Solytic Helps the Small Solar Investor to Play With the Big Guys

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

We focus on everything, besides the large solar parks, which is actually 99% of the overall market.Johannes Burgard, Founder and CEO of SOLYTIC

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The inefficiencies of small solar installations … kind of smacked me in the face.Johannes Burgard, Founder and CEO of SOLYTIC

The Founder 

We talk to Johannes Burgard (https://www.linkedin.com/in/johannesburgard/), CEO and Founder of Berlin-based SaaS startup SOLYTIC (https://www.solytic.com/). Johannes started out with studying engineering, with stints in Chile and London. After graduation he worked at Airbus, did an MBA and then started out with his entrepreneurial journey. Johannes had his first contact with solar cells during his graduate studies, which really did not let him go afterwards. He worked in a large corporate in project efficiency, which made him aware of all the inefficiencies in small solar installations. To help the small solar owner he decided to found SOLYTIC. 

We analyze the performance and efficiency of small solar installations with our analytics software.Johannes Burgard, Founder and CEO of SOLYTIC

The Startup 

SOLYTIC (https://www.solytic.com/) is a software-only company. They provide analytics services to small PV installation owners as Software as a Service, to improve effiency. The company merged early on with another solar software company, which lead to five founders in total.

Solytic focuses on decentralized solar installations (everything except large solar parks). 

We want to provide an end-to-end solution. We offer a marketplace with suppliers connected to the analytics software.Johannes Burgard, Founder and CEO of SOLYTIC

Venture Capital Funding 

Solytic has already raised 6,5 mn Euros Venture Capital. They closed their first round in December 2017. They closed their Series A funding in February 2020. At the time of the interview Solytic is fundraising and they intend to close the round at the end of Q1 2022.

We work B2B. We don’t approach customers directly, but we are working with the service providers of the small installation owners.Johannes Burgard, Founder and CEO of SOLYTIC

Welcome to start up bread that I own your podcast and Youtube blog covering the German startup scene with News, interviews and live events. Hello and welcome everybody. This is Joe from start up right to the Oh you start up podcast and you to blog from Germany, as well as the Founderin host of the worlds first Internet radio station dedicated to startups, technology and take entrepreneurship, called start up dot radio. Today, I do have your honesty. Hey, how you do it? Hey, good day, right to be here, redly, my pleasure. We will introduce you pretty soon. But basically, what you guys are doing with this startup solitic from Berlin is enabled a small solar investor to play along with the big guys. But before we get into that, let's talk a little bit about you and what you do. I do believe you're pretty classical Germans, since you studied engineering. Right. Yes, exactly. I did a very traditional path in the beginning after school, going to university studying mechanical engineering back in the day. Son On masters. I'm also starting my career in corporate and production close, so very traditional career in the beginning. Absolutely. Yes, yeah, I've seen you even stopped by in the university in Chile, in South America. How's your Spanish? Well, I see, I see, I say see one. I would say more about for me. That's true. Yeah, I at the end of my my studies, I wanted to experience other countries as well and I I've been actually in high school in the US before, and then during my university time I spend half a year in Chile and traveled the country. That was very exciting. Yeah, and and you also did a stint in London at Impure College. That is true. There was during my MBA, which I did at is Sauda. So it should speak better. Spent it, in fact, because I have spent another year in Spain. But yeah, so those other universities I checked and would have found interesting. You started, like you said, very traditional with the big guys, with air bus. You always been fascinated by flying, by airplanes, physics behind us, the technology. It's a very fascinating thing. I love looking at the stars, so it's it's quite a fascination for me ever since, and I was working also during like in basic research, fundamental research during my university time, there was already an aeronautics so that that's why I went for my Depiloma thesis and my final internship to our bust in Hamburg. Yeah, billing the eight we eighty. So if you checked all the important places like Berlin, Hamburg, Chila, the US, London and so on and so of force, Munique, Barcelona, am a couple, a couple of cities. What what's? What's your favorite breakfast from all those places? That's a good question. Sadly, I don't eat breakfast most of the days, but I really enjoy pancakes. I really enjoy a good Bagel with with cream cheese. Oh yeah, a cream cheese and salmon, everything, Batel, pimp and legal, oh pumpeting, good bagle. Oh, I love that a plus. It's not per se a breakfast, but a winner was in Spain. I love Judros contractor that. And Basically, to get your story away from food, same thing stuff. Then you've been a project engineer, you attended an MBA, and it looks like then there was a break, because then you were entrepreneur...

