What’s it all about?
Going Double Unicorn in 5 years, and still knowing you are still only at the beginning of the journey! I speak to tech founder and CEO of Octopus Energy Greg Jackson about how he used tech as the platform to disrupt one of the industries most resistant to, and in need of disruption- energy supply. With a focus on technology solving problems, and driving down costs, AND a focus on creating cultures which support and empower people to be their best and most creative. I hope you enjoy this slightly longer than usual episode.
About Greg Jackson:
Greg is an experienced digital entrepreneur, passionate about making the green energy revolution affordable through technology.
He’s founded a number of successful businesses, including e-commerce company C360, built HomeServe’s innovation business and is an angel investor in a wide range of tech start-ups. He also served as Director of several innovative businesses, including Zopa, the world’s first peer to peer lender, which has now lent almost £2bn fairly and responsibly whilst generating excellent interest rates for lenders.
Greg founded Octopus Energy in 2015. It uses technology to be highly efficient – empowering customers with a full digital experience, and then using the same systems to provide the highest standards of support to its customers by phone, email and chat. This technology allows Octopus to challenge normal energy models, bringing transparent, low pricing to new and loyal customers.
Octopus is a recognised innovator, delivering time-of-use tariffs at scale, driving EV adoption and helping make the smart grid a reality.
About Octopus Energy:
In the UK, Octopus now stands at 2 million customers, growing by 2500-3000 per day, and is the only energy supplier recommended by consumer champions Which?, for four years in a row. Following significant investment from Tokyo Gas and Origin Energy in December 2020, Octopus became a tech ‘double unicorn’ valued at well over £2 billion. With operations in the US, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, Octopus expects to expand its platform into many more markets over the next few years.
- Craig Evans on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregsjackson/
- Octopus Energy Website: https://octopus.energy/
- Octopus Energy on Twitter https://twitter.com/octopus_energy
- Greg Jackson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/g__j
- Octopus Energy on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/octopusenergy/
About Hyperion Executive Search:
Hyperion are a specialist executive search firm working with some of the most innovative cleantech companies in the world, helping to find extraordinary talent to enable their growth and success. Partnering with leading cleantech VCs, as well as directly with founders and entrepreneurs in the sector. With our clients we are transforming business and growing a strong and prosperous cleantech economy.
If you want to grow your team, or move forward your career, visit www.hyperionsearch.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Planet Money Podcast – https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510289/planet-money
- Masters of Scale Podcast – https://mastersofscale.com/
- How I Built This Podcast – https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510313/how-i-built-this
- The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Apollo-Guidance-Computer-Architecture-Operation/dp/1441908765/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1617803663&refinements=p_27%3AFrank+O%27Brien&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Frank+O%27Brien
Follow us online, write a review (please) or subscribe
I’m very keen to hear feedback on the podcast and my guests, and to hear your suggestions for future guests or topics. Contact via the website, or Twitter.
If you do enjoy the podcast, please write a review on iTunes, or your usual podcast platform, and tell your cleantech friends about us. That would be much appreciated.
David Hunt 0:31
Hello, I’m David Hunt, CEO and founder of Hyperion executive search and your host for the leaders in clean tech podcast. This week we go unicorn, while w unicorn actually as I speak with Greg Jackson, founder and CEO of octopus energy, now valued at over 2 billion. Greg is an experienced digital entrepreneur and has founded a number of successful businesses, including e commerce company, c 360. He also built home service innovation business previously. He’s a keen angel investor in a wide range of tech startups and is passionate about making the green energy revolution affordable through technology. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Hello, and welcome to the leading clean tech podcast. Right. It’s been a pretty eventful few weeks to say the least. And I’m glad you could join me.
Greg Jackson 1:13
Well, thanks for having us. It’s a pleasure to be here.
David Hunt 1:16
So there’s there’s really an awful lot to talk about. And in particular, clearly, there’s recent news about you integrating octopus, renewable generation business and asset management sort of business into the octopus energy world really clean, keen to get a bit of insight into what’s behind that and how that’s gonna impact on the future. But I think what perhaps I wasn’t aware of initially and other audiences in the audience might not be aware of is your kind of as much of a tech company it’s not as a supplied company. So I’m really keen to dig into that a little bit. But as is customary with the podcast, I’d like to start a little bit with your backstory. And if you could perhaps share a little bit of what led you to, and the genesis of setting up octopus energy,
Greg Jackson 1:56
I’d love to So first of all, it ties to what you’ve been saying I left school when I was 16, to write video games. So certainly, for me, personally, technology’s always been part of my DNA. And eventually, I ended up going to university and things like that. But I think always I was passionate about the impact we as humans have on our planet on on each other and on other species. So for example, when I was at university, I used to wear a T shirt every day, that was my girlfriend’s got his band cars, he got a picture of a car with a Big Red Cross, because the fumes coming out the back, right. So I think for me, this kind of desire to to do things that make the world better was strong. I came from a tech background. And then I had a series of businesses, which I guess gave me the privilege to the last one built technology platforms for large enterprises. And I guess when we sold that, it gave us the opportunity to think about, you know, what did we really want to do. And that’s great, tying all those things together, the idea of using technology to, you know, dramatically change the way in which energy worked to bring down costs to make it more transparent as you expect of any tech business. And of course, tackling climate change. It was a huge privilege.
