David Hunt 0:32
Hello, I’m David Hunt, CEO and founder of Hyperion executive search and your host for the leads in clean tech podcast. One of the things that drives me most is helping clean tech founders and startups to scale and bring great products and solutions to the world. I do this through leading the Hyperion executive search team through mentoring for accelerators and incubators like plug and play and foresight Canada and through this podcast of course. This week, I’m keen to share a great new Rockstar accelerator opportunity for startups in the clean and smart energy space. doors close to enter on the 30th of September. So take a listen and see if this could be the catalyst for you or your idea or your company to come to life. If you’re not a budding entrepreneur, I hope you’ve still got something from the episode I’m sure that you will. To discuss this new rock star programme I’m joined by Nick Stockman. Nick is a partner Rockstar Tim was the former investment director of Lucas investments responsible for building a portfolio of direct equity. vc MP and fund investments within the technology sector focused very much on the energy transition mech has over 13 years of transaction experience in an international setting, including over 11 of which within the energy investment segment range from large multi billion project development investments and financings to early and late stage VC and fund investments. Next to his role at Rockstar Energy Fund, Nick holds non executive board positions at two clean tech startups got a wealth of experience is going to tell us all about the new programme, how you can enter if it’s something for you, and what’s the benefits of doing so. If you enjoyed the episode. Hey, good afternoon, Nick, thanks for much for joining us on the lifting cleans up podcast. Good afternoon. pleased to be here. Good to have some time with you. And again, looking forward to as we discussed previously catching up at some events in the near future. We’re good to begin to that stage. And as we move out from hopefully this pandemic to a large extent, and that opens up great opportunities for programmes like the the New Energy Fund from from rocksolid New Energy accelerator programme from Rockstar. So we’re keen to talk about that. But before we do, maybe it’s just useful because a lot of our audience are entrepreneurs and founders but many aren’t. But we have a clear interest in the sector. Perhaps you can share a little bit Nick about how Rockstar came about a little bit about the accelerator what an accelerator is, and how you’re a little bit unique with having that VC arm as well.
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 2:57
Yeah, absolutely. So Rockstar came about I think it was about 10 years ago, I wasn’t I was not part of a rock star down yet. But But rock start started out as a pure accelerator. And they did that in a number of verticals. And one of the verticals, that’s it’s very quickly also came about was the energy, vertical smart energy, which they started, I think, back in 2015. Since then, they’ve organised a number of accelerators. Within energy energy ecosystem was built up. I think it was about 50 startups that got to go through the programme of rockstart, the accelerator programme, where a lot of companies were accelerated. I think good examples are, for example, sim power. Dexter, greener companies that that raced Well, well have a very good filming amounts, and are now doing quite well on the market. Yeah, yeah. I think if I if I go back to why and what the verticals are that Rockstar is, is helping these companies to accelerate in its it’s mostly in the impact sector. So roxrite also has another front squat and agri food firms. This is a smart energy funds that we’ll talk about later today. And it’s all impact focus. So we want to make an impact in the world. And these are themes that that we focus on and where we create an ecosystem and help these companies to to accelerate for if I look at energy specific, I mean, I mean, this is well known but our population is growing enormously. The gdps are growing, and they need to grow in the coming years, this will do what we all want. And normally the trend would mean that also the co2 emissions go up. Yeah. But we need to go the other way. So so that is why we need startups. Because a lot of the r&d of the commercial deployment of new technologies, it comes from startups. And that’s where, where we come in, and we help them there with. Yeah, with the hybrid model of on the one hand funding, on the other hand, acceleration, or by also funding is, is critical in achieving that acceleration.
David Hunt 5:46
Yeah, yeah. Now, that’s really cool. Actually, one of the previous episodes we had, and in fact, it was one of the best listened to episodes was Simon Bishop from sin power. So again, the audience can go back and I’ll point on the episode page back to the episode with Simon but he clearly really benefited from the experience with the with rockstart. So it’s good that there are companies doing great things that have come through the programme, which clearly is, as you say, it’s what what it’s all about is how we can create companies making making an impact. Let’s dig into the to the specific fund and obviously a little bit about what you’re looking for and what people can expect from the the new programme because I believe that closes on the 30th of September. So there’s still time for people to get involved into to apply, specifically with the Smart Energy programme. Nick, what types of technology are you interested in what stage of company in terms of age and status of a company is going to be able to get the best result or best outcomes from joining the accelerator?