...in residence. What could happened there? Did you decide? Well, I'm now doing an MBA and no necessarily engineering project anymore, but were a little bit on the business side. What what was like, your rational and why did you do it? That's a fair point and it can look or you can interpret it as a break, but I would say it's actually the straight line. So when I was when I was studying and afterwards working, I always did some side projects. I always been a little bit entrepreneurial all along the way. I have a lot of friends in entrepreneurship who found the own companies. One of them also my sister, founded her own company. And so back to the food part. It's now. It's just it's been part of my life ever since and the focus I had during my professional career at at class back then, and was also in supply chain management, shop floor management, a lot about process automation, robotics, Iot Data and and during my Mba I had a hey, I did a little project with a classman from India where we looked into the case of presumers and smart microgrids and what you can do with it, what digital technology can leverage in this environment. That was back in two thousand and sixteen, so cloud computing was was not as powerful as it is today and the whole topic was quite fresh. So we we did this project on a very high level and at the end of my Mba I met an environment between the corporate and a company building that was looking into this field as well, and a central component was fort of all takes, a topic I touched during my time at class, where I met a lot of colleagues who were investing in solar I saw how rough this, this whole market, still is, how inefficient, how how many process are still supermanual and at the same time, the great potential of foot of all takes to really make a change for us, helping us to get to renewable energies in a sustainable way. And all these components together well ended up in me finding a company. And we may add here that you're not necessarily referring to a like the big solar installations which spend quam square miles on square miles, but at this time in Germany it was more like he's put solar panels on your roof, you put a solar heater for you water on your roof and stuff like that. So it's not like one big area, but like many, many, many house roofs with solar with a solar term, is it the right term? Solo? Then turn that is, yeah, stuff. St Dunnel is the second technology, which we are actually not focusing on right now. We are going for football takes. So talking about the electricity, but exactly as you say, we're talking about here about the residentials, so small installations on rooftops, and at the same time those are private investors, you know, they they buy a very expensive acid put it on the rooftop and then it's very difficult to maintain, and I just experience this with my colleagues and that kind of triggered me. So doing this photo enemy now that we talking about like the real stuff. Basically, you can managine there's a roof, there is like usually somewhat ten to twenty, maybe thirty percent is covered with solar panels and it's actually you see it. It's a little bit plaque, but there's a lot that can happen. They're, for example, half hail, in mind thunder storms. Can you spill a few stories of what you and your colleagues, like in the early days, experienced there like a finding dead rats underneath it or cables, cables been torn apart by the DOC or something. All back then that was still very fresh. You know, there was in two thousand, ten, ten, eleven, twelve.