David Hunt 3:11
Yeah, no, I think that’s one of the things that draws so many of us, myself included into the clean tech sector broadly is that ability to disrupt and to improve environment and society without getting too trite about it. But if you can do that, and make make yourself a good living in the process, then I think that’s what drives a lot of us on. But touching back a little bit. You mentioned obviously, having previous companies in the next year don’t need to go into sort of the nitty gritty of that. But that that journey, or whether lessons and learnings from that experience, relevant and usable in the in the octopus journey, which has clearly been very fast paced.
Greg Jackson 3:46
Hugely. So I think, first of all, I think this is probably the sort of fourth or fifth business I’ve started and all run. And every one of them you learn things that you would do differently next time. So hopefully, we’ve got more things right, this time in terms of how we organise the company, the way in which we work that enable us to be more effective, more efficient, and a better, more enjoyable place to work. But I think the other bit is every Now I mentioned that the previous business built technology platforms for third parties. And what you found was in every sector, incumbents would say technology is not going to change our sector. And that was almost the kind of the sign that it was an opportunity for tech disruption. Yeah, as I think, you know, for me, when I started looking at energy, and people said, you know, look, energy is a commodity business. You know, it’s already efficient. There’s no room for technology to disrupt it. That was kind of almost like the proof. That was an opportunity. Yeah, yeah. It’s a quick green light. Right. And I think that was the consumer side, which is people said, looking at energy is boring. customers don’t care which ends the company they’re with, they’re just not wise to come on when they flip the switch. And yet you look at every other sector. I don’t want to be rude about water, but water is pretty boring. And yet companies like evianne build these global brands. So you say, look, you know, in sectors which other companies have kind of ignored customers, or where they think there’s not an opportunity for technology, that’s a really good sign that there’s an interesting opportunity there. I think that really kind of adds gave us the confidence that this was somewhere we wanted to, to try and disrupt.
David Hunt 5:28
Yeah, I think, again, you see some places still, where there is that lack of innovation. And going back to your point of, you know, the status quo believe the status quo will always be so and utilities are clearly were historically anticimex. That probably is the law in that boat. And that gives people like yourself and other entrepreneurs, the as you say, the I guess, the challenge, and the fun bit, say, well, we’ll prove you wrong, and let’s go and make things different. I’m interested why Gregory chose energy supply, because that clearly was a, you know, dominated by some very substantial, well funded and capitalised businesses, it was not something that from outside, at least at the time, he would have said was easy to disrupt. And you could have, I guess, use your experience through any number of different sort of tech or platform or SAS type of businesses. What Why choose energy supply?
Greg Jackson 6:16
I think the first bit is that the UK has done a great job of making energy supply more competitive, so you actually have the opportunity to launch an energy with differentiated ideas, which you don’t necessarily have in the rest of the supply chain. I think it’s second thing is, you know, I try not to use the word supplier really, or energy supply, because, look, you know, which are the sectors, you got suppliers, I mean, I guess, illegal drugs, it’s not a term that kind of suggests there’s a lot of value to be added. And yet, the reality is, if we’re gonna face this energy transition, you know, for so long, I think one of the things that’s held it back is that customers, you know, were treated as an afterthought. In fact, they’re told, you know, there’s all these green taxes, green stuffs gonna cost you more, and they were victims of the energy transition, rather than being, you know, at the forefront of that, rather than it being built around them. And so I thought the opportunity really was to start building relationships with customers, that enabled them to be beneficiaries of, to kind of see that the energy transition would be good for them, and to be part of it. So for us, starting with customer is natural. And by the way, isn’t it interesting in the energy sector, it is seen as odd that you start with a customer, surely, in almost every industry, the whole reason the industry exists is because of customers. So you know, we started at the end, but frankly, I think that is most
David Hunt 7:40
reminds me of a podcast that we had recently, I was talking to Gretchen backer, who’s an author about about sort of the history of utilities and the fact that they were monopolies and therefore didn’t need to care about customers. And you see a little bit of that, to some extent, even in some larger businesses now, even with the automotive OEMs, for example, and realising that, actually, the data and the customer and the data that comes with that is everything.
Greg Jackson 8:05
You know, it’s not even just the data, right? I think it’s absolutely fundamental that at the end of the day, then the reason any sector exists is because somewhere down the value chain, there’s a customer who’s paying for it. And society works best. When is in service of customers, you know, we don’t expect, you know, farmers to be in charge of supermarkets, you know, supermarkets are in charge of what we see as customers, and it’s their job to understand everything, we need them relentlessly to drive cost out of the value chain, in order to bring us the best value they can and to find new products and services that meet our needs. Energy should be the same.
