Bolt is the very first energy platform in Belgium that makes it possible, and super easy to buy energy directly from local green energy producers. The recently launched startup is part of the Start it @KBC accelerator programme. We sat down with founder Pieterjan Verhaeghen to talk about his plans to future-proof the world, one town at a time.
The university of startup skills
Pieterjan always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur: he even knew in which sector. “I studied commercial engineering, followed by environmental technology in Ghent, which always really appealed to me. Then I started working in the energy sector, which is very traditional and corporate. I was fine with that because I knew I still had a lot to learn. I was always planning to start my own company, so it was temporary.”
After returning from a trip around the world, Pieterjan started working on the idea for Bolt and was selected by Start it @KBC. “I still remember being in the workshop on going from a value proposition canvas to a business model canvas, and then articulating that in a three-minute pitch.” What really struck Pieterjan is that there are so many skills a good entrepreneur needs to have: skills that you don’t get from your studies or that didn’t seem relevant before. “Start it @KBC is a sort of university”, says Pieterjan. “I used to be more analytical, I was really an economist. I’ve had to learn those soft skills and the more emotional side of things, as well as everything about marketing, branding, sales, PR, and what the best approach is for all of that.”
Start it @KBC mentor Dirk Lievens took the fledgling Bolt under his wing. “There are so many facets that come with entrepreneurship”, says Pieterjan. “That means you need a good sounding board by your side. That’s exactly what Dirk and by extension Start it @KBC offered me. I see the accelerator as one big ecosystem: they have such a fantastic network which lets you grow quickly as a young company. Start it quickly guides you through the landscape of companies, partners and networks so you can go from a three minute pitch to effectively developing your idea.”
It takes a village
And who knows, maybe the community feeling at Start it @KBC encouraged Pieterjan to devote himself to a community, but then that of his own startup. “I may have underestimated the importance of a close-knit team in the beginning'', he admits. “You really need to have a well-balanced team, because as a startup you have to get a lot done with just a few people. I find that human fit to be the hardest aspect of taking on new hires. You really want to attract people who go for it with their heart and soul – especially in a startup that focuses on the pain points of the energy transition.”
Bolt is also building a community with their customers. “Bolt exists for a reason: it’s really great to buy from locals'', says Pieterjan. “Because a lot of people have a ‘green’ energy contract, but it’s not helping them transition to a green society because the energy sources aren’t local or really climate neutral.” Bolt puts a lot of effort into being present offline, finding ambassadors, and telling their story to convince them. “We want to be personal, unlike other players out there. We set up competitions, build a sense of community, offer welcome packages. We want to convince those first believers and get them to spread the word. Our team is seven strong and we have a combined pull and push approach. But there’s an important nuance: when we push, we do it with a positive story. ”
First validation = future-proof
The freshly launched Bolt has already received the first validation of its potential. "We launched our platform on August 26'', says Pieterjan. “And we succeeded. We were on Radio 1 in the morning, then VRT news. There was a lot of buzz. It was a first victory, a first confirmation that we’re relevant. For a B2C startup, which generally struggle to grow quickly, that's very reassuring.”
In any case Bolt is ready to face the future, and Pieterjan has big plans. “If we succeed in having Bolt ensure that there is an energy producer in every municipality, then the Bolt initiative will become very tangible for every Belgian”, he says.
Check out Bolt’s exciting concept and hook yourself up with local green energy by visiting their website.