kraftwerk stories

Startups on the road to success

Meshcrafts: Absolute Acceleration
(Accelerator Class of  2017/18)

The idea occurred to Åsmund Møll Frengstad when he was sailing: offer an open marketplace for re-charging electric vehicles. As a kid of the Far North, he practically grew up on a boat. You can feel these roots, even today. “Sailing is like setting up a company,” the Norwegian businessman says, “The wind seems to always come from a different direction; you have to be quick and flexible. You have to make decisions.” You don’t always have a lot of time—neither when you are on the water, nor when you are in a company.

At least in Norway, Meshcrafts is well established in the market. Åsmund’s goal, with his partner Paal Christian Myhre, is to bring the excitement of electric mobility to the German market. These men are absolutely sure that there is huge potential for e-cars and their power supply.

In order to set foot into the German market, this Norwegian company needs partners. And they got one: having now partnered with swb AG, they now have a major player in the energy market. Energy providers are one potential market. But so is the car market. Meshcrafts is now being supported by the Mercedes-Benz factory in Bremen. Åsmund had a rather small personal goal when establishing e-mobility in the market, “People need to understand that cars without combustion engines can also be a lot of fun. And let me say this to all of those ‘petrol freaks’ out there: The acceleration of an e-car is second to none!”

GEOLUMEN: Lighting up the Darkness
(Accelerator Class of  2017/18)

Using cordless infrastructure in a smart city IOT platform, they transformed lighting systems, and, because of this idea, they won the 2016 SMART TECH TROPHY. Antonio Domenico Ialeggio is the founder of GEOLUMEN. Stefano De Masi is their business developer. The two of them have already started out successfully in Italy. Now they are out use their idea to conquer the colder north.

The technology was developed for the field of robotics, used within a space programme. When they ran out of money, Antonio thought about using this technology for lighting systems. That was back in December 2010. Since then, it has been customer requests that have determined the company’s direction. Stefano described the customer acquisition process as, “Somebody has a problem? We deliver a solution.” He admits that, of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. He concedes, “We’re not exactly selling potatoes…” At the end of the day, there is a certain level of explanation that still has to be provided. What is their advantage, compared to the big boys? He says, “Well, if the others have to lay miles of cable, we simply install a transmitter. And then we’re done. That is not only less of a hassle. It is also cheaper.” Of course.

Both of them originally come from sunny Italy. Here they received their first financial jump-start from a business angel who really believed in their success and made their start possible. After Bremen, kraftwerk and the possibility of a Europe-wide rollout attracted them. Stefano explained their decision, “Having a partner like swb, with their entire network backing them, is the beginning. Of course, the positioning makes a lot of things easier and is a lot more promising.” The European market should feel at ease with these new kids on the block.

OptiHeat: Warming up to Energy
(Accelerator Class of  2017/18)

Who in the world doesn’t like a warm, cosy house in the dead of winter? If only this “heating business” were not so complicated and expensive. There is an improvement coming our way and it comes from Slovenia: OptiHeat’s Ivo Perperko and Rok Loncaric have developed a smart controller for heat pumps and they promise energy savings of up to 20%.

It is not just a matter of merely turning the temperature up or down. Their technology allows users to remotely operate their heat pumps and monitor the energy efficiency, , using a smartphone or a tablet. Data that come from the heat pump and from the weather predictionare used by a self-learning algorithms that learn about the thermo-dynamical model of each individual house and adjust the temperature. That way the heat pump learns about the house it is attached to and adjust the workflow. Maybe some people now want to sigh, thinking, “That’s all fine and good, but I wasn’t exactly planning to re-vamp my heating system…” Well, you don’t have to.  Installation of the system is easy and dust-free. Instead of completely renovating everything, you need only an Ethernet cable and a working router . The controller can be easily connected by their installation partner to your existing heat pump, the internet and the cloud. That’s it. Now that sounds promising.

OptiHeat’s goal is to gain market share in Germany and upgrade the existing heat pumps with their controllers. Rok points out, “When you have developed something new and you want to disrupt the market, you need to make it as easy as possible for the end customer.”

Evoblade: Moving Forward with the Wind
(Accelerator Class of  2016/17)

You can reach Frank Kortenstedde at the Wind Turbines Department of the Institute of Aerospace Technology (IAT), part of the University of Bremen.  This is where he and his team began research on wind turbines. By 2014, they had developed a flow element called “Split Flap”. This enables aerodynamic optimisation, as well as an increase in the torque and profitability of wind power stations. It didn’t take very long until the WFB took over the subsidies for the pilot project called “Retrofits”, the company evoblade was set up, and through joint work with the company Deutsche Windtechnik AG, the original discovery was able to be developed even further. Then, Frank and his allies came to kraftwerk. That was back in 2016.

And what about today? Well, first of all, his brainchild has a new name: It is now called “EvoFlap”, a name that automatically reminds you of the name of the company. What else? The team changed. swb Erzeugung AG & Co KG, a minority shareholder, joined the fold.  A few ground rules still need to be defined: not only organisational benchmarks within the company, but also certain questions of substance. Sophisticated technical issues, data reconciliation, monitoring of the results, manufacturing, assembly, sales…the list of things to consider is long. Frank simply laughs, “Yep, sometimes it seems as though it is taking forever. But we’re still having fun; it’s still exciting.”

And things are progressing. The aerodynamic stage of the development has been completed. The market launch is slated for 2018. After more than four years of intensive work. There are already companies that are interested. “There is one operator with whom we are talking. When our results are available, we will be discussing the setup of six installations.”  That’s the way things go in the technical arena. For projects like this one, if there is one thing we need, it is a lot of wind.

FoPo GmbH: Sells like Hotcakes
(Accelerator Class of  2016/17)

How about some shortcake? You take a bit of butter, cream, biscuits, and—oh my word: once again, we’re out of fruit! Enter FoPo powder. If you don’t have fresh ingredients at home, FoPo’s fruit and vegetable powders come in a variety of flavours and are a great option in dry form. It is not just the powder that makes it special. It is the source of the ingredients. Adriana said, “So many fruits and vegetables get put in the bin because they don’t fit some norm. These products never find their way into supermarkets. We wanted to do something about that.” Thanks to FoPo, items that don’t make it through quality assurance still find their way onto the supermarket shelf. Her idea is a sign of the times: the project has an important social impact; it is environmentally sound; it is sustainable; and it looks like it will be successful from a business point of view, as well. The jury at kraftwerk sure thought so. They honoured the company by awarding it the SMART TECH TROPHY 2015.

Today, the company is still successful. FoPo is Vita Jarolimkova (from the Czech Republic) and Adriana Balazy (from Poland). They met when they were at university and decided to develop this idea even further with their fellow students.

You can be creative in your own kitchen. You can bake, stir, cook…but how does it taste? FoPo put this to the test several times and the result was: it tastes good. Even if the path you take to cook it ends up being, let’s say… a bit circuitous. Sometimes the samples taste so good that they are eaten like hotcakes. Sometimes the little cakes burn in the oven or the delivery gets stuck somewhere. “Well, then we have to cancel the promotion stand.”

This start-up has good contacts, thanks to the connections the swb Group has to the food industry. And these young entrepreneurs know how to make good use of this advantage. One supermarket chain has already taken on the FoPo product line. And even beyond that kind of thing, the ladies are busy-bees. On their promotion tours, FoPo has already received several awards.