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 6:54
Let me start with a little bit about the fund. So we have a fund, and we we’ve we invest in 50 startups, that is the investment thesis that we are, we are deploying, right now we’ve already invested in them. And then there is indeed competitions that you refer to where we hope that as many startups as when it comes to quality, blind to death, they actually fly. And we do these competitions to, to, to get to the best startups and to, to invest in them. And they receive an investment that is partially in the form of cash and partially in the form of the accelerator programme. Okay, so we do 50 investments with our friends over the next five years. And the initial tickets that we do is relatively small, so this initial ticket, half of it going to cash and the other half in the form of an accelerator programme, so an in kind, but later on, we hope to follow on invest into the startups as well. So okay, we try to get them ready, try to check all the boxes for for larger faeces, get them accelerated, connect with the market, connect with the ecosystem, help them get new new clients, help them with their business model, help them with, with the team, and to make sure that they get into a stage where they become eligible for for later stage funding. So that can be from series A, Series B and also beyond. So where we invest in seed state stage or pre seed stage, when there’s when it’s not the big amounts yet, so, so that’s why it’s also better fit for the amount that we invest. It’s the early stage. And then we tentative going first, because we’re we’re going faster alongside other faeces, faeces that we know sometimes we connect them to companies where we also going first and we then keep going investing into into the later rounds and we can go up to 2 million into into a startup.
David Hunt 9:22
I think what’s really interesting and I do some mentoring for plug and play and foresight, and I’ve done some work with TechStars No, it just seems to me such an opportunity for founders the level of support the level of knowledge the level of expertise that you benefit from from being on some form of accelerator programme in particular it’s you say your own and your you’ve got a very long and successful track record of investment in this space. I know others in rockstart have as well. So I think that’s really something perhaps to to touch on a little bit more because clearly we all know a startups cash is important and having some financial support is, is great. But just that depth of guidance mentoring that you get from a programme, perhaps you can share a little bit more about the length of the programme, how it looks and some of the real key elements that you help to bring to the table for for our companies who joined the programme.
Unknown Speaker 10:23
Sure. Um, so the programme takes six months. And it’s, it’s, it’s a dense programme, it’s intense. And in those six months, the startups will receive support Well, in the form of capital, from us, but also to, to connect them with with other with other VCs, it’s part of what we do. rockstart also organises events for that. We try to do help connect the startups to the market with ecosystem partners. We help them to do present at conferences, we have a special ecosystem day whereby we also connect all startups to more corporates and advisors or from the from the energy community. We help them with with expertise. So I’ve been a mentor myself actually, at rock stars. So I’ve worked with in energy investing for the last decade or so, and was also a couple years ago that when I was still an investor at the different firm, I also became a mentor at rock stars. And this is what you see a lot in the, in the ecosystem that Rockstar has, and where they, where they’ve tried to, to match this ecosystem, with the startups. And in this ecosystems, there’s investors, like I was myself, but there’s also former entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, there’s, there’s people, there’s corporates that are partners, and it’s this whole diverse ecosystem or within energy debts, provides. That can provide a lot of expertise, and, and also support, it comes in the form of mentors. It comes in the form of workshops and sessions that are being set up, there’s hours coaching sessions. There’s community events. And it’s this, yeah, we tried to create this, this ecosystem whereby there’s a win win for all parties there at the table and to to help everybody accelerate and everything around energy and smart energy, because we didn’t touch upon that yet. And maybe I should have indicated that but we are really focused on the smart segment, which means that there is a digital component involved. And we’re really looking into we are software type solutions in industry 4.0 or 5.0. To do to make the investment so to distinguish we’re not looking for the real technology place the the very capex heavy startups to invest in. It’s It’s It’s more solid, the software stage.