David Hunt 8:43
Yeah, yeah. That’s an interesting point. And I think, you know, proof of the pudding is a nice and of course, and I think what’s really interesting to talk through is the fact that last year, there’s quite a bit of pen pandemic, it was a massive year for you sort of earning double unicorn status off of that investment from Tokyo, Tokyo gas. And obviously, we touched on the recent announcement of octopus renewables coming into the fold, so to speak, can you take us through a little bit of the last 12 to 18 months? It’s been phenomenal growth, a little bit of what you’ve achieved, and what were the major challenges you faced as the CEO on a personal level, overseeing such rapid growth? Yeah,
Greg Jackson 9:19
I think the first thing is that today, we’ve got about 2 million household customers in the UK and the number of customers in other countries. Plus we licence our software in some of the countries and you know, some people look at this and they talk about the double unicorn status and kind of look at that and say, hey, that’s pretty successful. You’ve come a long way. But the reality is, we’ve barely started, you know, the global energy market, and as what were 2 trillion $3 trillion a year. So octopus is still utterly tiny. And despite the fact that can be really proud of what we’ve achieved, you know, if we, if we look up the hill, we’ve got so much further to go I think what the last year has been about for me has been largely trying to get all of the building blocks in place for that next stage of going global. So, you know, raising the money from from people like Tokyo gas and indeed origin energy Australia is really kind of enabling us to, to comfort confidently look at where we can bring more value to more markets. I think the kind of big transformation in the last 18 months or so is we started licencing our software. So you know, really excitingly we licenced it to origin alongside their investment as we licenced it to Aeon and empanel here in the UK into good energy. And we licenced it to NEC, which is a retailer run by hand with it the Korean conglomerate. And I think, you know, look, it’s not just licencing it is the fact that it’s making a difference. So, you know, with Aeon, I think they probably said that, within a year of signing the deal. We’ve migrated over a million customers, I think the migration there, has made, you know, the seventh biggest energy supplier in the UK, but challenging octopus, proposition number six. So that kind of the ability to say look, you know, tech migrations, which normally as a kind of played with problems have worked well for us. And that does kind of give us a good platform for looking globally about how we can bring more customers onto our platform cracking. And I think cracking job today is it’s a sort of a superior billing and customer relationship platform, it kind of underpins the service we give customers here underpins our very, very low cost to serve. But the reality is, you know, for us to really bring value to the energy transformation. It’s about enabling, you know, a far closer relationship between the generation of renewables and the consumption of renewables. Moving away from the idea that energy data is a sort of quarterly metre read or monthly metre read to it, you know, real time Big Data throughout the energy supply chain, recognising that we have have to optimise massive numbers of decisions with electrons. So I guess that was a long answer to the question. But the last 18 months for us has been about getting all of this in place, ready to begin to use technology to drive down the cost and energy transition in the UK? And in many other countries?
David Hunt 12:30
Yeah, I mean, that’s the two elements that really fascinated the tech and the people were coming to the people. So but just exploring a little bit more in terms of the tech you’re cracking is interesting, not least, which was with a company called Hyperion, we’ve always asked that comes from which mythology that comes from cracking clearly a different mythology, but a great name. But in terms of the company, where did cracking come from? Was that something that evolved as you started to build energy business? Or was it actually sort of the the idea from which you built the energy business, if that makes sense? Yeah, it was, it
Greg Jackson 13:01
was exactly that it was, essentially, we came from a tech background. And we were always going to build a tech platform to disrupt an industry, we looked at financial services by labour, as I said, earlier, we chose energy because we thought we could make a bigger difference. And so we chose, we’re going to build crack. And before we chose, we’re going to build octopus energy. Okay. And so I think, you know, we’re not an energy come that’s built a software platform, and those licencing it, I think, I think that’d be demons. I think, instead, we are a software company that decided we had to build an energy business to test ideas, to see whether things like dynamic energy pricing or, you know, a sort of interconnection between generation storage, consumption, everything else, we’re gonna make a difference. See where the consumers had an appetite for it to see whether you could be more transparent with customers and build a sort of, you know, a non adversarial relationship between customers and company. All of that was were ideas that we thought could be enabled by software. So we kind of built octopus energy to test and prove that.
David Hunt 14:04
Right, right. Okay. One thing that’s interesting, I think, broadly, the clean tech sector is one of collaboration. And you’ll often get, you know, competitors supporting or working together collaborating from time to time on the principle that obviously, the rising tide lifts all boats. But it’s quite an interesting decision to sell, if anything, or licence, at least, your secret sauce to two competitors, who are now using the platform to compete, as you mentioned in the supply business. That’s an interesting business model.
Greg Jackson 14:38
Yeah, I think first of all, how long have we got as a species to decarbonize energies?
David Hunt 14:44
Greg Jackson 14:45
it’s already too late to avoid climate change is now the faster we do it, the quicker we can start to reduce the impact we have on climate change, I think so let’s call it 1015 years. Sadly, however, grappling bigger octopus Energy, we’re not going to be able to cover the entire globe with every customer on octopus energy of that 10 or 15 years. So the way we can make a bigger difference is by working with other companies working with often large incumbents who want to transform and licenced software so that we can reach, you know, our software technology can reach more customers, more quickly, more countries to help drive down the cost of energy, and to help speed up the transition.
David Hunt 15:29
Greg Jackson 15:31
It does sound surprise to people, but in energy, everyone’s used to it. Now we use shell as our trading partner here in the UK, you know, we hedge all of our energy through shell, and yet we compete with them as a retail business. You know, we buy renewable energy from people like EDF with wind generation, and yet we compete with them in retail. So yeah, energy is full of these kinds of bits were part of your business cooperates with competitors, and part of it compete with them. And that’s kind of the only way we can make such a colossal sector. You know, efficient at scale.
David Hunt 16:01
Yeah, yeah. No, very good points. I want to return, Greg to the future of energy and mobility, those those little topics. But before that, I’m also really keen to hear partly, obviously, because of my personal focus on people, but also I’ve heard you sort of sharing some interesting thoughts in the past around people, talent, values and culture and how instrumental that’s been both at octopus and obviously some of your previous experiences. Can you share some of your thoughts on building high performance teams? I guess, is that sort of the banded quote quite often, but just successful coaches, successful businesses?
