Hello year 2022, let’s lead the change we wish to see in the world

As we have entered the new year 2022, it’s a perfect time to look back and forward. In this blog I’d like to share with you my thoughts, give insights of Helen Ventures’ recent investments, and reveal some ideas towards the new year. So, please keep reading!

Terhi Vapola

Helen Ventures’ new portfolio companies: LiveEO, Think Outside, &Charge and enspired

During 2021, Helen Ventures has invested in four new startups: LiveEO and &Charge from Germany, Think Outside from Norway and enspired from Austria. Let’s first go through these companies.

LiveEO – and earth observation asset monitoring startup:

The starting point for LiveEO’s business potential is the massive change happening in the satellites and earth observation industry. New satellites are going on orbit and the availability of images is becoming more readily available for commercial use cases. LiveEO analyzes satellite imagery with artificial intelligence to monitor infrastructure grids such as railways, electricity grids or pipelines. Its solution enables the operators of these assets to save operational expenses and improve performance. LiveEO serves tens of grid operators from all over the world as their customers including Deutsche Bahn (Europe’s biggest railway operator), electrical grid operators such as Powerlink (Australia) and multiple E.ON subsidiaries including e.dis, Bayernwerk (Germany), and pipeline operators such as Gascade (Germany).

Currently, the monitoring process for such network assets is scarcely digitized and relies heavily on manual inspection processes, which makes it slow and expensive, and increases the risk for various damages from power outages to wildfires and leakages. LiveEO’s solution increases safety and reliability, decreases operating expenses, and transforms business processes. In total, LiveEO has already analyzed infrastructure grids with a combined length of more than 1 Mio km for some of the largest asset owners in the world.

Helen Ventures co-led the investment round together with btov Partners; other investors include DvH Ventures, Motu Ventures, deep tech investor Andreas Kupke, as well as one of the most renowned investors from the Silicon Valley (who prefers not to announce their name). The Series A investment allows LiveEO to further accelerate the development of their market leading infrastructure monitoring solution as well as their international expansion.

Think Outside – snow and water forecasting for hydropower customers

One of the key assets for balancing the future energy markets is hydropower. Once the amount of wind and solar energy increases, so does the volatility. Therefore, hydropower plays a critical role.

Climate change is expected to significantly increase the variability in the amount of snow and meltwater, which will have a direct impact on the production of hydropower companies. Typically, the production forecasts are complemented with analysis of historical averages for example over the last 30 years. Due to the climate change and the extreme weather patterns it causes, the variation in the amount of snow and meltwater is expected to increase, which makes the historical data modeling increasingly inaccurate or even incorrect. Therefore, there’s a growing need for hydropower operators to have more accurate information on snow water equivalent quantities and snow melt in their catchment area to reliably forecast water volumes and meet the demand for renewable energy.

The Sknow radar and software solution developed by Think Outside provides accurate data of the quantity of water stored in snow. The solution consists of ground radar technology, both stationary and through mobile surveys coupled with satellite data through Think Outside partnerships. The data enables hydropower companies to make factual predictions of the water inflow into their water reservoirs and to optimize the energy production. Through this technology, Think Outside reduces the uncertainty of quantifying the amount of water bound by snow and ice, directly enabling a more precise water volume.

In addition to Helen Ventures, the investors of Think Outside include among others Butterfly Ventures, Techstars and Luminate.

&Charge – customer engagement and loyalty company for e-Mobility sector

Launched in January 2020, &Charge has established the first sustainable loyalty and engagement program for e-Mobility in Europe and has built up a strong community of EV drivers and reputation on the market. Additional services and partnerships have been launched and are currently available in six European markets.

The e-Mobility sector is currently rapidly accelerating and providing exciting opportunities for innovation and growth. When moving from early adopters towards the mass market, we observe a big need in the customer engagement and loyalty applications. &Charge’s solution offers significant advantages for consumers as well as for e-Mobility business users. The differentiated value proposition and the experienced founding team were two key criteria driving our investment.

The investment round was done together with Porsche Ventures, and it allows the Frankfurt-based startup to further accelerate the development of its digital platform and sales in Europe.

enspired – energy trading-as-a-service (TaaS) company

Our most recent investment is enspired, an energy trading-as-a-service company from Austria. Fast adoption of renewable energy will only increase the need for short term electricity trading, and new tools are needed to support this trend. enspired optimizes power generation, storage, and consumption assets on so-called “spot markets” – short-term power exchanges that help to balance supply and demand.

Building new wind and solar parks is only one part of the energy transition equation. Power grids need to be balanced between generation and consumption at all times, and the increasing share of renewables leads to generation that fluctuates with weather and can rarely be predicted in advance with great accuracy. To prevent blackouts, deviations in generation and consumption can be traded on power exchanges, sparing the grid operator from having to take last-minute action.

Spot markets have seen skyrocketing growth over the last few years yet are difficult to understand and hard to enter for most players. enspired’s TaaS (trading as a service) platform not only eliminates entry barriers but promises the most profitable way for its clients to trade flexibility. They are leveraging all available data, taking and executing trading decisions in milliseconds to monetize clients’ flexibility to the fullest while supporting the grid.

In addition to Helen Ventures, the investors in the syndicated round include Emerald Technology Ventures, 360 Capital, EnBW New Ventures and i5invest. The funding round will accelerate the startup's expansion across Europe.

Reflecting back

How was the year 2021 – what were the highlights?

In addition to adding these new portfolio companies, I have to say that my personal highlights have been the face-to-face meetings. After the lockdown and long period of virtual meetings, it felt very special – human – to meet our business partners in person. During the autumn, we met many of our portfolio companies face to face for the first time ever. It was reassuring to notice that people are very much the same as the impression we have had of them over Teams or Zoom. It felt as if we had met a long time ago already.

Also, the events during the autumn were really energizing. One of my special highlights was Ecosummit in Berlin, where I met so many of my energy investor and startup network people in the same go in bright September sunshine at a river terrace. What a beautiful experience! The second event highlight was of course long-awaited Slush here in Helsinki, where in addition to the usual startup and investor meetings, we organized a side event on climate tech and impact investing together with Neste, Climate Fund and Helsinki Partners, and I had a chance to meet with EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel and discuss about the European innovation ecosystem and the venture capital industry.

Full steam ahead

What about 2022 – how does the next year look like for Helen Ventures?

The most important goal for us is to grow our portfolio while providing good support for our existing portfolio companies. We are constantly looking for new startups. We are particularly interested in climate tech, energy tech and e-mobility companies that approach solving the big problems with digital means. The need for having more advanced digital solutions into our sector is higher than ever.

The most important thing for us is, however, that the people behind the startups are world-class and skilled doers who can make the energy transition happen. That’s the bottom line. Not from which country the company is from or what the exact field is but what they believe they can accomplish. These are the entrepreneurs we want to help achieving their goals. Ready to rock and roll!


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