COLLABORATIVE PIONEER INTERVIEW WITH AART VAN VELLER, FOUNDER OF VANDEBRON

Vandebron is a startup based out of The Netherlands that enables people to buy their power directly from a sustainable producer. The company sees itself playing an important role in the transition to an autonomous energy supply. In this interview, Aart tells us more about the company and what he envisions for it in the future.

What inspired you to start Vandebron?
Curiosity, as Vandebron started with one simple question: Why can’t we buy energy from a farmer with a windturbine or a consumer with a large roof with solar panels.

It all started with that question. Before Vandebron, independent producers of renewable energy had to sell their energy to an energy company, which in turn would sell it to consumers with a profit. We wondered if we could make such companies obsolete.

 

What is the business model of Vandebron?
From the start we wanted to provide a service, and not be a trader, so unlike energy companies we don’t make any profit on the energy our farmers sell. We think that’s logical, because when an energy company earns money on each unit of energy sold, it has no interest in letting their users save energy.

So our business model is a Spotify-like subscription of €10 a month. Thus we have the same interest as our customers, namely, a lower energy bill. We can then connect more households to a farmer.

 

What has been a challenge(s) for Vandebron?
Technical features aside, our biggest challenge is becoming relevant for the majority of people. Not all consumers are actively involved with their energy usage, so convincing them to opt to clean and renewable energy, whilst they may not see the necessity, is a big challenge. Likewise all new technological innovations face this challenge: becoming relevant to people’s lives.

 

What’s ahead for Vandebron?
In our first seven months we’ve polished the bugs and added some additional features, but our biggest aim right now is speeding up the process of adding producers. Ideally we’d like small producers to be able to sign-up themselves, like any social network. For now it has been a lot of manual labour with lots of paperwork, so that’s one big gain we aim to make.

 

What do you envision for Vandebron in three to five years?
We want to play a significant role in accelerating the transition to 100% renewable energy. Although our proposition looks really simple, the systems in the background are rather complex and the software needed to make the connection between suppliers and consumers of renewable energy was a huge investment. We therefore hope we can use our experience in investments to expand our service internationally as soon as possible.

 

What is your favourite Vandebron member story?
We organised an open door day at a remote town in the Netherlands, at a farmer’s place who sells energy via Vandebron. Over a hundred people who buy energy from him showed up. It was really great to see people connect offline as well. So perhaps my favourite moment of our innovation is a simple offline day at the farm.

 

What is your advice to other startups in the sharing (or collaborative) economy?
Make something that’s good for your customers, the environment and for you.

 

What is your advice to traditional companies and corporations?
Use the foundation you’ve built in all these years and change now to stay relevant. People certainly aren’t going to wait for you.

 

Why does the sharing (or collaborative) economy have the future?
It’s logical from all perspectives. It has benefits for the environment, costs and it’s social. Thanks to sharing, I co-own thousands of cars, places to eat and sleep and all things shared.

 

What is a final insight you’d like to share with us?
There’s one recurring insight of entrepreneurship, to me, and that’s trust your gut instinct. Every time I didn’t, I committed a mistake. My best decisions have been made by just following what felt right.

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