Greg Jackson 16:35
Yeah, I think there are two parts. That’s me, right? The first one is, we’re all humans. And, you know, we’ve got six or seven decades on this planet, maybe if we’re lucky, more, if we’re very lucky. And we spend about a third of that time at work. If we’re not enjoying work, if work isn’t fulfilling, both in terms of, you know, the kind of mission we’re on, and the value the experience of it, then it’s the equivalent of losing a third of your life, you know, to two decades of your life, maybe more, it’s kind of written off if you’re not enjoying it. So for me, this is important. It’s critically important, we bring customers great value energy, because energy is like vital for quality of life. In the same way, it’s really important we bring employees great work, because they’re sacrificing their life to be here. Well, if we make it enjoyable, and meaningful, then they’re not sacrificing it is an important part of their life. Yeah, so number one is that philosophy. Sorry.
David Hunt 17:34
I was gonna say it’s, it’s interesting, I’ve always had an issue with the fact that so many people who, you know, they put up with a crap job so they can No wonder you have a nice holiday, or, you know, have a nice weekend and then have a crap job on Monday. And it’s made just makes no sense. The whole concept of work life balance makes no sense. Because as you touched on, there is no work life, it’s just your life.
Greg Jackson 17:54
Exactly that you wish other points in time to talk about it. But there’s a second thing is the company point of view, your company’s got adverts for creative people, and people take responsibility and all this thing. And then the minute you start work, you’re drowned in process that stops you deploying those wonderful talents, those things that make you human, and that the company asked for. And because companies are scared that you might make mistakes, they’re in either of people who building empires internally, and corporate politics and all that stuff. And I think all these things create the cynicism that you people, great people can’t make a difference. And you end up with companies then that treat employees as an overhead as a cost, rather than remembering that, you know, our business is entirely built 100% built by the people who work at you know, we didn’t inherit it. It was built by them. So you know, if you harness the talents of people, and that takes incredible focus and rigour. But if you harness the talents, instead of thinking was people know, then the problem? Well, there are the literally the magic that make the business exist. Yeah. So for me those two thoughts. One is the job of the company, two people on the job, the people to the company, then come together and all of the ways in which we organise.
David Hunt 19:11
Yeah, I think what’s really interesting, we work Hyperion primarily post investment startup. So we’re sort of deeply embedded in companies who invariably are quite too small yet to have a great deal of process of bureaucracy or HR department, all that kind of stuff. And as much as there’s challenges and chaos to that there’s also sort of a beauty to it as well. That people are still people and everybody’s codependent and you know everybody’s name and you can all share, you know, a few pieces together, what kind of stuff but the challenge comes when you scale and you know, nothing like US government, my previous business, I think we’ve routed from two to 50 people in 18 months, but even then it was a struggle to know everybody’s name and be on good terms with everybody is how do you maintain that sort of startup vibe, whatever at work, wouldn’t it and acceptance of individuals for what they are what they can bring to the table with that getting bogged down into HR processes and sort of operational process order which needed them. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very tough to grow a scale business without any form of structure. But it’s finding the balance, I’m intrigued to see how you’ve gone about that, because I believe you don’t have an HR department, for example.
Greg Jackson 20:17
Yeah, so I think that example not having an HR department, I mean, it’s just one of many departments we don’t have. And that’s partly because it doesn’t mean we don’t have HR functions. Doing we don’t have HR capability. But for example, the case of HR issues, if you build a department, it’s there for when you need it. But the rest of the time, it’s currently creating work for itself. And that kind of, and I don’t mean that to be negative, HRP was the same for any department because they look at any problem. And of course, it looks like an HR. Plus, they become kind of aware that something that they could fix will go wrong, if they don’t fix it in advance. But the job great managers, they say, look, some stuff will go wrong, we can carry that, don’t worry, because the cost of prevention is sometimes higher than the cost of the issue. You know, it’s like, it’s like a very expensive insurance policy, and you’re better off actually, sometimes just dealing with issues when they arise. Now, but for example, take a time, I’m not talking about the importance of people to our business, and the importance of thinking about people within our business role our business plays to get make our people’s lives better. And I think it’s really important to recognise that you’re not an HR department is not expecting people, quite the opposite. Every manager is trained and is expected to take responsibility for great people outcomes for their team’s happiness, you know, we run, you probably know, you know, office vibe as a kind of platform for employee engagement. You know, we have daily feedback from our teams on how things are, every week, I get the entire company together, across all countries, for you know, a 1200 person, all hands zoom call. And it’ll be partly in person, you know, when the pandemic allows. So I think what it’s about is saying, if we’re gonna have these really high ideals about what we’re going to do as a business, whether it be, you know, a role within the energy system, or our role within human society, then we need to do things differently. And to question about how do you do that, and it’s simply having intelligent conversations, at every level, all the time, about the trade offs. And being willing, you know, a great example to me is that when people hear about no HR department, what if something goes wrong, it’s like, first of all things go wrong in all companies, whether or not you’ve got HR departments, you know, the vast majority of tribunals or, or whatever, happening, companies with HR departments. They don’t, they don’t prevent that problem. It’s often people’s reaction to an issue that causes the processes to grow. Because they go, Well, this thing went wrong. So now we need to make sure it never goes wrong again. And they create a sort of, you know, a series of protections, which may or may not work, but imposed cost the whole time. And you said you have intelligent conversations, like when people talk about, you know, welcoming failure. Now, of course, we never want to fail. But if we do fail, do we beat someone up about it, I do, put her arm around them, because we know that it is the last thing they want it. And then we work together to understand how we can learn from that. I think using those as learning examples, and welcome to conversation, rather than getting people nervous about failure is a huge part of being able to maintain a startup culture as you get to kind of, you know where we are today, which is sort of mid scale business.
