Meshcraft - Norway

A company which develops a platform to attempt solving some of the problems of being an EV owner today.


Download the Norway country report with the Meshcraft case or read below:

171106_IEA_Norway_Concept
.pdf
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The story of Meshcraft

Entrepeneur's journey

This is a company which develops a platform to attempt solving some of the problems of being an EV owner today, by connecting the many stakeholders connected to an EV infrastructure as well as creating a new market for electricity for EVs.


The original idea surfaced when the entrepreneur had to charge the battery of his little sailboat along the Norwegian coast, and it cost him €20, the same as the boat next to him, which incidentally was a giant cabin cruiser. Could it be possible to differentiate between the consumption of the two in the charging point? After taking a course in entrepreneurship, they realized they were not supposed to make a meter, but a platform which can join EV owners, charging points, owners of charging points and suppliers of electricity. From the start-up in 2013, it took two years to understand what the business model they should provide actually was, based on a lot of trial and error. The model also went from a hardware to a software venture, as there “isn’t a lot of money in hardware” because of all the competition with established actors like ABB and Siemens. Better then, to aim for increasing functionality by combining already existing hardware with the help of software.


Business model canvas

Value proposition – product services: Meshcrafts have been featured in WIRED magazine as “The Airbnb for EVs ”, and the service will provide real-time information about available charging points nearby which also suit the specific car, how fast the charging point is, what are the costs, etc. Also, private persons can use this business offer to acquire their own chargers, and offer to sell charging time over their private chargers, in return to Meshcraft for a small cut of that transaction. The user interface toward chargers can be used for other services in the future. The ambition is to create an infrastructure of chargers where any retail company can deliver power over any charger, and tie customer connections to Meshcraft through the chargers. The hardware solution is comprised of standard components put together in a charger (radio mesh technology from Tiny-Mesh), which then makes the chargers capable of providing information mentioned above, brought forth in a proprietary software solution. This is a product that can be sold to any Entrepreneurs Journey proprietor who wants to offer charging stations, e.g. shopping centers, hospitals, municipal buildings etc.


Gains related to this is that it is a quite simple product compared with competitors, and it provides timely information to EV users that is lacking today. EVs are coming fast, and there will be a burgeoning market for charging technology, which Meshcraft can deliver at competitive prices, software included, system ready to sell power immediately. The start-up is also a recipient of Innovation Norway subsidies.


There are also some pains, mostly relating to the fact that today many EVs still lack two-way communication capabilities, limiting the potential. Also, the appropriation regulatory framework for the public sector is huge obstacle, so even if the public sector could be a huge customer of Meshcraft, they are not ready to invest in an unfinished technology like this. The appropriation legalities also create another conundrum: even though the private sector likes the idea they would like to see a demo first. But, if you get public support for a demo (it’s usually very little), the public appropriation framework disallows recipients of subsidy support to partake in the actual bidding rounds later on because it is deemed competition distortion. Ordering competence of the public sector is also a problem. They don’t know what problems need solving, even so they are very specific about it, meaning that what little they do know tend to make for conservative estimates of what they need. In order to be eligible for public support in demo context it is also necessary with three years bookkeeping to be eligible for test project participation. This is identified as an odd problem, especially since this is a service the municipality would need in order to solve EV infrastructure issues later on either way.


On the relations side, end-users of EVs are connected with a freemium app and a web portal (smartcharge.io), where there are plans for a community. There is also a primary web portal (meshcrafts.com) for the professional customer part. They are also involved in some customer research, and have also themselves “become the customer”, as they have all started driving EVs themselves. Other channels include LinkedIn, Facebook, printed media etc.


They are currently partnering up with electricians for setting up chargers, as well as hardware retailer for sale and installation. To provide the connectivity between hardware, cloud service and customer app, they are in business with Tiny-Mesh and Texas Instruments. Ongoing activities are related to developing software, configuring hardware and testing it in realistic setting, connecting partners, building customer and user base, etc. Resources at their disposal have been mainly software knowhow in combination with physics knowledge, which respondents report results in what makes this charging platform competitive: lean hardware. The business model also consists of a proprietary software platform which combines customers and users, and this makes out for complete information control. After all, the information may be valuable in the future in ways not yet known.


Value proposition – product services: Meshcrafts have been featured in WIRED magazine as “The Airbnb for EVs ”, and the service will provide real-time information about available charging points nearby which also suit the specific car, how fast the charging point is, what are the costs, etc. Also, private persons can use this business offer to acquire their own chargers, and offer to sell charging time over their private chargers, in return to Meshcraft for a small cut of that transaction. The user interface toward chargers can be used for other services in the future. The ambition is to create an infrastructure of chargers where any retail company can deliver power over any charger, and tie customer connections to Meshcraft through the chargers. The hardware solution is comprised of standard components put together in a charger (radio mesh technology from Tiny-Mesh), which then makes the chargers capable of providing information mentioned above, brought forth in a proprietary software solution. This is a product that can be sold to any proprietor who wants to offer charging stations, e.g. shopping centers, hospitals, municipal buildings etc.


