I am a former lawyer which helps when innovating in regulated markets. I was working in television at the time that the internet changed the way we consume media. I did Channel 4’s first cross-platform campaigns with River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall, such as Fish Fight and Chicken Out, which were very successful and broke records in audience engagement. Chicken Out was particularly interesting to me as we did a UK first in shareholder activism to take on the big supermarkets. It made me realise the power of technology in being able to aggregate consumer influence, enable them to participate in something meaningful but with a very low barrier to engagement, to effect a dramatic change in an entire market. That was the first part of what I have become obsessed and passionate about — the power of people, via technology, to change markets.
The second is of course energy. When I was still working with Hugh, given his sustainability interest, we decided to do something around energy. We did a project with British Gas about enabling more renewable community and local installations; then a collective switching project with uSwitch. There I learnt 2 things. Firstly, that media is not the right commercial model to undertake these things. Secondly, that the energy market players had an entirely different view on what innovation and a consumer value proposition looked like, compared to me. Inherent in both of these big realisations was a distaste for the big players thinking they could keep control, whilst ignoring the end customer’s actual needs. So I swapped Tesco for British Gas on my hit list… I recognised that energy was a completely broken market, was about to go through digital transformation, like television had done, and the people in charge clearly had no idea how to lead that change and were likely to come out the other side no longer on top.
So I founded Labrador. I was a sole founder, took a year to convince angels to back me in my first business, then was drip fed small tranches to finally launch the business in January 2018. In the end I raised £3m of funding, including from Gresham House and DMGT. My vision for Labrador was to build a data company. In an industry which is all about prediction and reconciliation, clearly data was the key to unlock the value in and control of everything. Yet no one was using it. So I was going to unlock access to the data and start using it to deliver real customer value propositions which ultimately, would also benefit everyone else in the value chain. The first use case was domestic energy comparison and switching because it was a proposition and painpoint that everyone understood. It didn’t require education and it was a mass market proposition — the TAM was the entire country. As soon as Labrador became successful in proving that (reference the funnel slide in the Perswitch funding deck), I got pushed into a Chief Strategic Officer role, given I was the one who understood data and how the energy market was evolving, and the board brought in the former CCO of Moneysupermarket as CEO. He didn’t prove to be the right fit and within a short space of time we were looking at a forced sale to Verv (Green Running).
I joined Revolut to spend time with people who knew how to deliver scalable technology business properly. I learnt a lot but couldn’t let go of my passion for the energy market and desire to finish what I had started with Labrador. I kept bumping into one of our now advisors, who I had met at various round tables and conferences, and we kept remaining astonished how still no one was addressing this issue and it was getting bigger and bigger. I think that has been a combination of people not understanding enough of the market to piece all of it together, lacking the contacts to get the right permissions, and the complexity of the regulated market re who could or couldn’t undertake non regulated activities and how. You also have too many people who don’t even understand the basics of GDPR…
Coincidentally, our advisor had also started speaking with a couple of the ex Apigee team. After selling to Google, they had set up a company called Digital API Craft (DAC), which was Google’s preferred partner in developing API microservices for the Apigee platform, which is obviously now Google’s API layer. The API microservices are a big part of helping drive Google cloud sales. DAC had just finished doing all of the open banking API microservices for Google (for which it won several international bank contracts) and were looking for the next big market to address. Energy ticked that box and we joined forces. Jaipal, ex Wipro, who had been working on new energy models for the likes of BP, also joined.
Within our first 3 months, we had:
- Accessed a gas dataset that no one else has been successful in accessing to date — I had tried unsuccessfully at Labrador for 2 years but due to the contacts within our new team, this time we got access in 3 days
- Rebuilt the Labrador sign up journey — which should increase the funnel conversion from 13% to circa 30% — development that the previous Labrador team estimated would take 9 months and £750k, we have done in 3 months and at our own cost.
- Landed a high street bank contract to expand the capabilities to cater for all business customers
- Had Google start pitching our energy API microservices internationally, even though we hadn’t yet built them!
Now we are on a quest to raise £2m in seed funding to deliver an exclusive high street bank contract worth £58m p.a.
Find out more https://www.perse.energy