Interview with René Savelsberg, Managing Director and CEO, SET Ventures, The Netherlands

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We caught up with René, Managing Director and CEO, SET Ventures, where he’s responsible for the strategy and overall operations of the SET Funds. His focus is on companies in the areas of smart grid, energy efficiency, transportation and infrastructure. In our conversation, he shared with us his thoughts on the transitioning energy sector and how digital technology can accelerate that.

  1. Could you share something about yourself with our readers?

I was lucky to have spent 10 years at a Corporate Venturing unit. A couple of things became clear to me. The two most important ones are:

– Corporates should not invest directly into ‘early stage’ companies. Being a shareholder in a company that takes years before it creates meaningful value for any Corporate is not a wise use of corporate resources (late stage is a different ball game).

– Investing in areas that really make an impact on how we will be able to continue to live on this earth as human beings (the planet will survive, humans won’t) is of upmost importance.

Hence, I am even more lucky to contribute to that a little with the EUR 100M we have under management at SET Ventures.

  1. Could you give our readers a quick teaser on what you will be speaking at the show?

Energy utilities are challenged because the transition in their sector is not only about going from ‘central fossil fueled production of energy’ to ‘decentral renewable generation of electricity’, but foremost changing from ‘commodity delivery’ to ‘customer service’. This requires a cultural change at these last organizations plus a complete overhaul of their IT capabilities. With continued advances in the cost down of computing power, data storage and the ubiquitous availability of (cheap) communication new utilities (start-ups, scale-ups) are on the rise to take major positions in this market. Blockchain is one of these ingredient technologies that further accelerate the energy sector to a virtual world where energy is locally generated and shared regionally or even globally in the future.

  1. Why is this topic close to your heart?

Everything that can accelerate the transition in the energy sector is welcome. Energy is the largest sector in the world, collectively we are continuously in need for more (evenly distributed) energy and the sector is changing dramatically: an exciting place to be active as an investor supporting new entrepreneurial initiatives. The fact that digital technology is playing such a big role in the transition makes even more interesting as at the core the business models are changing in the energy sector. This all at an accelerated pace …

  1. What do you think are the key challenges in the transitioning energy sector?

Change is not easy. Change will not happen everywhere in the same manner. Renewable forms of energy generation will geographically differ due to local circumstances, like availability of e.g. sun, wind, hydro and geothermal and regulatory situations. Maneuvering through this extensive landscape is no sinecure. The key challenge is whether we can keep momentum. We need to show ‘big’ successes.

  1. Why are you excited to attend the show?

This show offers a great overview of the impact of ICT on several more or less related industries. While all use energy, and thus will be impacted by the transition in the energy sector, each industry has its individual value chain and therefore unique set of opportunities. Understanding this in details is crucial for making sound decisions.

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Rene will be joining us at this year’s TECHX Asia, taking place 6-7 September 2017 in Singapore. As Asia’s leading event on commercial applications of emerging technologies, TECHX will bring together leading minds, entrepreneurs and innovators across the entire spectrum of emerging technologies: IoT, drones, AI, 3D, robotics, data and blockchain.

Find out more and book your tickets here.

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