Those were the first boom years in Germany where the solo market globally had its first peak. So everybody was new into the business. Of course some people were working on this for ten years or so, but it was super immature everything. So it was more about, Hey, I have a solo rooftop now and and it's producing data. What can I do with it? They try to understand the technology in first place and there were no answers anywhere. They they learned along the way. By doing that they could improve the performance of their assets if they actually look at the data and going to sparing with their colleagues which are electriction it electricians or electric engineers, and and better understanding the technology help them to get more electricity out of the systems because of sometimes it's just how the panels are sorted on the rooftop and it's about proper maintenance. You know, the the area where I worked was was in not just in subsidi suburbs. There was actually in the in the outback. I always called it the German outback because it's like half an hour to be half on. I can Germany and it actually is because because you uned like thirty minutes to the next outer baron and that is that is quite far away. There you have a lot of every culture and every culture creates dust. Agriculture creates a lot of dirt and that that so that creates soiling or cause of soiling, and those were issues they had on a frequent basis. So a lot of it's a lot of lesnal tiny dals, like basically something covers. Yes, yeah, DDD, the the solar panels, whatever it is from from like the the the trees, the leaves, the dusty would ever get thrown up in the air whilee like harvesting weat or something exactly. Yeah, all that stuff. So basically coverage exactly. So if you if like no funny story, like from animals or something going crazy there, it's it doesn't. Sorry, it's not that crazy, but it's it's. It's it's more about the the day to day in efficiencies that were just trigging my my interest simply because I was ill. I was working on a daily basis in a corporate on process efficiency, operational excellence and then having this heavy contrast right next to it. That was just just just creating some curiosity on my side. Can we say this inefficiency just smack you in the face? Yes, yes, and basically that that was like the whack you've gotten to start the company. Maybe, before we get into Solidq, may we take a little bit detour in the foot part again, like the other company of your sister. Sure, sure, well, okay, basically, when you have a sister and she starts a company and you have some knowledge, has basically no way around this. So you got trapped into it, right, it's a it's given. Yes, I guess. Yeah, can you tell us just a tiny bit about that? So your sisters happy as well? We link, of course, you look the profile down here in the show notes and people can start doing their research there. Sure, well, you know it's the reason for that is basically, although, that the context of this and this entire thing is sustainability. We as as humanity need to change and we have to rethink how we do things. So, as a consumer, one of the biggest angles that you actually can take and the biggest leverage you can you can use as reducing unique consumption, and there is in many big cities like London, where she founded her company, there's a huge variety and great chefs which which take a lot of passion in creating amazing food that is actually sustainable or more sustainable then the very have meet heavy diet and around this topic, she just wanted to give access to everyone to this, to this diversity fight...

...cuisine, and that was basically the trigger why she wanted like that. That was the Anglo she was trying to put sir, sustainability. Well, now I'm in the engineer so coming from operations, I helped her on the operational side a little bit, try to be a sparing partner and advisor when it came to to operational topics. She was the expert for for the other topics, but of course then my angle was more on the EN engineer engineering part so I went for electricity and foot all ties and noneless. But it's been a great time. They're also supporting a little bit and staying with it. Sticking with it. She just published a work, so sharing all the learnings they have and I think it's a really nice, nice way to improve. Also, you know your personal footprint? Yeah, actually I started like two years ago. I started two days a week completely skipping meat, a one day completely vegetarian and one day actually tending to seafood and fish and stuff like this, not necessarily because I want to protect the environment, because I realized it makes me feel better and I do have a tendency to love dishes with shrimp and also very incredibly spicy doughful m. You know, now we get the food out of the weight. Guys, if, if you, if you want to have a snack, put on the brakes. We'll be back with you. You got a snack. Awesome. Let's go again. Let's talk about SOLIDIC. I'm how many founders are there? How did you start the company and basically, where did you see the idea what you guys are actually doing, because I do assume your business idea is not like having people crawl over PV installations on roofs and just brushing off the dust right? That's not exactly. No, we are we are software focus company. We do software only, and that differentiates us from basically from everyone in the market. It also another differentiators how we go into the market, in what pre what we provide. But to your question, so how did we start? We have a very, very interesting roller coaster story and in fact, because I started so so my my personal story starts with this, with this ideation. In during my NBA time, we merged in two thousand and nineteen with another startup which we're which it was founded by two passionate solar pioneers. They were in Solo ten years before already and they out of their daily business, they thought of how they could improve the daily business, basically with smarter software solutions, and they founded a company which was very similar in the vision to two hours. So we decide in two thousand and eighteen, already like one year after we found it to Lutic, we decide, Hey, we should join forces. We have complimentary skills, complementary experiences, we can do this together much better than we could do individually and rather, instead of competing against each other, let's join forces and do this together and actually have an impact. So then, then, for founder and fifth on, we actually had over the course of our our four year history, we have actually five founders and now we are with dount to four. And this is this just an amazing right, of course, just building this business with so many parties involved bring their experience in. Yeah, so, basically you merge with another company and now let's talk a little bit about Nitty critty details. Operation Excellent, as you've been saying. I'm woody guys are actually providing, because our understanding is right now they're small, small to very small solar installations, mostly on rooftops of people and their shoe software. And how does this work together and how does it help the people who own, like the PV installations? Yes,...