David Hunt 13:19
Sure, man, that’s such a critical part of the whole energy. And indeed, the mobility transitions is this digitalization of of all things energy, and obviously simple being a great example of someone who’s been through the, through the process before. So in going back to Liberty talk, so from a funding stage, it’s pre seed seed, but in terms of some of the companies who’ve joined, is there an age limit in terms of how long the company has been established? Is there a revenue limit? What sort of companies have you had through? Or are you looking to join the programme on this occasion?
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 13:55
There’s not an age limit. And that’s that, so we don’t want to be dogmatic there and say, okay, it needs to be of more than three, three years old. Because I always think that sometimes there’s a momentum for a company and started and sometimes there’s not yet so some startups are actually ahead of the curve. And it takes simply a little bit longer before the market is also there. So I don’t think there’s an age limit. But But of course, we will look at the history and why did the company not grow grow larger yet, if it’s a relatively relatively old company, there’s something that we will look into. Babak, but there’s no limit there. When it comes to to revenues. We do like to see that there are the company has Revenues so so fully pre revenues, I think would be too early for us. We look at companies where at least there is a, like a bait pilot. If it’s earlier than that, then I mean, there can always be an exception, but it would be, in principle we do early for us. But but but but in most cases, the company has commercial revenue. So there are a couple of commercial contracts, it’s, it’s in that sense, at least proven with one or two customers. And from there, we can also help most because we cannot help the founders, at least not in most cases with with developing their technology and developing their software. There, there needs to be a basis to work from solace. So did needs to be there. And then we can help them accelerate by by making the right connections, providing them support workshops, working on the business model, etc. But, yeah, yeah, the basis needs to be there.
David Hunt 16:07
Yeah. But then those routes to market or I should say, once you’ve got a little bit of commercial traction, still validating the business model. And we all know that things often pivot or adapt. And I think one of those things that people benefit from from joining a programme like Rockstar is that you’ve got a lot of expertise. And also you touch on this strategic partners and helping to, I guess, confirm the business model and make introductions where there might be partnerships where it might otherwise be difficult for young companies to find those kinds of connections.
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 16:39
And I think that there is also a better added benefits that we that we provide and that we want to provide. And that is why the Yeah, well, we we started this initiative.
David Hunt 16:52
Yeah, we’re location by the way, xR rockstars. I’ve got a global reputation. And I’ve done brilliant things over the last 10 years, as you say, Great, some great companies have come through the programme. Obviously, in the last year or two, pretty much everything would have been fairly remote for obvious reasons. But what’s the Where are you looking to companies from and how much of the programme is, is remote how much you were hoping to be? Perhaps more face to face with proper direct collaboration between the between the companies on the on the platform,
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 17:24
in terms of location, I mean, we are based in, in the Netherlands. But rockstart itself is is also what we call remote first company. So there’s a lot of people that work from from home, we have our own office, but we we tend to work from home and then one or two days in, in the office. And this is I think also what we what we will see more in the world after also after Corona. Yeah. And the programme from last year has also adapted to that. So last year had to be fully remote. But I think having those lessons learned from going fully remote, something’s worked for me well, like you don’t have to truffle dance anymore. So I think I think we will move to do a hybrid. If I compare to last year’s programme to do the earlier programmes, I think we will move to a hybrid whereby certain elements will be physical like, like events, for example, I think rockstart is well known for for its events. And we’ve last year done a digital event, a digital Demo Day was very successful. But I also think that that physical events really, really are important. And so I think we will move to a to do a hybrid model there. But and we but we still want the companies to be able to work physically also with each other and to meet each other. So we do want we do we do target started from Europe. Yeah. So outside Europe is not is not our investment scope. And that also has to do with our with with the backing of our financier so the finger clusters and affinity investors have a focus on Europe, on the energy transition in Europe. So we want to make an impact here and create positive change. Here we are up on in the energy transition. We and then and then Netherlands in particular. So we’ve been backed by a large pension fund, Netherlands and they also they also would like to help the Dutch energy transition. It’s a specific thing. For them, so for us, that’s that’s also important
David Hunt 20:05
as a European bias. Yeah, yeah, I understand. I think one of the also one of the huge benefits, Nick, that, you know, clearly there are people like yourself or nor the other mentors and people involved in the programmes from which there’s a great deal of learning, but I also think the founders will benefit greatly from the peer discussion in a peer to peer discussions, how many companies do you typically have on on a programme?
