“There’s only one ride that interests me – the incredible thrill ride of taking over the world!”
Jordan Brompton, CMO and co-founder of myenergi, explains how a conversation between her and Lee Sutton, CEO and co-founder of myenergi, a renewable energy technology company, led to becoming no. 9 in The Sunday Times 100.
As one of the world’s fastest-growing renewable energy technology companies, it’s sometimes easy to forget where it all started and just how far we’ve come. After all, if you told Lee and I when we founded the business in 2016 that we’d have employed our 400th team member, launched our fourth product, shipped our 400,000th unit and opened subsidiaries all over the world in just a few short years, we’d probably have just laughed! Indeed, looking back to the early days of soldering products by hand and shipping them from the local Post Office, our journey really does seem unbelievable.
Yet thanks to passion, persistence, dedication and a real determination to leave the planet in a better place than how we found it, myenergi is fast becoming a household brand, known the world over for technology innovation, engineering excellence and – most of all – a commitment to leading the renewable energy industry. Our products are helping thousands of users to embrace energy independence, reduce reliance on mains supply and minimise their environmental impact through the use of renewable energy.
But this isn’t about us. The continued global rise of myenergi is down to each and every team member, supplier, investor and supporter that has joined us for the journey. Without you, Lee and I would still be sat at square one, dreaming up new ways – as Pinky and the Brain, our alter egos, would say – to “try to take over the world.”
We’ve loved every second – and we think our journey has only just begun. But while we can look back on the past few years with fondness, setting up a business from scratch hasn’t been an easy ride. There have been ups and downs, tears and tribulations, setbacks and sleepless nights, supply chain woes and unexpected curveballs no-one could have predicted. Occasionally, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. At other times, it felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders.
But through it all, we’ve remained focused on our dream. A dream of changing the world, one day at a time. Ever wondered how it all came about? Take a seat, grab a coffee and read on…
A moment of madness?
Rather than a fairytale story dreamt up in a shiny glass city-centre skyscraper, the idea behind myenergi came from a conversation over a bottle of wine in Lee’s living room. He couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a product on the market that allowed him to charge his EV from the solar PV panels installed on his house. Was it possible? Was it practical? Were there hundreds of zero-emission motorists out there all feeling the same way?
Rather than undertaking years of market research and spending millions of dollars on focus groups, we just went on Google. We couldn’t find any competitor products, that were using renewable energy, past the end of page two, so had the madcap idea of teaming up to solve the problem – based on nothing more than gut feel alone.
A talented electrical engineer, Lee had previously run a number of successful renewable energy tech companies. He had the skillset to create the product, while I had the sustainability network and marketing experience to build the brand. It seemed the perfect partnership and we set out on a journey to take the renewable energy sector by storm.
But rather than smooth sailing, founding such a specialist start-up business was a rude awakening. Having started with nothing except for our life savings, finances were tight. Really tight. The first product prototype took almost a year to develop and, by this point, the money had all but run out.
To keep our dream alive, we ran a crowdfunding round online. We needed £40,000 to keep afloat but raised just £10,000. It was heart-breaking. A few people seemed to like the idea, but most didn’t believe in the mass market appeal. After all, it was mostly just early adopters driving first generation EVs in 2016. More importantly, it didn’t seem that anyone was interested in installing their own renewable energy source such as solar panels, seeing as the feed-in tariff had been cut a few years previously.
Had we rushed into things and risked it all on a moment of madness? We weren’t sure. EVs were uncool, renewables were unpopular – looking back, starting the business simply didn’t add up! By this point, the future seemed pretty bleak. We were out of money and we were running out of time. We believed in what we were trying to achieve, but needed a miracle to take things to the next level.
To make matters worse, my marketing budget was zero and there didn’t seem a simple way to get the brand out there to the mass market. I was reaching out to old contacts on LinkedIn in the hope of making something, anything, happen.
A truly unforgettable trip
The turning point came when one of our first customers and industry friends, Jonathan Porterfield, contacted me about a trade event taking place on the Orkney Islands. TV personality Robert Llewellyn (who was really into renewable energy and had just started a small channel on YouTube – Fully Charged) was going to be there and it seemed the perfect opportunity to get some feedback on what we’d spent so long creating.
We both decided this would be a great opportunity and that I should attend. We agreed that I should take his first generation Nissan Leaf. It set the tone of what we were trying to achieve – I couldn’t turn up in a dirty diesel, we wanted to really live our brand.
So, I set out on what turned out to be the most important, but most challenging trip of my life. Leaving the office, I felt like I was embarking on an adventure, with enticing dreams of what exciting opportunities were to come. Instead, I ran out of charge. Twice.