...exactly. So we are focusing on the we how we call it decentralized market, meaning not the big utility professionals that have big control rooms with a lot of computers and electric engineers working professionally with this, with this technology, as you pointed out in the beginning, also these huge parks of of solar. We are focusing on everything else, and that's, in fact, ninety nine percent of the customers market. So ninety nine percent of all systems are in this decentralized environment and they've been basically doing that, neglected by solutions in the past. What we do now is we take the data that is produced by these systems automatically anyway, so do you have different components and they create data. This data we're taking in, putting in our cloud, putting some algorithms on top and analyzing on performance on efficiency, on the performance ratio, based on benchmarks. So we give insight and that's basically the the the special source we're adding here to the dull monitoring that typically is used in this environment. So the idea is that nonprofessionals, even non professionals, can optimize their solar system based on actionable insights that we are providing. But now the the one, one special thing we're doing also on top of that, is that typically a private asset owner, so a residential homeowner, who decided to buy foot of all ties, is not an electric engineer and they are not solo professionals. So if we would tell them, hey, you have to replace your inverter because it has downtime in the morning and you losing actually electricity and you would have, in return, invest, that is very attractive if you would invest now into new inverter. So what does the residential do now? Well, search for potential support. So that's still not helping. So this is the last thing that we are adding as well to this entire end to end solution. We want to provide an end to end solution that is really easy for everyone. So providing the service as well, not just telling someone you have some inefficiency, know what actually solving it. So basically, you also help, in this case, in this example, the owner to get it, to get a inverter. Yeah, we have a market place connected to the monitoring where you can purchase this right away, where you have suppliers like close to you and a proximity so they can replace it and you can contract them right away. I do have an idea. Right now, you're also making a little bit of money on on this market place, right. Yes, yes, talking about the software here, how can we imagine it? Would you like really neat to install something or just open the data feed? Is it like once you have your analytics tool running, like once and you pay once. Is it a monthly subscription, or does it make sense like to pick it up like every two years? Again, it's a subcripion subcription exactly. So it's a ask model. You connect your asset to the cloud and then you feed the data continuously, you get the monitoring continuously, the analytics continuously and and and it's a regular and subscription fee. But one thing that is really important to mention in the in this context is that we're working BTB, so we are not working with the residential directly, but we are working with those who are typically servicing these, these customers, and especially in the little bit larger scale commercial industrial. So those are companies. They have on their on their production halls or whatever, larger rooftops, they have some installations. So our customers actually those who are servicing these customers and we are we are just orchestrating the entire dynamics within them, the density, centralized environment. I see SEC basically you. So you don't need to find like the...

...retail clients. Your only need to talk to like a handful of companies running those like the big guys running those solar installations. That also means are you don't need to adhere to any physical regulations and you're basically already global company. Is there, right, and it's cool if yes, where are you guys like really actually operating? Don't get me wrong, I totally see that somebody in South Africa can just buy software and it will work as well there as in other countries. But I do believe you have some focus markets right absolutely now, be absolutely right. So, just to to give you a little bit of a more tangible picture about this, these dynamics and in the scale. So we have around two hundred customers at this point, and behind these two hundred customers are almost two hundredzero football type systems. So they're that's basically the the average ratio and some are bigger than others. The the the direct sales. So our B Tob connections are typically in central Europe, so mostly in Germany or germ speaking countries. We have we have a few then in the close by countries. were expanding quite organically, but we're pushing only for the germ market so far. Nonetheless, we also have large customers overseas. So in Mexico, in Canada, we have one, one in in Japan. So this that's the beauty of software, because we're software only. It's easy to expand and the assets are actually located in sixty different countries, or more than sixty countries. But yes, correct, we are operating mostly in the germ speaking market and the market place has to be super localized. So you need to you need this network of service providers. So that's only in Germany so far, I see. And if you have important customers and mix cool, your Spanish should be, of course, much, much better. Sorry, let's keep my part and that. Could you say we should? We should have TACO Tuesday for sure. That sounds pretty good. I'm according to crunch based, you closed funding round in two thousand and twenty, early two thousand and twenty. That that meets you're you're not bootstrapped, you're externally funded. Who would you siste your status right here, because I've I'm very sure there are some investors out there who are by now already hungry and think, yeah, that's an interesting as US idea, playing in, playing in the solar energy and when are you guys intending to raise another VC round? So we actually in the process of another wrong at this point. So you're absolutely right. We're not bootstrapped. We started already with a lot of a lot of power. So we initially founded the company in two thousand and seventeen and raised the first venture capital in December two thousand and seventeen, already from button far. So starting with the energy experts and in market leaders gave us a lot of leverage. Of course, going into the market and also talking to larger potential customers. Now, in two thousand and twenty, we on board another heavyweight, Ewe. It's a big drum utility in a communications company which is very customer focused and gives us a great leverage when it comes to the these decentralized market environments. We recently also agree. But well, it's not official yet, but we have we have on more and another investor now again international investor. But we are raising right now. We are in the process of raising for the fund us. We have built a lot of technology and have reached a quite good market penetration. That gives us a lot of larverage for for monetization. But now we have to build these features as well and we want to optimize the marketplace and so forth. So this this cannot be built organically. So we are looking for more than your capital and we...

