What does energy group Eneco offer start-ups?

Working together with start-ups to foster effective innovations

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and start-ups.

A good example of…

Strategic partnerships

European headquarters: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Geographical reach: Netherlands, Belgium

Sector/s of interest: Technology, innovation, communities.

Works with start-ups through:

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  • Events to showcase start-ups internally and to external stakeholders
  • Workspace, as well as expertise on marketing, business development, legal and tax issues
  • Mentoring through accelerator programmes such as Rockstart and Startupbootcamp
  • Partnerships with incubators such as YES Delft and Cambridge Innovation Center
  • A dedicated Innovation & Ventures business unit
  • Acquisitions (managed as separate companies in a venture portfolio)


Why does Eneco work with start-ups?

To reflect rapid changes in the energy sector, Eneco is transforming from a traditional energy company to a service partner in renewable energy. The new products start-ups create help Eneco to achieve this, by innovating its brand and expanding into new markets.

How does Eneco work with start-ups?

An important way Eneco develops relationships with energy-related start-ups is through accelerator programmes and incubators such as Rockstart, Startupbootcamp and YES Delft. Eneco also hosts events to showcase start-ups internally and externally to stakeholders – for example Analyst Day, where start-ups and other ventures are connected with international business analysts.

Eneco has developed an integrated approach to working with start-ups through its Innovation & Ventures business unit, which helps early-stage companies and prospective partners to access the organisation and builds partnerships with accelerators and incubators.

The Innovation & Ventures business unit helped develop a number of successful products. These include smart thermostat ‘Toon’, which Eneco began collaborating on in 2011 with former start-up Quby. It has since become a European market leader in its field.

What has Eneco done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

Eneco’s Innovations and Ventures business unit helps promising start-ups to access the company. The unit has exemplary involvement from eight senior level executives, including the Eneco’s chief innovation officer. It leads teams of business developers, analysts and marketeers in several areas: smart home, mobility, solar and storage, smart outdoor, one planet heating, smart buildings and communities.

Eneco’s decision to hire a chief innovation officer demonstrates a clear understanding of the value that start-ups can create. The organisation also offers the opportunity for internal projects to become start-ups and be managed as external investments if there’s a sound business plan in place.

Co-development and co-creation partnerships, such as the one that led to the creation of Toon, are a key part of Eneco’s work.


Success story: Quby and ‘Toon’

In 2011, Eneco’s Innovation and Ventures business unit started working with former start-up Quby on the co-creation of a smart thermostat called ‘Toon’.  It went on to become a European market leader, with 300,000 Toons being sold to date.

During the process, Quby went from a start-up with three employees to a technology company with 100-plus employees. Recently, the organisation signed its first international client, European energy company Eagle.

While Quby learnt a lot about customer focus, service and accessing a large market, Eneco gained an insight into new technology, the development of technology products, and the benefits of start-ups’ entrepreneurial spirit and speed.


“The Innovation & Ventures business unit is very impressive, as is Eneco’s commitment to helping promising start-ups and partners access the company.”

Ian Wallis, Corporate Startup Stars judge


What can other corporates learn from Eneco about working with start-ups?

  • Co-development and co-creation partnerships are an effective way of creating corporate-start-up collaboration
  • A dedicated innovation and business unit, underpinned by involvement from senior level executives, creates a solid framework for working with start-ups
  • Creating the opportunity for internal projects to become start-ups and be managed as external investments taps into in-house talent


What is Eneco looking for from the start-ups it works with?

Eneco is looking for start-ups that focus on technology, energy, innovation or the ‘smart home’ market. The start-ups need to be creative, flexible and have an interesting business proposition for an innovative product or service. For more information, please go to: www.eneco.nl/innovatie.

How can start-ups get involved with Eneco?

To get in touch, please visit the website: www.eneco.nl/innovatie (a new English language version of the site will go live in August and also offer additional information).

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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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