David Hunt 23:35
Yeah. Now I’m really, really interested to two factors again, there, one of which is that absolutely not the desire for mistakes, but the acceptance of mistakes, and more importantly, the acceptance of the discussion and openness around mistakes, where that’s where the core learning comes from. Right at the very top of the conversation, you talked about the learnings from previous companies, I think most from experience, most of the CEOs or founders will say the only reason they’re successful is because of all the huge errors that made us and had the opportunity to learn from those. So that culture, I think, is critical to both recruiting and retaining good people. And the other thing you touched on there, which is really interesting, because I’m a big fan of town halls. And I think that retention of staff comes from a lot of openness and transparency as best as you can as a as a leader within a business. And the concept of town halls when there’s 510 1520 100 reviewers is relatively straightforward, but you’re talking about 1200 person townhall. be interesting to see how and why you feel that’s important. And I think it is, but how you actually managed that to some extent.
Greg Jackson 24:39
Yeah, let me take a shot so great. He talks about the 210 2050 personally, because it started for me in a previous business when the two founders went for a beer. On a Friday night, we discovered that, that go for beer on a Friday night. We resolved any tensions that are built up in the week and we remembered that we were both brilliant people that we’d want it to work together as the business grew, and you have different functions. So for example, typically tech and operations, and later on tech operations and marketing, these are functions that will often fall out with each other. Because you know, tech will think, you know, operations don’t do what they want, they write bets, but specs, always changing their mind, you do actually want something and they decide they don’t want after all. And operations, think tech, like crap software can’t deliver on time, all those things. What we found was, when you brought everyone together on a Friday night, very quickly, because all the functions, they remembered that they are great people who are here for the same reason. And even though of course, each of them are taken out like that the reason things go wrong is they’re all taken on difficult challenges. And, and if they respect each other, they’ve got a great chance of those things succeeding than if they start to allow cynicism to creep in. And it’s hard to have cynicism when you having a drink every Friday night. And we did that and eventually sold that company, that compound, maybe between 50 to 100 people and we sold it. And the CFO of the of the acquirer came to me said, Greg, You do realise we’re spending like 1000s of pounds every Friday night on a barbell, we’re taking over pubs. And it’s, you know, it’s a very big expenditure. I said, Good. This is excellent. This means loads more people are coming together to solve problems to remember, they’re great, and to rebound. And as we’re doing that every week, that’s great for the company. And we kept that going, I think when we started this company that was, again, important in the beginning, we call it a family dinner here rather than Town Hall, because we kind of come together for that big family conversation. And then when we’ve managed it is, for example, now we’re across lots of countries and time zones is quite hard for everyone was to build together. One of the great things about zoom is we can record it, and then people can watch it in their own time, if you weren’t part of it. They can submit questions beforehand. So if they’re not there live, they’re still partly in this submit the question by videos, it’s still got all the kind of same experience for everyone still interesting. And then we also started going on a monthly cycle. So we’ll do the whole company one week, then we’ll have each country doing its own local one, the next week, then we’ll have the whole company again. And then we’ll have each function having its own across countries. And then we’ll go back to the whole company. I think that way, we’re keeping the cadence. But we’re also recognising that, you know, there’s some stuff that are interesting to one function, and it’s important, they’re able to talk about it, but we can’t do is let the company splinter. So we still have the global one every other week.
David Hunt 27:29
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it really addressed and again, you know, we do a lot of work with clients around, you know, not just how to attract talent, but how to retain it. And one of the key things is, you know, the absolute cost, both financial, which is substantial, but but more important in terms of culture and other projects sort of slips, when you’re losing tonnes of people going back to your cost of a barbell, no matter how big it is, it’s infinitely smarter than the cost of people having to replace good people.
Greg Jackson 27:54
Yeah, I can’t say, so fast that you’re learning for me was there was a business I built with a my co founding CTO, and you know, we were together for seven years building this business. And we’d sold it. And it came to a point where I left the company had acquired us, and the CTO stayed, and I had to go and build the next thing without him. And I thought, you know, I found that the the CTO, and yeah, we’d be able to build something fantastic yet, but actually, without the CTO that had this seven years of experience, really learning everything about each other. I couldn’t get anything off the ground. And it was only when, you know, he came and joined me, they were able to start building successful businesses. Again, we built three successful businesses since then together. And I think, you know, those team dynamics, understanding that the loss of a team member, your people are not plug and play replaceable. You have a built exponential relationship together. And, you know, if someone leaves, it’s not just cost to replace them and the recruitment costs. And you know, the period of time it takes to plug the gap. It’s actually that you had exponential quality of output from the time that’s spent together. So yeah, for me, retention is everything, I think, a more senior team. We haven’t had a single person leave in the last four years,
David Hunt 29:20
which is brilliant and saved your fortune and been obviously instrumental in the growth but which has grown. grab a beer with you talk about people all day long. It’s it’s fascinating subject. Let’s jump back a little bit into a couple of bits of I guess, technology or the evolution of octopus because a couple of things over the last year I think of sort of, quite enjoyed hearing about one of which was when you launched the fan clubs, you could refute that a little bit about that. And then again, people like Joe Nolan, many, many people always espousing how they’re getting the ABS charged for free overnight and the sort of octopus tariffs that they’re, again newsworthy, but also fantastic. As a driver for The transition, and perhaps you can share a little bit about those couple of initiatives, how they come about and how they’ve sort of helped you evolve the business. And the sort of branding for marketers back to the both takes up quite a bit of noise.
