Lately, I've been doing my fair share of things to help with energy consumption - like switching off my lights before I sleep, no more over-night charging of the phone, I now switch off my laptop before bedtime, I stopped playing music all night just to sleep. I'm proud to say It's now a time of the past. I probably can be doing a lot more, hopefully that will happen sooner than later.
I recently spoke to someone that does more than switch off his laptop before bedtime, someone really hoping to make a difference in the world or at least starting from the UK. His company Onzo, helps consumers reduce energy consumption, curtail carbon emissions and in the process helping us reduce our bills.
Here is my interview with Joel Hagan, CEO and co-founder of Onzo.
Hi Joel, How are you doing, great to have you on YHP?
I’m good thank you. Hoping that I have some hidden potential.
Haha! of course you do.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself? Tell me about yourself growing up?
I’m a scholarship boy, son of a state school teacher, who was lucky enough to get a very fine education pretty much for free. I only ever worked as hard as I could get away with though.
How did you get into business?
When I left university, the people I knew went into banking, the law and management consultancy. I went into management consultancy and it gave me an opportunity to look at a lot of different businesses and different departments within them.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
Doctor Who. Because he used his brain to solve problems and save the world. I’m very glad they brought him back, and in style. I now watch with my children.
What were you doing before you started working at Onzo?
I was running a barristers chambers, trying to change an area of business that time seems to have forgotten.
What is Onzo? What are you guys trying to solve?
It’s a company that takes information on home energy use and does as many useful things with that as possible. Like Doctor Who, we’re trying to save the world.
What was your biggest challenge during the starting up phase?
Raising money. It’s become a lot more difficult than it used to be. I’ve talked to literally hundreds of potential investors. At first I found some people who trusted me and put in small amounts of money. I then found a VC and an energy company. I’ve since found more VCs and energy companies and family offices.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Recruit excellent people. Build relationships with clients. Solve their business problems. Raise more money. Simple as that!
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
Not very much. Because the management team consists of people with commercial experience, rather than inventors, we were pretty clear early on what we were trying to achieve (rather than on developing a technology and looking for a problem to solve with it). We always felt that the long-term driver of value would be data. And everything that’s happened since supports that view.
What would you say has been the highlight of your journey so far?
Finding out that our products deliver the benefits we designed for, anticipated, and promised. People using our products have reduced their energy use by 8% on average, and shifted their usage off the peak by a further 5% (which means fewer emissions). People using our products also stay twice as long with their utility than the average customer. So everyone’s happy.
What can we be expecting from Onzo in 2012?
We’ll be expanding sales of our energy display for smart meters globally. And we’re working on v2 of our system that gathers, returns, and processes energy use data to deliver benefits to utilities and their customers. All hush hush for now. But it promises to do more and better things for more people than v1.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Don’t start a small business, start a large one. If what you do is good then it deserves to be everywhere. Otherwise it’s a hobby.
Start by knowing what problem you’re trying to solve. It will tell you who will pay, why, how much they’ll pay, and what to build.
Be prepared for it to be tough, and don’t give up.