When doing well is separated from doing good, the customer, employees and bottom line all suffer. Tech startups are in a unique position to show that when values that contribute to the greater societal good play a central role in all aspects of what an organisation does… everyone’s a winner. We hear from Bulb co-founder’s Hayden Wood and Amit Gudka
One of the things we found most exciting when starting Bulb was the opportunity to embed our mission and values in Bulb’s DNA right from the get-go. Considering the startup search for value is key for newly established businesses we think having a positive social impact is an inherently valuable endeavour and makes sense for all our stakeholders.
In many ways, Bulb looks like a classic disruptive startup. We both spent years working in the energy sector and witnessed firsthand how the seemingly innate inefficiencies of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies negatively impact on customer experience and value for money. Over a beer bemoaning slick traders and monolithic organisational structures a million miles away from their customers we decided to start Bulb because we became convinced it must be possible to ‘do’ energy better.
It seems we’re not alone. It looks like there are an increasing number of founders, influenced by experiences in their ‘past lives’, who are choosing to use their acquired knowledge of how things could be done better to establish a core mission with a positive social impact. The challenge for us – and we’d be interested to hear from others if this was a common experience – was when we applied that commitment to social impact across all areas of the business and ensured it contributed to delivering a high quality experience for the customer and value for money.
Our rationale was pretty simple: the size and scale of the Big Six combined with the natural inertia consumers have for something that “seems complicated, generally works alright and you can’t live without” means the incentives to improve the customer experience and reduce costs are few and far between. We are using the fact we’re lean and efficient to give a more personalised customer experience and most importantly cheaper energy through a single tariff that passes on reductions in the wholesale cost of energy to customers.
So far so traditionally disruptive.
But the electricity Bulb supplies is also 100% renewable. Not “green” or “sustainable” but for every unit of energy that our Bulb members use, a unit is produced and put on the grid by a pollution-free renewable source, like Tyn Y Cornel Hydro in North Wales. (That’s a real place by the way, we’ve been there, so no ‘wind farm’ Google Image searches for our site…)
And yes – although sandals aren’t our thing unless we’re on a beach – we are driven by the idea that buying sustainable energy doesn’t need to be complex and should be for the many, not the few. In addition, we have a wider mission to reform the regulatory environment so other energy companies start following suit and making things clearer for the consumer and more transparent.
We think the current energy market is unjust, and the only way to improve things is to offer something different and get people engaged in the decision making around their energy consumption. That’s why Bulb is also founded on our Community – a collection of members who are open to being part of a bigger mission to change the way energy is consumed, provide help and support to other members and bring down energy usage in homes down across the country.
These structural decisions about how we build Bulb actually felt simpler than trying to embed a corresponding culture across all areas of the business. It was a challenge to keep the values that underpin the proposition consistent across the piece.
We used a simple tool to ensure we applied our core values and principles in every area from internal comms, recruitment all the way through to branding and our environmental footprint and crucially working out why it made commercial sense.
Of course we want people to switch to Bulb because renewables are more reliable and sustainable for a healthy planet – but we think that’s far more likely if we can be what they also want: a hassle free energy provider who gives them a simple online interface to keep control of their energy consumption. In short, we want to do good but we also want to give an awesome customer experience and provide value for money. We want to be judged against our non-renewable competitors on the same terms and don’t want any special treatment.
We’re new to the tech startup world but from what we can see there are loads of other organisations out there doing good things and doing them well. The more we can all work together to amplify the activity of startups using technology to disrupt and innovate while also having a positive impact on the ‘real world’, the better. It would be great to hear from other startups: What do you find easy or hard about doing good while growing fast?
Find out more about Bulb, here: https://bulb.co.uk/