Greg Jackson 30:13
Yeah, let’s see. So, the fan club is going do really is saying renewable energy should be cheap. The average cost for the output from a kind of new build wind farm is I know, 45 pence a kilowatt hour, which is compared with fossil fuels, and it’s coming down every year. And yet, you know, customers have been told energy users citizens have been told the green energy costs more. And what we want to do with the fan club is really bring home like, what one of the reasons we’ve had resistance to renewables, as people have been told it costs more, so not only you getting kind of these new things appearing on your landscape that you may or may not want. But you know, you’re not getting any benefit from it. Yeah, the benefit is that, you know, a planet will hopefully, you know, not experienced quite such bad ravages of climate change, but you’re not seeing that daily. So what we want to do is to help people see the benefit of renewables on their bills every month. And with fan club, the idea is that, you know, if there’s a wind farm near you, one of our transport facilities, then you’ll get lower energy costs when the winds blowing. And I think that idea that is just connecting local renewables, that thing you can see outside your window or on your local library, a hill, or whatever is bringing you benefit is really important. So that’s number one. And, and by the way, you know, the reality is renewable energy cost less when the wind blows, we’re reflecting to the consumer, the physics. And that’s exactly the same thing type people like Jill talking about, yeah, this sort of dynamic pricing with agile, which is, what we want is, the more we can get consumers to use renewables, when they’re abundant, the lower the cost of transition for them, and for everybody else. So today, if you know, if someone’s on a standard energy tariff, when they come home from work, and they plug your electric car in, and there’s no time of use attached, not only are they paying, you know, 10 standard rates for electricity, but they’re competing for electrons against everybody else. And they use the infrastructure when it’s got least spare capacity. So we need more infrastructure. Both of these things add cost, not just for them, but for everyone. So if we can get some people to be using energy, at times when electrons are abundant in green, and when they’re using less infrastructure, then that, that not only gives that user a bargain, but it cuts costs for everyone else. And I think, you know, people, yeah, I still have people going, Oh, but what about people can’t shift their consumption, it’s like, let’s be really clear. People who can’t shift their consumption will be paying more for electricity. If people who can shift it don’t do so. And the second thing is shifting, it doesn’t have to be hard. You know, people like Gil, they just plug in their electric car. And it will optimise or use the software connection, the API’s with our platform to download a shedule. And it will charge without having to think about it at the cheapest possible times. So yeah, this is transparent to users. Yeah, but drops costs. And I think the last bit of it is what we found is once people are doing that, once people have got this kind of you don’t have to think about it approach. Quite often they do start thinking about it. So you know, you’ll get loads of people write to me saying I never used to worry about energy. I never used to worry about the environment, by the way. But since I got electric car, and I’m doing this, I found I’m not using the dishwasher at eight o’clock rather than at five o’clock. It’s fantastic for everybody. See, I think it’s really exciting. And finally, I think I’m, as I say the electric vehicle is the gateway drug, you know, at the energy transition, because as soon as we’ve got an electric car, the taking all those old habits, my grandparents used to drive miles and miles and miles to save a penny a gallon on petrol. And loads of people have that habit today. Yeah. And when you move to electric cars, suddenly, you’re thinking about the cost of energy in a way you didn’t do before. You know what a kilowatt hour is, which nobody else does. And it’s quite easy for you to start shifting around your biggest form of consumption. Yeah,
David Hunt 34:22
yeah. That’s really interesting. It’s that mindset thing. My previous business, by the way, was a solar power installer in the UK in 2000 sevens of prefusion terrorists and we wrote a little bit that fit into our thing we’re going back to that point is that customers immediately who didn’t know anything other than you turn on a light switch and the lights came on, suddenly we’re interested in what were they use was where it was how they could, and this is before batteries, but you know how they could quite simply just programme the dishwasher all the washing machines turn on midday when it’s likely to be utilising some of their own energy and that just changes mindset significant and I agree with you. The electric car I think is not just as amazing in terms They’re just much better cars. But it absolutely brings people to the point of understanding about energy that we haven’t had. We don’t teach at schools and people are just usually blindly unaware of where their energy comes from how much it should cost, how much it does cost, or any other factor, which is sort of detrimental to the transitions we’re under.