After all, the UK’s EV infrastructure was in its early days. From Lincolnshire, the first public location I could charge at was so far away that I had to roll in on 0% battery. Obviously, the charger wasn’t working. I spent hours on the phone to try and get it fixed, as well as to find alternatives, but by this point I was so late that I’d missed my ferry.
By this point I just wanted to go home, but pressed on and managed to get on the next crossing to Orkney.
It just so happened that Robert Llewellyn himself was on that ferry, who was the first to console a fellow budding EV entrepreneur having gone through the journey from hell.
We spoke for the whole crossing and got on famously. After the trade show finished, he asked if he could film a ‘behind the scenes’ episode on the zappi and – from that day on – the phone began to ring.
Ditching the Christmas party early
We were growing organically, but progress was slow. We were still soldering by hand in our countryside office and sending out zappi units at the local Post Office. We needed a significant capital injection to take things to the next level and so set about building a network of possible investors.
Thanks to growing interest, our entrepreneurial spirit, and the impact of Fully Charged, we started to catch the attention of the finance community. A few of these funds wanted to buy our business for a pittance, but some really saw the long-term potential. Experienced financiers Sir Terry Leahy and Bill Currie were two of the latter and we were invited to their Liverpool offices to pitch our case.
The email came through when Lee and I were halfway through our Christmas party, so we left early, having already enjoyed a festive fizz or two, to work on our presentation. Our business was growing and I knew we had a chance to share our dream, but neither of us had much experience with sourcing investment or best practice business fundraising.
We drove to Liverpool with our business plan in hand, rapping and planning all the way, perfecting our pitch and psyching ourselves up. Our lack of experience in this sort of raise meant we low balled ourselves by only asking for £150k. Looking back, it wouldn’t have touched the sides.
Sir Terry and Bill were both blown away by our story so far, and were committed to putting the money in. They just asked us to go away and be more ambitious with our ask. We came back and gave the pitch of our lives. Right there, on the spot, we were offered the investment – it felt like Dragon’s Den!
I remember walking out of the office, getting into the lift, the doors closing, then literally jumping and dancing with excitement. We’d raised £1.8m. It was truly a career-defining moment; I’d never seen that kind of money before in my life! It was miles away from the small start-up business we’d been developing.
I realised, almost immediately, that what we were doing wasn’t just a clever idea, but a business opportunity that had the legs to go global. It’s such an important memory and I remember absolutely every detail. From what I was wearing and the smell of the room, to how I was feeling and the colour of the walls. The feeling was indescribable.
It might sound cliché, but the rest, as they say, is history. In the few years since, our business has grown from a team of two to staff numbers in excess of 400. There are now more than 3,000 approved zappi installers in the UK alone, while more than 400,000 myenergi products have been shipped worldwide. Over the past three years, myenergi has seen an average annual growth of more than 180%, while subsidiaries have been opened in Germany, Ireland, Australia and the Netherlands along the way.
The team has relocated from our small countryside workshop to a purpose-built eco facility in Stallingborough, where work is already well underway to add a 66,000 sq ft production facility to the growing site. Once complete, the development will see myenergi’s entire UK operations housed in a single, central location, providing the perfect platform to further increase production output and further invest in our market-leading renewable energy product portfolio.
While we’re best known for our EV charger, the world’s first charger capable of charging using renewable energy, we’ve since unveiled a series of other innovative products, including eddi, a clever device that diverts surplus renewable energy to domestic heating systems; harvi, an energy monitoring wireless sensor that allows products to be installed without wiring a direct CT clamp; and libbi, a smart home battery solution that helps householders to prevent the unnecessary export of renewable energy.
Each product is designed with a commitment to circularity and a vision of sustainability for generations to come. Indeed, we’re passionate about providing the technologies to make eco-smart home management simple and achievable, thus accelerating the societal transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and the zero-carbon world of tomorrow.
The five-year goal is to become the go-to household name for innovative, pioneering eco-smart renewable energy technologies – used, respected and trusted by homeowners worldwide. The strategy to achieve this ambition is to build a strong foundation, in preparation to further expand internationally, with a major focus on the opportunities presented by the US marketplace.
We’re proud to have brought a fresh approach to renewable energy tech. While we pride ourselves on being innovative in every sense of the word – disrupting a hugely competitive market and providing a fresh approach that drives, rather than follows – the entrepreneurial spirit that took the first product to market is still alive today.
“Rather than just another technology business, myenergi is a pioneer. A pioneer of new ideas and a pioneer of a better future for us all.”
While I stand here looking at what we’ve collectively created, I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. The story is enough to make you laugh, cry and really appreciate the tenacity of sustainability start-ups. Most importantly, though, the story is just beginning.