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 20:30
So it’s a maximum of 10, but then also be less. So we, we we generally have anywhere in between seven and 10. Following selection days, but but we are also now considering smaller, smaller batches and doing more than one time per year. Okay. So it can also be a smaller batch. But per year, it’s, it’s, it’s still the aim is 10.
David Hunt 21:05
Okay, so again, there’s that opportunity to collaborate with peers who are going through a similar process, if you like, or a similar stage of, of evolution. So what in terms of qualification? Nick, you’ve touched on, obviously, a couple of factors, but for for people who are interested or think that they could benefit from joining the Rockstar energy accelerator? What’s the process that the criteria is there? I guess there must be some kind of panel or some filtering process, how do you engage with and how do people you know, join the programme or at least seek to during the programme?
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 21:45
Yeah. So so we do do things I mean, we have our own scouting force to do to to look for the best startups, but we also get a lot of inbound leads. And I think the most important is to segment if the segment is right for us. So we are we are focused on the digitalization of, of the energy, energy sector and, and the energy transition in particular, and there’s, of course, several sub segments that that have caught our eye. I think if I look at, for example, the mobility markets, you touched upon it earlier in this in this podcast, we see a lot of potential. We also have three, three out of the 10 companies where we made the first investments also come from the Evie sector. Right. And I mean, there’s there’s trucks, there’s cars, shipping has our has our interest, I think a lot of a lot of impact still needs to happen in that segment, which is very, very, very much less regulated than the electric, electric car market, for example. Yeah. So so so those are specific segments where we, where we are looking at, but there’s also buildings, I mean, buildings and construction market, there’s there’s a lot of pollution and an energy waste. We happening in those markets, and there’s still a lot of potential for for startups to do to to have interesting business models to make an impact there and helping the energy transition. Yeah, yeah, if I. But but but also energy storage is important. And I think energy storage also comes goes back into, into to several several segments, ranging from simply the grids that we have, but also in decentralising energy systems. Yeah,
David Hunt 24:03
yeah. I think that’s one of the beauties of the sector. There are so many parts of it. And there’s a lot of convergence, of course, happening particularly around the digitalization of energy and mobility. And there are so many opportunities. And I think you touched on a really interesting thing, then the previous podcast, I think two podcasts ago, we were talking with Greg Smith is from fifth wall, a VC that specialises in purely the built environment and it was just really interesting to hear so much, how much of an impact in terms of a carbon impact the construction and the built environment has and there are so many needs both physical and digital, of how we can improve the carbon efficiency of buildings and and of course, the Board of smart cities. So it’s interesting that you’re you’re very active in that space. Now we will add on the episode page Nic links to people if they want to explore further or apply to join the the new cohort which closes in September, but roughly what would that look Like a process to know someone say if I’ve got a SaaS business that’s addressing some of these issues and think actually, we could benefit from this, what would be the typical process to joining the programme.