Greg Jackson 35:19
Yet, totally. So I think, you know, it’s really interesting for me that I think a lot of policies based on surveys and ideas that were kind of, you know, that would now be quite out of date. And people forget, by the way, that electric vehicles today, they’re, you know, a relatively small percentage of electric cars, but the increase in the percentage of new sales, and over the next decade, they’ll be the new normal, and they’re no longer the plaything of the rich at the total cost of ownership of a new electric car is comparable with if not lower than the total cost of ownership of an equivalent fossil fuel vehicle. people worry about not people in purchase, don’t worry about this, but policymakers worry about, you know, the things that customers might worry about no other enough charging obstruction, whatever. But the reality is, the biggest thing holding the back now is they’re just not being made in enough volume. So if you look a year or two down the road, where the electric vehicle manufacturers are largely shifting a lot of their production over, you know, we’re gonna see this kind of avalanche and next year or two. And you can see a little bit of that if you look at I looked at Alibaba, you know, the kind of website lets you buy certain China. And I saw a five seat electric car with a tinge of 50 mile range for $15,000. Of course, it’s not homologated for Europe yet, but it will get there. And that’s kind of where we’re going. Yeah, no, I
David Hunt 36:40
can’t. And there’s a bit of a response to make. But I think sometimes people do miss a trick that because new smartphones now are so ubiquitous that everybody, even our kids have gotten if you’re not careful. And yet when they came out, it was the whole thing about you, there’s way too expensive and they would never catch on. And now not just do we everybody have a smartphone, but actually the whole way we run our lives is invariably connected in some way, shape, or form. All of our banking, all of our bill paying all of our hailing taxis and everything else is via this device. And I think that kind of rapid transition 10 1112 years is what we’re gonna see with mobility, not just in the switch TVs, but sort of a smarter form of transport.
Greg Jackson 37:16
I really democratise right? Because Yeah, you talk there about people’s mobile phones. Now my Gran is 97. And she uses a $50 Android tablet to stay in touch with the world during the pandemic. Now, if people had worried about whether or not these kinds of solutions were going to work for old ladies, when the iPhone was launched, then the iPhone would have been launched. And yet today, that stuff that started with expensive gadgets for geeks, has really paved the way to people like my grant, frankly, you know, kind of being able to keep in contact with her family. So I think that as you say that it’s amazing how rapid that changes. But it starts by capitalising on the early adopter behaviour, and not worrying that early adopters are not representative of the population as a whole. Yeah, because once the early adopters have paved the way it really does then open up for everyone.
David Hunt 38:14
Yeah, the same thing was to sorry to interrupt but we had the same thing with Sony, you know, when it’s a typical solar roof was best part of 20k. Without feed in tariffs, it was, you know, frowned at us, you know, plaything for the rich and early adopters, and nobody else could afford it. But it was only because of those early adopters. And those earlier wouldn’t farm so sort of farms that we were able to drive down prices and make it democratised. So she said we should shoot or for early adopters, because there are so necessary for for every change that comes along.
Greg Jackson 38:43
There really aren’t I think there are two quick things that come to mind. And I’m the first one, by the way, is just the you asked about my kind of reason why it’s interesting. The last reason for me for being interested in energy was frankly, I was brought up by a single mom with three kids on on benefits and the, you know, we got cut off because we couldn’t pay our bills from time to time. And I think that really drums into the importance of the cost of energy. Now for some families, you know, they the energy bill is the difference between how to buy the kids Christmas presents, and not between meals and the kids on school trips. And I think often people worry that take them like octopus, it’s got all these things that appeal to kind of, you know, early adopters of building a system for the wealthy. But the reality is, if we get it right for these people now, the people who are paying a lot for electric vehicles, and a lot of the gadgets associated with this are actually providing the r&d that will get the cost right down for everyone. And I think that is a fundamental like, we have to believe that because one of the challenges that if we hold the transformation up because we understand that Have a worried about kind of fairness. The reality is we’ll actually hold back the fight against climate change, and costs will be higher, because we’re not capitalising on early adopters. And, you know, so for me, this kind of thing is part of our absolutely fundamental mission to drive down energy costs. And harnessing early adopters, as part of that is a way of making it fair for everyone. The second thing just reminded me of was when you talked about using a smartphone to hail a cab, you know, no one knew when the iPhone launched, that is going to change the way that, you know, the cab industry worked. And it’s gonna be the same with energy. renewables allow the cost of energy to fall every year. Right, because as we’re building more turbines, more solar panels, more solutions, more technology to bring it all together. So the cost of electrons will keep falling as long as we use them, right. And I think that’ll transform industries in ways that no one’s thought about yet. So for example, we’ve got on our books, we’ve got a bunch of vertical farms, indoor farms, these are spectacular and that they grow food locally in towns and villages and towns and cities. So it doesn’t have to be important from you know, Israel, or Kenya, or whatever it will be, that’s great fruit. And they 55% of their cost is energy. And when we visit them, you know, then I’m running diurnal cycles, and seasonal cycles based around when energy is cheap and abundant. So for example, the plants sleep between 4pm and 7pm. That’s when lecture is expensive. And the ability for renewables. And, you know, kind of smart approaches to energy to transform industries, is something that I think we, you know, all the models based on how we use energy, are not recognising these changes. And that’s why we have to grasp the opportunity now for bringing these kind of like very different ways of using it, in order that we then allow consumers, customers, businesses and industries to grab it and show us the transformation that they can create off the back of it. And I don’t think it’s not the question, by the way that will end up bringing Heavy Industries back to the UK, but powered by green energy, right? So you end up with your Steel Works, where the shift kind of reflects sunshine and wind, that sort of thing is very possible, but it’ll only happen if we stop constraining the transformation. Because we’re worried about kind of the existing kind of view of, for example, fairness.
