How Storytech helped a Kiwi company on a mission to disrupt the retail energy market

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When Storytech launched at the beginning of February this year, our very first customer was Wellington energy-tech startup Our Energy - a Kiwi company on a mission to disrupt the retail energy market and change the way New Zealanders are able to buy and sell energy at a local, community level.

Here’s their story, and how Storytech helped.

While on a run on a hot summer's day in early 2015, Our Energy's co-founder John noticed a box of butternut pumpkins being sold at the roadside. On the same stretch of road was a farmhouse and lifestyle block kitted out with solar panels and a small wind turbine. ‘If a farmer's pumpkins can be sold to the local community’ he thought, ‘why can't energy?’

Now this may not be where everyone’s brain goes when they see a roadside stack of pumpkins, but John was working at the time for the New Zealand Commerce Commission, which regulates some of the key parts of the energy sector, and so was fairly aware of some of the macro trends and challenges that were popping up. After the idea landed in his head, he did a bit of research and found companies in The Netherlands and the UK who were doing just that. If it worked there, why not New Zealand?

A team was assembled, Our Energy was born, and together they began to create a software platform (which they call Lemonade) for people and communities producing their own electricity, which enables people to buy, sell and gift clean, local energy within those communities. Lemonade uses real-time data on how much excess energy people who are producing it have (by the kilowatt) and matches those people with local buyers or community orgs who can utilize that excess.

Their ambition? A world where community energy is affordable, reliable and sustainable for all.

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How Storytech helped Our Energy’s team align around one clear story

Our Energy is an amazing project, with clear and indisputable value, but as John discovered, telling their story in a simple and effective way proved challenging.

Prior to sitting down and working through the Storytech process, John had already put in some work around building the brand strategy himself. Our Energy went through Wellington’s Creative HQ incubator which he found really valuable, and he had attended some basic workshops to help condense all of the components of Our Energy into a solid message.

Despite the work done, he found that telling the story still felt like a really messy process.

“We got stuck too much in really drawn out complicated explanations, speaking to macro and micro trends across the energy industry and data-based reasoning and it just didn’t connect or hit the spot with the listener. We struggled to get the message across.”

A key outcome of not having a solid, concise story locked down is that you often end up having everyone on the team telling a slightly different version, something that John found to be the case with Our Energy.

“When we finally had everyone sitting down together in a room for the Storytech strategy day, we went around the table and had everyone on the team outline the way that they currently explained what the company does. Everyone had their own take on what they would say, so we realised we really needed to lock down a universal message”

This mattered to the Our Energy team because they were conscious that particularly in retail, the brand story is really important. There are so many choices out there for a consumer with respect to energy retailers and they didn’t want to be just another retailer that people could choose. They wanted to be seen as distinct, because of their story, who they are, and the ‘why’ of Our Energy.

John says that working through the Storytech process as a team gave them the clarification and alignment they needed, and the structure of the day kept them on track and disciplined. With most of their team in Wellington, but one key member based in Auckland, they were able to pull the remote team member into the strategy day via a screenshared call - which he noted was super helpful for startups who can’t always fund the flight expense to get their whole team together for a day.

Having a clearly defined ‘why’ gave the team a lot of confidence in speaking to the uniqueness of the Our Energy story, rather than just the product itself. John believes even the act of having the whole team in the room was extremely valuable in that process.

Now, you may not know how mains power grids work, how much a kilowatt of power is (or how on earth that kilowatt makes it to your toaster), or any of the macro trends happening out there in the energy world, but if you go on Our Energy’s website, you will understand that they are passionate about creating a world where community energy is affordable, reliable and sustainable for all. You will understand that they do this through an online platform, that they value the power of community, and that they are driven by a common belief that better and fairer solutions for users and owners of electricity networks are possible and necessary in the face of unprecedented technological change.

That information is key to any potential consumer, and Our Energy is a great example of what is now a clear, engaging and inspirational company brand story.

James HurmanComment