooperation with Fraunhofer and can continuously integrate new innovations directly into our SaaS product. That is a serious source of security for us.
Organizing financing could also be viewed as a challenge. We stood behind our software. But at the same time, we knew a relatively large team would be needed to make our system available. Our team has now grown to include 15 employees. The challenge in this case was to get the needed capital in a very short period of time. Three months after our founding, we won over investors in a classic seed round of financing with our vision and our capabilities as a team. That was hardly conceivable since we weren’t able to show Proof of Market at such an early stage, but again what helped us was the fact that Fraunhofer was backing us! We knew we couldn’t slowly and carefully build the company over nine months — in this setting and with this technology, the only way to go was full throttle.
Our third big challenge was recruiting and building our team. In a relatively short period of time, we had to get a functioning but rather large (for a startup) team of energy industry experts and software developers up and running. To get ambitious and competent employees on board, we didn’t post any classic job ads, but instead worked exclusively with our existing network. Through former colleagues and their contacts, we could be sure that their skills and mindset were a fit for implementing the AE idea.
Munich Startup: Where do you see your business in one year, and where in five years?
Ampeers Energy: Our short term goal is to have the company fully established and developed. In areas where a “hands-on mentality” still prevails, we want to professionalize our internal collaboration, infrastructure and internal processes. That’s where you can tell that we’re still a very new company. But as soon as these processes are complete, then we’ll be able to work more efficiently on our core business.
Our goal over the long term is to be the first point of contact and the leading innovator, basically to become a synonym for making decentralized energy concepts possible with SaaS. We feel confident that the decentralized energy transition will be implemented by successfully incorporating new players and mobilizing existing players. We want to make a significant contribution by making decentralized business models not only sustainable, but also simple and profitable. By doing so, we’re eliminating the last arguments against it.
When we look to the future, then we imagine we have made it possible for many companies to play a role in the energy transition, that housing developers have equipped roofs with PV systems, that we have transitioned fleets to electric vehicles and that power providers have gained a foothold in the decentralized energy business.
Ampeers Energy: “Fans of calculated risk”
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Ampeers Energy: Munich is an amazing location in general that can be listed right up there in many aspects with cities like Berlin and Hamburg. You have good networking here and many other startups in the same industry, which means a lot of people are working on the same topic and promote it together. Another positive aspect is the support you receive from so many directions. But there are some areas where Munich is not quite on the same level as cities like Berlin. We had difficulties recruiting talent, and in general, the entire cost structure in Munich is in a whole different category compared to cities like Berlin. But all in all, we feel very much at home in Munich.
Munich Startup: Risk or security?
Ampeers Energy: Our first reaction is clear: risk!
But we also have to be honest and say that when we founded the company, we weren’t total greenhorns who just wanted to start a business. We had pooled professional expertise paired with business experience, since Gerrit had already successfully founded a company.
So we would call ourselves fans of calculated risk. When you know what you’re doing and do your homework, then you can only recommend taking entrepreneurial risk.