Smart People IoT: Green energy – How to beat the goliaths

Oriol Vila of Holaluz

Green Energy: Oriol Vila started Holaluz in Barcelona with the idea of offering ‘customer-centered’ customer service – and it’s working with IoT.

Oriol Vila of Holaluz - Green Energy

It all started with a monthly electricity bill for €800 that left an old lady puzzled. No matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t understand why she had to pay so much. So she showed it to her son, who showed it to his friend Oriol Vila, and the idea for a new company was born. Today, just six years later, green energy seller HolaLuz has a monthly turnover of €8m and more than 60,000 customers. In January 2016, venture fund Axon Partners invested €4m as seed capital in the Barcelona startup – and Oriol Vila was on his way. At frist glance, Holaluz seems to just be another utility company. It sells energy, after all, but Vila was quick to realize that normal people, like his friend’s mother, don’t know about energy and really don’t care – that is, until it hurts. Holaluz aims to make it easier for these people to find the
lowest price. But that’s not all. The centerpiece of the business model is what he calls ‘customer-centered’ customer service.

We think now is the time to speed up our growth.

Oriol Vila

In a way, Holaluz was an idea waiting to happen. “European Union laws were pushing European governments to liberalize the energy sector, so we decided it was a good moment to start something different,” he says. Vila and his two co-founders dug around, scraped together €300,000 from friends and family, and started selling electricity.
When Holaluz started, it was online only but now support by phone also plays a big role. Customers are still acquired mainly online, but because of legal quirks (Spanish customers have to provide contractual information, estimate their yearly consumption, and fill in a 20-digit number), Vila and his friends realized they would have to
help some of them by phone.
As David among a bunch of Goliaths – gigantic utility companies – Hollaluz needs to keep customer-acquisition costs as low as possible. But the real way to beat the big boys is to believe in yourself, he maintains. “You need to convince people. If you’re the only believer, maybe you’re crazy. But if you can find someone to share your belief, then you’re probably onto a great idea. My motto is: Those who say it is impossible shouldn’t stop those who are doing it,” he says.

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