Interview series with Team of Three (To3) - We build a portfolio that reflects the future energy world
As CFO of the innogy Innovation Hub, Jan Lozek is a passionate contributor to the massive transformation of energy. Having innovated for more than 20 years in operations, consulting, strategy and finance, Jan has gained a strong finance and investment profile, extensive and deep expertise of the utility industry and a vast amount of leadership experience.
1. You are the CFO of the innogy Innovation Hub and in this role highly familiar with start-ups as well as Venture Capital Investors. What makes the Innovation Hub unique in the eyes of start-ups?
Every new business idea comes along with huge enthusiasm and high commitment. When a founder decides to start his business, he is strongly convinced that he is working on something valuable. He does everything to make it successful. The same is true for the Innovation Hub. We have a unique vision of the future of energy that we see as a converging system of energy, mobility, smart buildings and human-machine interaction. So we have something in common with the founder, we share a joint purpose and are on the same journey. In our role as VC and Accelerator, we are very focused on creating new business opportunities with them. We follow our vision and each investment we do is like running a huge number of experiments in parallel, which all together build the existing portfolio that reflects the future energy world. We have not seen this anywhere else – it makes us unique. In our daily work, we use all our experiences in the energy industry and activate our whole network, generating our acceleration platform to transform our businesses.
We like to roll up our sleeves every day and support the start-ups in which we are invested in the best possible way. If you are one of our portfolio start-ups, you will not only benefit from our internal resources but also from being part of the portfolio. It is about learning from one another, like building a big jigsaw that only works out if all pieces are in the right place. To make it more concrete, our investments benefit from our geographical spread, existing internal and external networks as well as from one another.
2. How did you decide on this approach to accelerate, invest and scale start-ups together with several partners, experts or investors?
As already mentioned by my colleague Annemie, one of our core beliefs is that success is a meandering path. And this is also how we got to where we are today and how we are structured. In 2015, we started with running small agile projects, learning and experiencing innovation. Since then, we have been on a journey and believe that the current set-up with all the partners mentioned is the right one. On that journey, we started incubating projects and founding our own companies, which were handed over to the innogy core business. Throughout the journey we have learned to focus more and more, and from the beginning until today, we are still investing in the same four focus areas which we believe are crucial to building the future of energy. We set ourselves the challenge of finding those so-called “disruptive” innovations, as our parent company innogy has departments which focus on innovation itself.
3. Why is it attractive for other investors to work with the Hub?
We have a strong, focused portfolio of 50+ companies that is constantly growing. Here, we invest alongside well-known VCs and other investors who value our pragmatic and direct approach of creating value for the start-ups with the focus on generating revenue. We bring in this expertise immediately. Although other investors have a different background and investment target, they value and trust our expertise of 150 years of energy and predicting requirements for an energy future.
4. You have been responsible for the performance and investments of the Hub. You have quite a “traditional” role with your focus on finance and results. What’s special about a CFO’s job in this environment that you would describe as ‘agile’?
My job as CFO starts with people. The challenge for me is to be agile and flexible, whilst providing consistency and reliable numbers. This can only be achieved with the right people and set-up. We decided to focus on quickly understanding performance, as we see this as the basis for any informed decision to be taken afterwards. Implementing such a framework wasn’t easy. We don’t want to “do” business, but instead give everyone a framework that enables them to be successful themselves. Today, with one click, we can look at portfolio performance as well as our internal KPI achievement, and hence, take the right actions.
All of the above can only work if we have the right people in the Innovation Hub who understand the different needs of our tasks. We have colleagues who worked at eBay, PayPal, Skype and RWE in the early days and experts who focus on investments, design thinking and have a thorough understanding of the energy sector.
5. Final point, Jan, a very short elevator speech: why should Venture Capitalists collaborate with the innogy Innovation Hub?
At the innogy Innovation Hub, we work around the clock in a very hands-on way to quickly create additional value by leveraging our innovation ecosystems as well as our profound energy expertise and huge customer base to scale our portfolio companies. This contributes to best in class financial results for start-ups, investors and a better and more sustainable future of energy, mobility and human-machine-interactions.