Gains related to this is that it is a quite simple product compared with competitors, and it provides timely information to EV users that is lacking today. EVs are coming fast, and there will be a burgeoning market for charging technology, which Meshcraft can deliver at competitive prices, software included, system ready to sell power immediately. The start-up is also a recipient of Innovation Norway subsidies.


There are also some pains, mostly relating to the fact that today many EVs still lack two-way communication capabilities, limiting the potential. Also, the appropriation regulatory framework for the public sector is huge obstacle, so even if the public sector could be a huge customer of Meshcraft, they are not ready to invest in an unfinished technology like this. The appropriation legalities also create another conundrum: even though the private sector likes the idea they would like to see a demo first. But, if you get public support for a demo (it’s usually very little), the public appropriation framework disallows recipients of subsidy support to partake in the actual bidding rounds later on because it is deemed competition distortion. Ordering competence of the public sector is also a problem. They don’t know what problems need solving, even so they are very specific about it, meaning that what little they do know tend to make for conservative estimates of what they need. In order to be eligible for public support in demo context it is also necessary with three years bookkeeping to be eligible for test project participation. This is identified as an odd problem, especially since this is a service the municipality would need in order to solve EV infrastructure issues later on either way.


On the relations side, end-users of EVs are connected with a freemium app and a web portal (smartcharge.io), where there are plans for a community. There is also a primary web portal (meshcrafts.com) for the professional customer part. They are also involved in some customer research, and have also themselves “become the customer”, as they have all started driving EVs themselves. Other channels include LinkedIn, Facebook, printed media etc.


Customer segments – customer jobs: The focus is what problems need solving from the point of view of the user, such as “where can I charge, will the charger fit my car, how fast is it (how much effect), and is it available now?” At the time they had about 600 users in Oslo area. The main important gain related to this is that it enables customer to avoid “charging anxiety” (as opposed to range anxiety). The service will make the EV easier to use, and private chargers can sell own energy over charging points,


Revenue - Subscription service per charging point, services on the platform for users and operators of charging point. Data analysis services from data capture of use and operation.



Capabilities - Meshcraft offers a simple yet smart benefit: real time information for charging your EV. They're actually one of the very few examples that have the ' green energy efficiency benefit' communicated central on their home page. Interestingly enough, they're not the provider of green (chargers, EV's). They only provide relevant, valuable information that gets the green driver going. And they are of course looking into maybe using this to provide a platform where others could implement their chargers and sell their energy, but that is a little bit in the future. The user base comes first, and then the user base can be used as a selling point for charging infrastructure, which finally can be used as a selling point for other people’s energy. Probably the data on existing chargers have been gathered manually, but from open sources. After all, they are enabling the further use of these chargers, so whoever owns them should benefit either way.


There are legal issues which inhibits the municipalities from purchasing Meshcraft solutions if they have been given money to make a pilot, but they don’t want the product without seeing the tech piloted. They anticipate a rise in EVs as well as congestion in EV charging infrastructure. They also anticipate their ability to deliver their user base to retailers of electricity through delivering either chargers to users or users to chargers (or both).


Analysis

Context - The legal framework is very specific. It requires any government organisation, whenever they are "appropriating" anything, that is buying a service or a large, expensive item (e.g. which company should provide the buses for our fleet of public transportation, what computer company should provide us with our office work stations, server solutions, etc. etc.), they need to evaluate the sellers of these products very carefully. They are required to have at least three thoroughly evaluated offers before they can choose one. There are set criteria’s for how to evaluate offers, and one of them is that the offer needs to have attached the books of the company from three years back. But if you are a start-up, you might not have any books! Also, if you are a start-up, you could enrol into a pilot project (municipalities often have them, and in this case it is related to a service/product they very much are inclined to offer to their citizens), but then the legal framework says that you are not eligible to enter into the competition for ending up among the final three offers, because it could be considered unfair from an anti-trust legal perspective. So this is a real problem for any start-up who tries to provide a service or offer to national or municipal organisations, because they have to follow these rules (the private sector does not, but they sometimes follow the practice anyhow). Obviously, keeping municipalities as a key potential buyer seems important, as they will have an increasing demand for charging infrastructure as EVs proliferate in Norway. (this is because much parking in towns are regulated and controlled by municipalities)


Type 4

Meshcrafts is a type 4 BM. Although they are still a small, almost start-up company, they set the user centre stage and seem to offer the client a state of the art solution to an obvious problem. They cooperate with clients, have a use phase supporting revenue model an offer a wide range of solutions that serve the user.

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