Transformation from battery manufacturer to energy supplier of the future:
A perfect example of the Triple Top Line approach
sonnen is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of battery systems for the storage of photovoltaic electricity for private households. Back in 2014, MVP was among the first investors of the company based in Wildpoldsried, Germany. In 2019, sonnen was acquired by Shell, which together with sonnen aims to become the world’s leading energy service provider by 2030. For the cleantech sector in Europe, the takeover was one of the most successful venture capital exits ever.
Key factors for sonnen’s success were the ongoing willingness to transform its product, business model, and team, as well as a business strategy based on the Triple Top Line concept. This ultimately led to significant changes in the energy market. And it makes sonnen a Transformative Technology in the best sense of the word and a perfect example to illustrate our investment strategy.
Transformation of product and business model
The first sonnenBatteries offered customers the opportunity to store self-produced PV electricity and to use it in times without sufficient sunlight. The company’s growth in the early years was proof that the sonnenBatterie was one of the best products on the market.
From the very beginning, however, the sonnen team understood the sonnenBatterie as the platform on which further products and services could be offered. The possibility of connecting all sonnenBatteries via the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled sonnenBatterie customers to share self-produced and stored electricity, which was the starting point for the sonnenCommunity. By that, today’s centrally structured value chain from electricity production in large power plants to the consumption at the end customer is eliminated by decentralized production and storage (Enhancement of the Value Chain).
With the next expansion stage of the sonnen business model, sonnenNow, customers will be offered a complete package consisting of a photovoltaic system, a sonnenBatterie and clean electricity, without any investment costs for the customer. This means that sonnen offers a Power-as-a-Service solution instead of a hardware product. A revolutionary step, which is only known from the software sector so far, or in the first tentative steps in the mobility sector. sonnen thus transforms the entire value chain of power supply (Reconstruction of the Value Chain) and becomes the energy utility of the future.
Transformation of the team
sonnen has continuously strengthened its team and adapted it to the requirements of the company’s development from its foundation to the present day. In the first years the focus was on product development and sales. In the following years, the supply chain and production team also had to be expanded. With the introduction of the sonnen Community, the interconnection of sonnenBatteries, the establishment of an own software team was necessary. And for the last step, the establishment of sonnen as the energy utility of the future, a team of experts with many years of experience in the energy markets was set up. With the growth from the small founding team around Christoph Ostermann and Torsten Stiefenhofer to a medium-sized company with several hundred employees, the organization, including finance, HR, marketing, had to be continuously expanded.
To successfully manage this substantial transformation of the team organization in just a few years is one of the essential success factors for the rapid scaling of start-ups – sonnen has mastered this excellently.
„clean and affordable energy for everybody“
Focus on Triple Top Line growth
sonnen’s slogan “clean and affordable energy for everybody” illustratively reflects that the company follows a business strategy, which considers not only economic growth but also social equity and sustainable environmentally friendly product development. From the very beginning, sonnen’s primary goal has been to make more renewable energy available to private customers, and thus make a contribution to an ecologically sustainable energy supply (Ecology). The new approach of making the sonnen solution accessible to customers without investment costs ensures social Equity. Combining these two aspects with a highly scalable business model, sonnen was also able to achieve extraordinary economic growth (Economy).
With this consistent pursuit of the Triple Top Line concept, sonnen shows that growth and economic success do not require compromises with regard to environmental benefit and social equity, but that all three aspects reinforce each other positively. It was decisive for the outstanding development of sonnen and ultimately for the takeover by Shell.