Switchboard is the straightforward API marketplace for energy services
Briefly introduce yourself and the Startup Switchboard to our readers!
We are Estefania Hofmann and Nico Bovelette and are currently founding Switchboard. We are currently both still working at EnBW in our internal incubator, where the idea for our startup was born. Switchboard is the straightforward API marketplace for energy services. These include services developed in-house by EnBW, e.g. generation or consumption forecasts, but also services from our renowned partners in the energy sector. The services can be easily subscribed to on Switchboard via API (programming interface) and integrated into your own value chain.
Why did you decide to start a business?
(Nico): In the last few years I have had a growing desire to start my own company. Through my professional activities and during my master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship at the University of Stuttgart and the HdM Stuttgart, this desire has increased again. The EnBW incubator offered the ideal opportunity and start-up prerequisite for setting up your own start-up. In addition, the topic fits perfectly for me. I firmly believe that the digital future of the energy industry lies in APIs and I am passionate about driving this change.
(Estefania): I got into the Switchboard project more or less by chance as an IT project owner. At first I wasn’t sure if starting a business was really right for me. However, I enjoyed working at Switchboard so much and I noticed that the topic had huge potential. That is why I am now daring to take the step of self-employment with Nico and I am really looking forward to the upcoming trip.
What is the vision behind Switchboard?
We believe that the energy industry is about to change, as is happening in the fintech sector. Large monolithic systems are increasingly being replaced by flexible, modular building blocks. We have talked a lot with startups in the energy sector over the past few months. There has long been a completely different approach to value creation. Startups already act according to the API-First principle. This means that everything that does not affect core value creation should ideally be outsourced. In addition, the energy sector requires, now more than ever, innovations that no single actor can advance alone. Switchboard fits in with these developments by ensuring that companies can concentrate on what is important and not have to develop everything themselves.
From the idea to the start, what have been the biggest challenges so far and how have you financed yourself?
Switchboard is a business model that has to first create a market. A major challenge is to create awareness among customers and partners that Switchboard offers a solution to their problems. In particular, players who have been in the market for a long time have often not yet internalized the advantages of the API principle, which is why some persuasion is required here.
Another challenge is definitely IT. At the beginning we would not have expected the complexity of the API business. Especially when it comes to API standardization, quality assurance and data security, there are definitely hurdles that we still have to overcome.
When it comes to financing, we have so far been fortunate to have EnBW at our side, which enables us to get off to a good start. Nevertheless, we will be on our own two feet from the end of the year and are open to and already in talks with other investors.
Who is Switchboard’s target audience?
Basically, with Switchboard we address every company in the energy industry and related industries that want to outsource certain processes via API. In the first step, we actively address energy startups, as the API-First principle is already anchored here, as mentioned. For the time being we are on the move in the DACH region, but in the future there will be no limits here, also as far as the countries are concerned.
How does Switchboard work? What are the advantages? What makes you different from other providers?
Switchboard offers an API marketplace on which companies can select the API that suits them best (e.g. a generation forecast) and subscribe directly. The subscriptions are divided into packages of different sizes, depending on how many API calls you need. The subscription process is completely digital and automated. After completing the booking process, you will receive the API keys directly, which you can then integrate. All subscribed APIs and the calls still available can be viewed at any time in a dashboard. Of course you can see the documentation of the API in advancen and test the API for free.
Our goal is not only to offer individual APIs, but also to map entire energy industry process chains, which also sets us apart from other providers. Startups and other energy industry companies not only need a forecast API but also, for example, the complete takeover of complex energy industry processes such as market communication, for which a bundle of APIs is required.
Switchboard, where is the way? Where do you see yourself in five years?
We want to be the leading provider of detached energy services in Europe. We also want to be the enabler for new business models in the energy market. On the one hand, this requires strong partners who can provide high-performance services with us. On the other hand, it requires a strong team of developers, energy industry experts and a sales / business development team that always has an ear on the market.
Finally: What 3 tips would you give prospective founders?
Make it easy. Sometimes it doesn’t help to think long and hard about the best course of action. You learn the most when you just get started.
Always talk to customers & get feedback, not just at the beginning.
Do not fall in love with your solution, but with the problem you are solving and do not lose sight of it.
We would like to thank Estefania Hofmann and Nico Bovelette for the interview
Statements by the author and the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors and the publisher