'We won't let Brexit ruin our growth plans'
The founder of a smart electric vehicle charging start-up is adamant that he won’t allow Brexit to get in the way of the firm’s growth plans.
David Simpson is technical director at London-based Andersen EV, which manufactures stylish chargepoints for the home and has just begun selling into Europe.
He founded the company with CEO Jerome Faissat in 2015, a year before the EU referendum. Britain could potentially leave the European Union with no deal at the end of this week.
“Brexit is an unfortunate distraction and I’d rather stay in, but as an entrepreneur it doesn’t stand in your way,” Simpson told BusinessCloud. “People who aren’t in business probably think it’s more of an issue than it is.
“I’ve sold products all around the world: modern couriers are very efficient at shipping stuff around the globe. The risk for us really is more around currency variation.
“Even though we manufacture in the UK, our raw materials will go up a lot if the pound becomes weaker, which it has done. But it can work both ways.”
Simpson’s first business was selling specialist PCs before he started a venture manufacturing media servers for luxury yachts. “We won awards and sold to clients all over the world, but that business failed because the technology did too much,” he reflected.
“I’ve learned that if it does too much, there are too many variables so you can't scale your business model.”
He followed Evolve Media with a more successful electric vehicle charging software business, which he sold to General Motors for half a million pounds, before teaming up with Frenchman Faissat.
Andersen manufactures state-of-the-art charging units which allow the user to control, monitor and manage the process from a mobile or laptop via the free Kønnect app.
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Available on Android and iOS, Kønnect gives information on charging status, live energy usage, charge cost and time until fully charged. It also allows remote locking and unlocking of the Scandinavian-inspired units, which are available in a range of stylish finishes from £850, and can be connected to solar panels and power walls.
“A chargepoint isn’t a car accessory – it's an architecture accessory,” explained Simpson. “It should be very discreet and built to last.
“It is also potentially one of the most powerful things in your home. As a society we have to be much more ‘energy smart’ and manage the peaks and troughs.
“That's the real power behind smart charging: doing it when it’s more efficient for yourself and the network as a whole.
“The future is adaptive charging, when your charge levels are adapted dynamically using certain algorithms and rules.”
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The duo took inspiration from Ikea and Mini in creating a highly customisable product where customers buy various components and click them together.
“With technology simplicity is really important: this way, you can sell a thousand very easily rather than taking on too much internal expense [for a few bespoke products],” said Simpson.
“When we first started, if you wanted Malmo Blue with a Cotswold Oak front, that was a factory order but it isn’t any more because out warehouse has a thousand cores in stock and a big section of boxes with oak fronts and blue sides and we just ship the parts.
“It’s much more scalable for an international market.”
Andersen raised £750,000 in a seed funding round on Crowdcube which attracted 901 investors including senior executives in the car industry, and is raising a Series A round this year.
“One of our non-exec directors is the ex-chairman of Nissan in Europe,” Simpson revealed. “We’ve also been backed by the ex-chief executive of Credit Suisse, who’s got a Tesla and had a bad experience with his chargepoint. They understand that EV is going to be a big market.
“We’re in conversations with a luxury car manufacturer about supplying them with our products.”
With the government promising to scrap the production of petrol and diesel cars in this country by 2040, there will be more than a million electric vehicles in use by 2020.
A total of 100,000 EV charging points will be needed by then, but there are currently only 16,500 public points in the UK – a great opportunity for Andersen, which Simpson says is plotting national expansion this year. It has sold 475 units to date and has been growing sales 25 per cent month on month.
However it has just started selling into Belgium, France and Norway and considers the European market paramount to its future.
“By 2021 we are forecasting 21,000 units a year across Europe – one and a half per cent of the market,” said Simpson.
The company employs 20 people, a mixture of full-time staff and contractors, which it expects to grow to 120 by 2021.