We spoke with Chris Maclean, co-founder of commercial energy procurement, trading and management platform Open Energy Market.
Maclean is a commercial energy expert with more than 15 years’ industry experience and has dedicated his knowledge to developing tech in a bid to reduce inefficiencies and alleviate some of the challenges facing energy procurement and energy management professionals.
Tell me an interesting fact about yourself.
I started my career as a ‘Mobile Frozen Food Distribution Agent’ (Ice-cream man). For two years I brought happiness, in the form of Mr Whippy’s, to the residents of Camberley, Surrey.
What were you doing before Open Energy Market?
I’ve been in the energy industry since 2005: initially, working for a large supplier in Oxford and then subsequently at a consultancy in London.
My career evolved, taking me from an account manager into procurement risk, and then finally (before I left the consultancy) into the carbon market, which was a huge unknown for most businesses back in 2010/11.
Why did you set up the company in the first place and what is your mission?
In simple terms, I thought I had a really good idea and I didn’t want anyone else to beat me to it. Good technology was lacking in our sector and there was an opportunity to build some proprietary tech that would change the energy-buying landscape, so I took it.
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OEM’s mission statement is to “employ technology and expertise to create a competitive commercial marketplace built on insight and integrity, that delivers a great experience for customers and suppliers”. The combination of technology and knowledge works very well and drives great value for both our customers and suppliers.
My personal goal, my mission, is to keep innovating, keep advancing the technology and keep driving our sector into the 21st century.
In a market dominated by energy giants, where do you sit and how do you differ from the competition?
In terms of marketplace, Open Energy Market sits between the businesses and the energy giants. We deal with large commercial customers, ensuring they get not only the best prices but also the best procurement strategy through our platform. As our platform benefits both parties, we’re not in competition with the energy giants.
Our approach is to build technology that replaces all the manual processes inherent in our sector. Ultimately, that’s what sets us aside from our competitors. Our customers benefit from the technical approach by being able to take more control; get more relevant, live, insight; and have more confidence in their decision making.
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You raised £3m in February. What was the fundraising process like?
Exciting, interesting and a bit stressful! I think most people refer to fundraising as an emotional rollercoaster, I’m not any different. We employed a good corporate finance team, who helped us throughout and we ended up with a number of good offers on the table.
In the end, we made an excellent decision to go with Calculus Capital, and the rest is history. Our EIS application sat with HMRC for what seemed like an eternity and then dragged on over Christmas as well, which provided quite a lot of anxiety and frustration at the wrong time of the year! All in all, the process was good and it was humbling to get a number of good offers.
You recently struck a partnership with Cool Earth. Explain the nature of the partnership and what you hope to achieve?
I’m extremely passionate about Cool Earth, I think it’s an excellent charity. The way they front their approach with education and empowerment really resonates with me and actually mirrors how we’re engaging our market at OEM (albeit with a slightly different outcome!).
We’ve pledged to protect 1,000 acres of at-risk rainforest in Awajun (north Peru). However, to make it more relevant to our customers, we’re protecting the rainforest through them, matching every square foot of their operations with square feet of rainforest saved. This makes it tangible and relevant to them. It creates awareness across their own staff and they can be proud of the area they’re protecting and the results achieved.
What more can we expect from Open Energy over the coming months?
Energy is just the start of the journey. I can’t really say more, but the technology that we have built is not specific to this industry, so there will be a huge amount more coming from OEM in the coming months/years.
What’s the one piece of business advice you couldn’t live without?
I’m very much a “seize the day”, “there’s no time like the present” person. Things change all the time, especially in the technology sector, and when I was floating my idea with a friend, his advice was: “Be bold, move quickly. If you don’t do it, someone else will.” That terrified me – the thought that someone would beat me to it. I haven’t looked back since!