Free Electrons Global Energy Accelerator Kicks Off Inaugural Program at swissnex SF

What do you get when you mix 12 energy startups, 8 utilities, and 4 accelerators hailing from 10 countries? Answer: the keys to collaboration for energy innovation in the 21st century.

A New Way of Working

Collaborating to innovate is nothing new. But global collaboration in the utility industry is another matter. The Free Electrons energy accelerator is taking people working in a century-old business model and “colliding” them with people creating the products and business models of tomorrow. The program runs 12 of the best energy startups in the world through three intense accelerator modules with eight utilities in the space of six months, like charged particles in a collider. The first module recently took place at swissnex San Francisco’s innovation hub at Pier 17.

Convening the right people doesn’t create innovation alone, or even collaboration for that matter. It requires people with a unique set of skills to grease the wheels for making deals. Free Electrons global accelerator partner Elemental Excelerator shared their experience and expertise in crafting and facilitating startup-utility “marketplaces” throughout the week that established trust, invited people to think boldly about the future together, and brainstorm a roadmap for success in inking a deal for a pilot contract and/or strategic investment. Local accelerator partner Powerhouse led a day of learning from startup peers and local investors, allowing the Free Electrons startups to share some battle scars and position their offerings for success while growing their networks in the world’s premier innovation region.

Exploiting Scale to Accelerate the Clean Energy Transition Disruption

Utilities have enormous resources from their traditional asset and cash heavy businesses that serve millions of customers across the world. On the other hand, startups may not even have an office and or know if they’ll have enough cash to survive the next month as they quest to grow a customer base for new products. One has what the other needs.

Energy startups in Free Electrons were chosen for their forward-thinking products and services by the eight forward-thinking utilities backing and co-creating the program. During a talk on exponential business models by Singularity University during the SF module, the concept of exponential growth was brought home by a slide showing how lily pads spread over a pond, doubling their area each day. As the lily pads spread, it only becomes apparent that they are taking over the pond once it’s basically too late to do anything about it, around day 27. By day 30, the pond is covered. Applying the metaphor, a number of the utilities listening said that it might be about day 26 or 27 in their industry. The whole purpose of Free Electrons is to ally startups – the disruptors – with utilities, the incumbents, to co-pilot the future energy system since both have important roles to play.

Swiss startup DEPsys, amongst the group of 12, aims to solve the energy challenges of the future through their product GridEye, a true network optimization platform, measuring, monitoring and controlling the low-voltage grid for an efficient integration of renewable energy sources at decentralized injection points. DEPsys supports a future world powered entirely by renewable energy and it is through their smart grid eye platform GridEye that this vision will become a reality.

Michael De Vivo, CEO of DEPsys says: “We are delighted to be part of this great adventure. After several years of dedicated work, this is where things take off. Through this program, DEPsys has the opportunity to work with eight of the most influential utilities in the world and deploy its GridEye solution in very different global environments.”

The next stop for Free Electrons program takes the cohort to Lisbon on 25 June for the second of a total of four modules taking place this year.


San Francisco 30 April – 6 May

Lisbon 25 June – 29 June, 2017

Dublin 29 June – 1 July 2017

Singapore 17 September – 23 September 2017