Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Steve O'Connor, CEO of Flick Electric Co.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
Flick Electric Co gives New Zealanders access to the wholesale price of electricity direct from the spot market. We are the first electricity providers to give customers a price signal that empowers them to choose the price they want to pay, for the things they want to do.
We pass on all of the costs of getting power to a customer’s place, without any mark-up — generation, distribution, transmission and metering — then charge a separate fee to service them as their retailer. This means our customers always pay the true cost of power and get complete transparency about who they are paying, for what.
Our proprietary digital tools, all of which were built by tech and UX experts in our home base Wellington, help customers optimise our model, and our exciting product roadmap will make the Flick experience even better.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
We use agile methodology to move fast – it’s a discipline I had a lot of experience with when I ran Wellington’s startup incubator, Creative HQ. It’s been just over two years since our very first meeting about the germ of an idea, and now we have a totally unique operating system, proprietary customer tools, and 5000 customers saving on average 19% on their power bills. We’ve had strong investment in the business that’s enabled us to work at speed – a combination of founder sweat and capital, and supportive and strategic external investors. We’re going through our B Round at the moment, which will really help us accelerate.
What's the biggest challenge facing your business?
Getting New Zealanders to expect more from their power company. Consumers are frustrated by years of price rises and a lack of choice and control, and as a result are really disillusioned with electricity retailers. We need to convince consumers to re-engage with their electricity purchase, and we do that by focusing on the value we create for them, not the category we’re in. We describe ourselves as a digital business not a utility retailer, and we put the customer front and centre in everything we do.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
Our model is different from our competitors in every single way; but aside from the inherent transparency of our model, and the money customers save with us, I think the big drawcard is how we interact with customers. We have the best customer satisfaction among all electricity retailers in New Zealand (96%) and that drives amazing word-of-mouth. We engage with customers often, and in really meaningful ways, which wasn’t something we necessarily planned it’s just sprung from the culture of the business.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Right now I’d struggle without access to Salesforce1. While I’m on the move I can see real-time exactly what’s happening in our business; how our marketing is performing, our acquisition results, and key business and customer metrics. Because we’re trying lots of new things, it can be a bit addictive, following the results and learning what’s working and what’s not.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
We’re lucky to be part of an incredibly supportive and collaborative startup environment here in Wellington, New Zealand. Everyone is always keen to share their experiences and offer advice. The best piece of advice has been that in order to succeed in business, make customer value your reason for being and keep your customers at the forefront of all your decisions. To succeed personally, do what you love.
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