Why can’t electricity change ownership easily? This is a question that Jan Olin has contemplated for many years. In the end, he decided to do something about it and founded EpSpot. Four years later, EpSpot counts Scania and Sweden’s largest property firm, Vasakronan, among its customers. But if it were not for the collaboration with RISE, it is uncertain whether the company would exist today.
“For us, the collaboration with RISE was like a gift from above,” says Jan Olin.
Olin has been interested in electricity since childhood – he received his first soldering iron at a very young age.
“Electricity is a hobby I’ve had for ages,” says Olin.
The idea for EpSpot as a business was one that Olin nurtured for a long time. Why couldn’t electricity change ownership in the same way as other products?
“The conclusion I came to was that, oddly enough, electricity is one of the only products that cannot change ownership easily. It was really only the electricity subscriber in the building who could also purchase electricity at that site. I thought this was very strange and that there must be way to change that,” says Olin.
The market wasn't ready
At first, the market was not ready. The resale of electricity was simply not allowed, but, as the phasing out of fossil fuels increased and electric vehicles were considered increasingly important to the transition, Olin felt it was time to tackle the issue. In 2014 he founded EpSpot.
“Our vision is to make electricity available to those who need it,” says Olin. “In practice, this means helping property owners to resell electricity and to easily manage the transaction. All larger property owners are asked daily: Can we get power from you, can we connect here? Up to now it has been rather expensive and complicated to provide solutions for this. But we have a general solution for how this can be done smartly.”
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For us, it was a like a gift from above
Solves three problem areas
Olin soon discovered that three things needed to be resolved: a) the possibility of giving a specific person access to the electricity, b) how the electricity should be paid for, and c) that the sale of electricity does not in any way affect the electricity supply to the rest of the property.
“These are the three problem areas we address. We have developed a brand-new product which we call a session-based electricity meter. It is controlled centrally – you can turn it on and off and purchase electricity as needed according to the conditions decided by the property owner,” says Olin.
Today, the company has three different products on the market and major customers such as Scania and Vasakronan, Sweden’s largest property firm.
“We are very proud of the customers we have,” says Olin.
Hard to release a product on the market
EpSpot’s journey, however, did not get off to a completely smooth start. Olin learnt the hard way that it’s not that easy to get a new product onto the market. Not only was he required to understand all the usual regulations an entrepreneur should keep track of, he also struggled with the EU’s EMC Directive, which, simply put, involves the regulation of electrical appliances and states that they may not cause any disruption to the surrounding environment.
“We quickly ran into problems with EMC and in trying to receive approval. It’s a huge expense and a risk that you have to manage, and we were concerned about how to proceed,” he says.
It was at this point that he got a tip about contacting RISE.
“We heard that this could be a possibility,” says Olin.
And it was. Contact with RISE became essential to the continued development of EpSpot. In addition to learning about the EMC Directive, the company was also granted unlimited access to test environments in which the products could be further developed.
“For us, it was a like a gift from above. We are a small company and we don’t have the resources nor expertise to build our own lab. This allowed us to focus on our product development,” explains Olin.
Optimistic time frame
Following two years of multiple tests and modifications, the company was able to get its product on the market. Now, in retrospect, Olin admits that the company had unrealistic expectations of how quickly the process would go.
“As a small startup, you’re overoptimistic when it comes to timeframes and other things – we wanted to develop a product, something that wouldn’t take more than a year,” he says.
Without the collaboration with RISE, Olin is not sure the company would have overcome all the challenges it faced.
“Thanks to RISE, we were able to get through this process in a cost-effective manner,” he says.
It’s a little like climbing a Mount Everest of regulations and procedures
From a turnover of around SEK 2 million, the company is now starting to take off and turnover this year is expected to be around SEK 5 million.
“We now have procedures in place and can begin to grow. We now want to continue on our journey of innovation and initiate more partnerships with more customers and more partners. We have a wealth of plans regarding how our products can evolve over time,” says Olin.
Part of an EMC network
The company’s collaboration with RISE will continue. EpSpot is a part of RISE’s EMC network in which members – in addition to having access to test environments – can regularly meet and exchange experiences and provide each other with tips and advice concerning EMC issues. A collaboration Jan Olin values highly.
“For us, the partnership is invaluable. As a new player, it’s a little like climbing a Mount Everest of regulations and procedures. The fact that an opportunity like this exists means that it’s not only large companies who are able to develop products – it’s also possible for small operators to navigate this labyrinth,” concludes Olin.