...are open for new investors as well, and we intend to close this round by end of q one, so in March, early April. According to Grunty base, you've raised something like seven, seven point three million year as dollars. With what is what is like the size you're looking for? I would assume it's a serious a or serious it's a serious be right now. All right, yeah, it depends on which standergy look at. We call the last one series a and makes a lot of sense to call this one series be based on the maturity of our product and and and the market penetration we have already achieved. So I cannot argue. Yeah, after a come speed, totally fine. Yeah, and that's also very, you know, very logical proach to take. Well, we we, we raise a little bit more money than than it's maintained in French base and we intend to double this now. So we looking for fifteen million years in total. For the next two years, I see, see, and you're going basically going to expand your look of footprint. What you've been talking about, like not only selling the software but also the market place. From my understanding, that's a lot of work to actually find to the all the the the the people that provide the supply side, like the products, like the services locally, for yes, for the clients of your clients. Exactly. Yeah, well, we, we have. You know, that's this market penetration that we have built. Is is already good enough to, like, more than good enough in fact, to to optimize the under the takes and optimize the the market place we're talking like, when it comes to data, we're talking about more than thirty terribytes. That we have on hand that we can leverage for for these time series, analysis and normally detection and and a lot of good stuff that is coming the way out of our customers. But now we want to build build up the team, especially for the Enda, the takes and the market place, to get this really into a very smooth other experience as well. We have already a couple of categories, like like cleaning, then the one you you touched as well before, that we cover in we can cover with which we can cover entire Germany. So we made a good prose there still, but they're more than thirty carriag categories of services and products that we have identified and they need to be served and customers needs that need this and therefore, yeah, time to grow. I see. I'm when you talked about a lot of data you have. There is this like also of interest for potential clients, because I would assume it's nothing like you have readily available somewhere if you're interested, like in football, Tike, in terms of having this for energy providers, having this for analyst as well as for the government. So we are in talks with a couple of like the the grid management providers. They of course they. They are interested in intelligence about the the present productions of forth, but we are not. We're not selling raw data. So we're not a data trader. We sell if we sell something, we sell insights and we add value on this data. That something that is really important to us, as the the data, the raw data itself, belongs to the customers. They own their data. So we cannot resell their data, but what we can do is interpret the data, analyze the data, build up this inside, and that inside is our IP. So with this we of course leverage a little bit, but that is that is also something we really want to give back to the customers themselves by telling them what they might be able to do to improve the performance of their individual performance individual put for your or football type system, really interesting. Just last question I...

...would have for you. Are you currently hiring? We are hiring. Yes, we just on board at for new colleagues this week. We have three others coming in this month and we are looking for support in the data engineering and we also want to grow a little bit our sales and marketing teams. So there's there's yeah, there are open spaces, open seats to fill, also for Spanish speakers. Also for Spanish speakers. Yeah, the Spanish market is booming, not just in Europe and in South America. So yeah, if if someone is out there, we free spread out. Everybody would like to learn more. Down here in the show notes. As we said, there will be your private linkedin profile as well as your company website. And only thing left for me to say is best of luck. Let us know when you close your serious b round and hope to have you back in some time. Perfect. Oh, thank you very much for your time. That's great. Being here my pleasure. Thank you. Bye Bye. Have a good one. That's all. Folks find more news streams events at interviews at www dot's start of bread Ayo. Remember, share is cary.

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