Five MIM students share their journey of winning the Hoffmann Institute-sponsored Social Impact Prize in the bi-annual INSEAD Venture Competition.
In spite of lesser professional experience compared to their MBA, and EMBA counterparts, the Switch-E team of five MIM22 students (Carl Lackmann, Niklas Rudolf, Marie-Clara Schwab, Sibylle Soers, and Yuk Chuen David Young) were the grateful winners of the Social Impact Prize in the finals of the 43rdINSEAD Venture Competition.
Bound by their passion for entrepreneurship and social impact, Switch-E discovered the energy industry, accountable for three quarters of total global emissions, is by far the biggest driver of greenhouse gases. By now, it's clear to almost everyone – governments, businesses and societies – that change needs to happen. By addressing the problems in this industry, it can catalyse change and lead to a larger social and environmental impact. Switch-E has therefore made it its mission to end the use of environmentally harmful peaking power plants, and to accelerate the energy transition.
To accomplish this, they developed an app that sends notifications to app users at specific times - whenever there is a large load on the electricity grid - urging them to reduce their electricity consumption during those periods. If users participate in their so-called “SwitchTimes” and reduce their electricity consumption, they are rewarded accordingly with virtual coins in the app. These coins can be converted into real money or eventually donated to social and environmental projects. Through weekly challenges and group efforts, people can collect coins together whilst making saving electricity a fun and interactive activity.
In this way, they enable individual households to form communities to fight climate change while reducing the financial burden of their electricity bills. With an estimated 800,000 tonnes of CO2 saved per year by 2026 and up to €300 that an individual household can earn per year, Switch-E’s impact can be substantial.
Being well aware of their limited experience and the challenge it could pose, the team made the decision to leverage and interact with competent advisors from the get-go, in order to hone their ideas, and project. In their weekly meetings with mentor Ben Ling, they found their idea being tested, stretched and were posed questions on how it could be improved for the competition. Additionally, it was here that the Switch-E team witnessed the enthusiastic and collaborative INSEAD spirit! Upon hearing their idea, a fellow student connected Switch-E to his father, who happened to be an expert in the field, with the team eventually adding him to their Advisory Board for industry guidance and expert knowledge.
Another challenge faced the team – given their strategic advisors had considerable resources in Germany, they had planned their project around starting the business in the same country. However, a few days before the submission of their venture plan, they realized the infrastructural conditions to set up base in Germany were not ready at all. Short on time and not leaving anything to chance, the team conducted a comprehensive market analysis for every European market, comparing them for their attractiveness in relation to the implementation of their idea, and eventually selecting the Netherlands as the best place for market entry.
Day-by-day, their idea came to life and became tangible in their first prototype. In the near future they plan to launch a pilot project with a utility company and develop a market-ready app. Though they still have an arduous road ahead on their entrepreneurial journey, their go-getter spirit and passion will guide them towards progress. Wanting to share a message for fellow budding entrepreneurs, and for prospective participants, Switch E said, “Do it! The Journey is worth every hour of work. Be confident about your strengths, address your weaknesses carefully, get creative, and never give up. We look forward to seeing the next great ideas from the 44th IVC!”
At the Hoffmann Institute, we also look forward to the next INSEAD Venture Competition to continue supporting such entrepreneurial teams that personify business as a force for good, by putting their learning into practice to develop solutions to address global social and environmental issues.
Support and find out more about the Switch E app on their website.
The INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC) is the flagship entrepreneurship experience for all current degree programme participants. This twice a year event represents a natural and exciting step in the development of INSEAD entrepreneurial students’ ventures, allowing them to pitch their start-up concept and business model. Throughout the multi-stage competition, students are immersed in a supportive yet rigorous environment to develop and showcase their venture ideas. Through extensive coaching and feedback from seasoned entrepreneurs and investors, participants gain valuable knowledge and experience on how to launch a start-up.