[Startup Interview] Rense van Dijk, CEO, Woon Duurzaam, The Netherlands
Woon Duurzaam, a Netherlands-based startup, assists customers who are in pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle by providing every homeowner with an affordable energy sustainable home. The CEO Rense van Dijk talks about the startup’s customer-focus approach, tailored packaged technologies and high-end service offering.
Introduce your company
Woon Duurzaam is a Dutch startup whose mission is to provide every homeowner with an affordable energy sustainable home with the expected comfort and without the hassle or frustration.
We make a genuine impact. We save CO2 emissions equaling 60 travels around the world per customer. We enabled our customers to save 300 tonnes of CO2 emissions last year.
We innovate the market for home sustainability with a customer-focused approach, tailored packaged technologies and high-end services. And it works: we are in our second fiscal year and expand at a growth rate of 500% per year.
Who are the founders and what are their professional backgrounds?
Rense van Dijk, Ram van Erkelens, Yuri Pelser and Edwin de Vries.
They all are experienced energy and sustainability professionals.
Rense van Dijk who is the CEO was previously the CEO of Om new energy built up the company and drove the growth to become market leader in the segment. He was also the CEO of Windunie where he built up the organization and led the project development to become the largest NL onshore developer. He is a former project manager in Power Plants.
Ram van Erkelens who handles sales and marketing is a former Commercial coordinator of Om new energy where he achieved sufficient growth to become the market leader in the segment. He was also a Sales manager for solar energy in renewable energy co-operative TexelEnergie and ASA Account Manager for Start People.
Yuri Pelser who is in project and chain management trained in installation technology. He was previously Project Leader, Installation and Sustainability Expert for large housing associations Ymere and de Key. He is a member of the Spring Energy Efficient New Building Steering Group.
Edwin de Vries who deals with Business Development and project management is a serial entrepreneur in renewable energy and other industries. He founded local sustainable energy co-operative Waterland and Sin-gas, a small installation company in sustainable energy technology.
Who are the owners of the company?
The four founders plus InnoEnergy, DOEN Participaties en Mijndomein.
How is your company financed?
The pre seed funding was provided by Rabobank and founder Rense van Dijk; the seed funding by InnoEnergy, DOEN Participaties and Mijndomein.
What industry does your company operate in?
Sustainable installation technology for houses
What would you say are the dynamics that have shaped your industry?
The market for sustainable living is young and at the beginning of its growth curve. Due to various government pushes towards elimination of gas use and the energy transition the market has started to develop. It is not a market for the traditional local installer, though, because the new technologies require much more knowledge to make them work properly. We expect significant growth in the coming years and also significant labour shortages to execute the work.
Why did you start Woon Duurzaam? What opportunities did you see?
´I was extremely motivated to make our 1930s Utrecht family home more sustainable. The experiences on my quest were mainly frustrating.
Night after night, we got stuck in online tools. The requested quotations did not provide sufficient insight into our personal situation. Little or no attention was paid to our needs or to the specific characteristics of the house. The pile of conflicting answers gave us lack of confidence. We postponed the investment. We almost gave up.
I found it hard to swallow that we as a family could not chip in on solving the problems of climate change. Our children regularly asked when we would finally get solar panels and why we hadn't started insulating yet.
I owed them a good explanation. And that was the proverbial drop that flooded the bucket. At that moment I thought "if we don't succeed with all our motivation and resources, how should that be for the rest of the Netherlands or Europe?" It was this question that gave me the last push to go for it, quit my job, and start the research that is the basis on which Woon Duurzaam now stands. Today it's our goal to provide every homeowner with an affordable energy sustainable home without the hassle of frustration.
What problem or problems does your company solve?
We help customers in pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle and that want to save on their energy bill. We provide every homeowner with an affordable energy sustainable home without the hassle of frustration. By putting people first.
By connecting with their needs and helping them to make their houses free of natural gas and, if the customer wishes it, provide for them a worry-free transition to a fully energy-neutral home.
What gives Woon Duurzaam the competitive edge?
We design and realize sustainable solutions with those elements that customers find important. Solution, investment, substantiation, market offer, quality, financing, warranty and customer experience. Based on standards with specific options to optimally meet customer requirements. This gives the customer:
A good, well thought-out integral solution for his specific situation. Focus on the value for the customer and customer demand is paramount
A clear personal perspective of action against climate change
Soberly understandable information
Lower and predictable energy costs
Independence from government taxes and increases in energy prices
Increased home value and future-proofing
Reliable high quality service and products that meet his expectations
Brand independent proposals. (No brand discrimination)
Verifiable and fair propositions and people
Who are your customers?
We have identified two target groups based on our testing and customer acquisition experience. We focus for now on these target groups.
The first target group, clearly visible in the customer base from the start, is the sustainable (green) forerunner. Forerunners are well informed about the environment and consider sustainability very important. They already apply many measures and are open to more because they don't mind sacrificing for a better environment. As a second group the pragmatist has come into the picture. This target group has different characteristics, attitude and behavior than the green forerunner, but is interesting because of its preference for both saving money and the environment.
What does Woon Duurzaam need in order to grow?
An increased customer base. The current Covid-19 crisis changed the market for now. Sales plummeted in March and April 2020. We have introduced new propositions, like lease, to offer to customers who are hesitant to spend money in the current market. We may be seeing some recovery now but it is still a long way back.
What is your growth strategy?
We set the company up for scale. We are elaborating various expansions on existing and new sales channels and we work on standardizing and automating parts of our work to accomodate the growth.
Which markets are you looking to expand to if any?
We aim to expand our presence in The Netherlands and we work on an expansion to other European countries, with the help of our pan-European investor InnoEnergy.
What are your plans for the coming 12 months?
Get back on track of our business plan to come to a conversion of close to 500 houses next year in The Netherlands. Also design a European expansion strategy.
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