- Founders: Vassil Vassilev, Julien Marcenac, and Krasimir Kolev
- Founded in: 2019
- Employees: 7
- Money raised: 500 000 euro
- Ultimate goal: Support clients' growth because of the belief that green energy is both sustainable and competitive.
Renewable energy is becoming more and more important, especially now that it is so important for the green transition of Europe. Yet managing data and decision-making can often be tough for producers and suppliers of energy. Several young people believe that the green energy economy is both sustainable and competitive. Vassil Vassilev, Julien Marcenac, and Krasimir Kolev set up TokWise, a company providing innovative software that maximizes renewable energy value on short-term markers and builds its competitive market advantage by capturing additional revenue opportunities with a scalable economic model. In today’s episode of the start-up of the day series, Vassil Vassilev talks about TokWise, the hardships, and the wins on the way to establishing a company.
What do you actually do at TokWise?
“Simply said, we enable the green energy companies to operate on the energy market. TokWise is a tech company developing solutions for the sustainable integration of renewable energy in the market. It is a cloud-based platform. We have developed software that supports our clients in the execution of their commercial strategies and daily operations with advanced technologies and automation. Our product gives a market advantage to renewable producers, green energy suppliers, and renewable aggregators.”
Which markets are you targeting?
“Our target market isn’t the Bulgarian one because it is too small, and it is still not developed enough. Many of the Bulgarian markets regardless of whether they are about energy or something else, are too politically connected. This is a reason why the Bulgarian market isn’t our focus. But the market itself is constantly changing. We already have two Bulgarian clients, and we are open to others. But our goal is the Western European market such as Germany, and Austria. We have clients in Austria, Poland, and Romania. We want to continue developing in the German-speaking markets, the UK, and Spain.”
How hard was it to find funding?
“We started out TokWise with our own resources. After that, we expanded our network to friends and people we knew, and business angels. This was our funding for the first year. Last year Vitosha Ventures, of the Fund of Funds (FMFIB) invested in our business, as did InnoEnergy. This is a public-private partnership with the aim of accelerating the energy transition, by investing EU funds in energy innovations in Europe. At the moment, the money that we have received is something like 600.000 euros. Right now we are in a process of a new round, and we are actively looking for funding to make our presence in the German-speaking markets more prominent. We would like to hire sales staff there which could help us find new clients and scale our work for the clients we already have.”
What other difficulties did you have on the way?
“There are two things. The first one is something that certain people see as a disadvantage. Initially, the three of us as co-founders did not have energy domain knowledge. Our previous jobs were not in the energy sector. Some of the investors see this as a disadvantage. But I see this as something positive because we are not burdened by rules imposed by the market or other players. This means that our minds are free and aren’t limited. Maybe this has been a difficulty because the lack of this domain knowledge, in the beginning, made us rely on our clients to further develop our product.
The directions in which we were developing our product were completely based on interviews we did with potential clients. This gave us an idea of which direction to develop our product in.
Something that is more technical is that our services and solutions rely heavily on AI and this is something relatively new for the sector. The energy market has a lot of experienced people. But their focus is more on statistical methods and algorithms for forecasting market movement. We work towards including Machine Learning and we believe that this will lead us to success. We have already seen positive results. Doing something new and innovative on the market is a challenge but also a big opportunity that should give us an edge.”
Looking back to 2019, what makes you really happy?
The team that we managed to assemble at TokWise is what makes me really happy. I believe we are a small team in which we have a very good mix of different skills, determination, and dedication. In addition to this, being a small team each of us has to do a lot of things and cope with different problems. This is happening in a very successful way. So far, this is our biggest achievement.
From a business perspective, I believe that our first German clients are a big achievement. They opened many different doors for us. It is way easier to contact a potential client when you have a real use case and performance results that you can show and prove. Then, it is way easier to reach the people. It is very difficult when you’re a small, unknown company that still doesn’t have a track record. Starting work with our first German client is a very important milestone for us.
Where do you see TokWise in five years?
“I would be happy to expand our team more than 10 times, so basically having at least 100 people in the next five years.
We want to be the go-to solution and a recognizable name in the expanding renewable markets like the DACH region or Iberia. We would like to launch operations in currently developing markets like in South-Eastern Europe. There we see a huge potential and an increasing number of new green projects.
Our team truly believes that the future would be green, decentralized, and smart. We are driven to accelerate this transition.”
What would you advise people who want to start up a company in Bulgaria?
“I would say that they have to focus completely on the idea that they want to develop. They shouldn’t be doing it in between other things because there are not such great examples around me. This means that they have very good ideas which are destroyed in the beginning because the person doesn’t have enough time to dedicate. Believing in an idea means that you have to be 100 percent dedicated and try no matter what. Even if it doesn’t work out this is a precious experience that I am sure the person or team will bring in their future. Of course, time is essential.
From there on, I believe that Bulgaria and especially in the past years is a very good place for bootstrapping a start-up. There is funding for good ideas and a great talent pool. Just be persistent and be 100 percent in!”