David Hunt 42:30
Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point, I think, you know, broadly, clearly, as you would expect, a very egalitarian view on things. But ultimately, as you said, is those stuck on the point those that can afford it now who paved the way for those who can’t now but will in the future, and the longer term benefit is for everybody? And I think that’s something you’ve you’ve clearly made clear and echoed that. We’ve been talking a while and I literally could talk all day, with just a couple of things. Firstly, I guess, a little bit of a view of perhaps what’s next for octopus energy?
Greg Jackson 43:00
Yeah, I think so far as now we’ve got to expand our business and more countries. The energy transition is a global phenomenon. And the solutions can be broadly the same in every country. So you know, given that we’ve I think we’ve contributed a lot to the ability for the UK to drive down the cost of transition speed up. Now, emissions. Now to do that, globally. I think we’ve got to create a closer connection between generation and consumption. So as you mentioned, at the beginning of the podcast, we’ve just taken on the octopus renewables portfolio of 2.8 gigawatts of renewable generation. And I think, you know, when people ask what that’s about, it’s fundamentally about saying, you know, we think that if we consume renewables, right, then we can drive down the cost of the drive down the cost, then increases the market scale for renewables, enables us to build more renewable generation enables us to tackle things like the electrification of heat. So for us, like bringing consumption generation closer together so that we can more accurately reflect the dynamics of generation in consumption and make better decisions about generating based on Western consumption. That’s all about driving down the cost as we do that, I think that takes into a third or so just mentioned, which is really working hard down decarbonisation of heat. And I think, you know, for us that looks like electrification. And, you know, we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to, you know, really take electrified heating to the mainstream. Yeah,
David Hunt 44:32
yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, there’s a lot of talk and we’ve had podcasts for people in around hydrogen but but again, that was that’s not impossible, particularly heavy industry. I certainly think the electrification of heating is something we’ve missed a trick on the new carbon is much more established props, for example, in other parts of the world, but not so not so much here. And finally, to close, Greg, I always like to go back to personal elements of things people books, anything that kind of inspired you along the way, anywhere that perhaps you return to on the darker days to keep yourself motivated?
Greg Jackson 45:07
Yes, I think first of all, I listen to loads of podcasts, right. And there’s so I listen to that I think we probably all do that are enjoyable and interesting. But once that really inspires me on business or things like, you know, planet money from NPR, National Public Radio in the States, so I like the title says bad money. It’s really about economics and economic sort of experiences around the world. It’s fascinating. I love masters of scale with repayment plans on LinkedIn. And also, how I built this with guy Roz, which, again, is from NPR, and explained to founders of businesses, some fascinating stories, that but then, you know, I also love kind of whites, like, you know, 13 minutes to the moon, if you had a BBC podcast series on on the Apollo missions, which was a great podcast series. And amazing, by the way, partway through had to be interrupted, as it turned out that the presenter was also an NHS surgeon, or has to go and deal with the pandemic, which was an amazing result in Toronto podcast series. But then it’s brilliant. And then I think the speaking of the main mission is there’s a book called The Apollo Guidance Computer. And it’s sort of manual for it. It’s available on Amazon, right as a fascinating read, because it is astonishing. When people in the 1960s were thinking about, you know, how do we get to the moon, according to Kennedy’s incredible deadline, they had to do things like you know, invent a computer from scratch, invent an operating system, from scratch to run that computer. And when you look at the incredible ingenuity that went into that, and the bravery that they built this computer, then stuck it on a rocket and made it operate the rocket to go to the moon and come back with astronauts safely. I kind of think it just helps us remember what our species is capable of.
David Hunt 47:06
Yeah, yeah. Often recite that it’s of necessity is the mother of invention. I think, as much as we would all love everybody to be more enlightened, I think the more and more we’re seeing extreme weather and climate related issues, I think more and more people will come to the point of realising This is a necessity. And hopefully that will stimulate innovation continually. But it’s, it’s great companies like yours and others that we’ve had on the podcast of all scales are on this combined mission to make an impact and to transition the world to a more sustainable place to be. And hopefully I should say, cut off the worst excesses of what might be around the corner. Greg have been a fascinating source. I’ve really enjoyed your time. And obviously a long way we continue to see octopus and others joining the transition to really engage consumers in energy and get them talking about what is really fascinating with real geeks like us or not, but to really play an active part in in society and energy and how we transform to to a better place to be.
Greg Jackson 48:04
I’ve really enjoyed it, too. So thank you very much. And it was great to talk about the people stuff as well as about the business stuff. So thank you.
David Hunt 48:10
Yeah. Now, here’s important. I’ve always said no, if you’ve got the right, if you’ve got better money, and you’ve got the right people, you can do amazing things. And whether that’s the Apollo moon mission or building a startup for me, garriage it’s around the Yeah, having the right people that are motivated on mission and something we’re clearly passionate about Hyperion. But listen, it’s been brilliant to talk to you. We’ll happily as soon as we’re able to come and grab a beer in a pub. Because it’ll be the first of a very long time. But in the meantime, thanks. Great.
Greg Jackson 48:38
I look forward to that very much. Thank you very much. Bye bye.
David Hunt 48:44
Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed that slightly longer than usual conversation. Plenty there we’ve got packed in. Please do continue to give feedback and share episode you enjoy across your social media platforms. If you have five minutes, please do give us a review on Apple podcasts or your platform of choice and continue to share amongst your communities. your continued support is really valued. So thanks very much for the feedback we get for the suggestions we get and for your continued support with the podcast. Hope to speak to you soon.