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 25:11
So send a mail to me, or to do to one of my, my colleagues, I think we were quite active, either identify or websites, you can find the right person find LinkedIn, I think, I think you can, can can apply. And we will, we will then be in touch and look, whether there’s a fit. Based on an initial assessment that is done here at dropside. Internally, we send out invites to the selection days. And then there’s a slew the selection days, it takes about a week, okay. And it’s, it’s intense, also also for us, so I won’t get a lot of sleeping that week,
Unknown Speaker 26:02
we will have,
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 26:04
we will, we will then add those selection days, connect the storage that that get an invite, and that is a maximum 25 startups, right with with a lot of people from our ecosystem, also to get their responses on the on the pitches and on the teams. And on wetter winter, it’s a good fit with us. And at the same time, we will also do due diligence, legal financial, and most importantly, there’s a lot of sessions with a jury selection jury selection committee. I’m also part of that. And there’s several people from the investment industry, but also former entrepreneurs and an entrepreneur that that that were part last year, right. And we we intend to do something similar. And they in the end make a rating out of all the startups. And after that, we decide where we will make offers. Okay,
David Hunt 27:13
okay, we’re certainly on the SN episode page will point to the website, which is specific to this particular cohort and fund of course, we’ll put links to yourself, Nick and to rockstart. In general, I think what’s really interesting, perhaps we could touch on, I think it you know, we’ve touched on a bit of what clearly what the startup gets from being involved in an accelerator like this, those introductions, that the funding the collaboration opportunities, but clearly, all things good things are a two way process. What do you expect from the founders of the companies who are on the platform? What What, what can they look forward to, in terms of expectations from, from those from your side, in terms of what you expect for companies who are on the programme,
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 27:59
while we expect a team that that’s, that that is active in the participation of, of the programme, of course, and is open to the ideas of, of the ecosystem partners, where we where we connect them to. So it’s a lot of people business. And at the same time, what what we hope to see is that the right connections can be made, and that there is a fit with the startup and with the energy sector and our, in our, in our in our ecosystem, and that they, they develop also well in, in how they present themselves mazhab to an outside community. So so at the nearing the end of the programme of the six months, there’s also the demo day at the concepts that is familiar with with most people. And there we we hope that the startup and the startup team, because they’re doing it in the end, is ready to really go out to the to the market and present themselves in a manner that’s Yeah, that everybody wants to work with them. So they need to get into the right mindset, that in the short period, they get ready for that? Yeah,
David Hunt 29:29
yeah, I think that’s one of the again, key factors that I’m sure will happen and support on the programme is that support on pitching both to VCs and investors, but also pitching into potential strategic partners and customers and a lot of that support, but it’s something you really have to throw yourself into, I guess from a from a funding point of view, which hopefully as most entrepreneurs are already unable to do that. But certainly, again, you’ve got to, I think work hard to take advantage of all the support they’re likely to get during the programme.
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 30:00
Indeed. And that that’s what what it’s about, I think.
David Hunt 30:04
Yeah, so what I’ll do actually, in the episode page, I’ll revert back to the podcast episode with Simon Bushnell from sim power, because you’ll see a little bit of the business of some power, the type of business that it is. But importantly, we do talk quite a bit about what he gained from going through the rock star programme. So it’ll be good. If you are an entrepreneur, if you are thinking of applying to to this particular cohort to listen and see what Simon has to say as well. Of course, taking on board what what Nick’s told us today, I just can’t overemphasise the benefit of joining a new cohort like this, where you have so many inputs and so much learning to be had. We all know that. It’s great to learn from mistakes, but think it’s even better to learn from the mistakes and successes of others because we don’t have to make some money yourself. And clearly, there’s a lot of wisdom, a lot of grey hairs and a lot of previous experience that will be involved in the workshops and the the mentoring programmes that you’ve mentioned, Nick, super, what are some thanks very much for giving us that insight into the programme. So we’ll put point all the links to everybody so they can get involved if they would like to, certainly from the people I know who’ve been not assignment, but from others I’ve known who’ve been through the programme with rockstart, they’ve benefited hugely from that. And accelerators and incubators generally are a great platform to to really get a lot of learning and as she said, dense and condensed, condensed period of time. So thanks for sharing that, I hope that you get a great bunch of applications and we see lack of sim power and others people coming out the other side and equipped to go on and challenge the world. And we can all accelerate. And I should say this, they can all make an impact on on the challenges we have from from a climate and from a carbon perspective.
Nick Stokman, Rockstart 31:53
Perfect. And thanks to do houses this podcast and indeed, I hope that a lot of startups will, will hear this from from what I said the storage industry to the smart grids to to carbon carbon solutions. Because those are markets that we really look at. Because we have renewable energy production. We have the energy supply optimization. We’ve got electric mobility, ongoing, I mean, those those are just just a handful of the segments were broader than that. But those are a handful of the segments that we really we focus on and we don’t see all companies ourselves we have a good scouting apparatus. But if company from the from the segment knows us. We’d love to hear from you. And I’d love to
David Hunt 33:01
perhaps work with you. Perfect. Okay, what doesn’t reach out to Nick directly so the context of any episode page and good luck with your own growth and development and good luck to all those who make it onto the rock star programme. Thanks so much for your time and thanks as well, David