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The Swedish Start-Up Ecosystem: Blixt and Sweden’s energy start-ups

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The Swedish Start-Up Ecosystem: Blixt and Sweden’s energy start-ups

Sweden’s start-up ecosystem is one of Europe’s most dynamic and innovative with many companies dedicated to energy transition. This is part three of our interview series about Sweden and its‘ energy start-ups. We recently spoke to Mestro-CEO Gustav Stenbeck and Almi Invest Green Tech Fund Manager Markus Hökfelt. If you want to learn more about Swedish energy start-ups, be sure to have a look at the website of our partners from the Swedish Energy Agency.

In this edition, we have the pleasure of interviewing Charlotta Holmquist. She is a serial entrepreneur in high tech, media and transformative energy. In addition to being one of the founders of Blixt, a SET’19 Award winner, she was awarded Earlymetric’s Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019. During her 20+ years as an entrepreneur she has built several startups and is currently Executive Chairwoman and Co-Founder of Blixt.

Tell us about yourself, your role and your business.

Charlotta Holmquist: I am a serial entrepreneur in high tech, media and transformative energy with other 20 years of experience as entrepreneur. Blixt was founded 2018 with the goal of bringing grid-edge data intelligence to the energy supply market through the introduction of digital circuit breaker technology. Mechanical circuit breakers have been the gatekeepers of household electricity supply for around 150 years, but Blixt’s digital alternative will be a game-changer for the future of electricity management. Blixt’s solid-state circuit breaker is a response to emerging trends in global energy markets and aims to satisfy the growing demand for “grid-edge intelligence” from both consumers and power network infrastructure. Unlike conventional mechanical breakers, the Blixt Breaker can collect real-time data and remotely control all loads – all via one small connected device offered to customers in a new smart Blixt Panel with built-in voltage conversion and Home Energy Management System.

How has Sweden served your business as a Launchpad for your successes?

CH: Since we address a global market, we have looked outside Sweden for both partners and investors from day one. In particular, we are targeting European markets such as Germany, UK and France for our first rollout. On the other hand, we see many interesting and highly innovative startup initiatives coming out of Sweden. By teaming up with those we can demonstrate the full potential of our technology and use the results as showcases to potential international partners and customers.

Based on your work in the Swedish energy sector, what is your assessment of how Swedish start-ups and companies are adapting their focuses, models and products, given the rapidly evolving consumer behavior (especially during the current pandemic)?

CH: For natural reasons, startups are much quicker to adapt to changing market conditions than larger companies. I have seen many startups both in Sweden and abroad, that quickly pivot to new customer segments and business models to maneuver the current crisis. The long term effect for those who survive will likely be an even stronger business case and faster growth rate. Unfortunately the opposite might be true for the larger organizations that are less willing to pursue unknown paths during turbulent times. They just downsize rather than innovate.

Sweden has spearheaded the acceleration of digitalisation and become a hub for innovation. What are some ways that the Swedish start-up ecosystem has used such developments in the context of the global energy transition?

CH: Sweden is known for its many unicorns, such as Spotify, Klarna, Mojang and Skype. All software companies in gaming, entertainment and ICT that unfortunately have little impact on the global energy transition. Most Swedish VCs also tend to favor investments in pure software companies with potential to become the ’next Spotify’ etc. While Sweden has fairly good funding climate for early-stage clean tech companies through public grants, I would like to see more Swedish VC impact investors with a longer horizon and broader focus. In particular to startups that innovate from scratch and can bring new disruptive and game-changing technologies to the market. Those solutions will not come from the traditional industry and without the startups the energy transition will likely be much slower.

How has the current pandemic affected your work? 

CH: The current pandemic has both positive and negative impacts on our business. Naturally, the investment climate is cooled down with longer lead times. We have also experienced some delays in our development due to delayed shipments (components and material) and many partners have closed down their R&D departments which has delayed demonstration and pilot projects. On the positive side, it has been very efficient work with easy access to key people at large organizations and faster lead times for decision-making, we travel around the world every day in video calls! In the end, we are probably better prepared for coming pilots and feel strong support from our partners. I have also felt that people really try to help each other, sharing their networks, and provide support. Let’s just hope the society we return to can be rebuilt by turning our climate awareness into action.

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