IDC Interview with the Founders of Ostrom

by Gian Carlo De La Paz

About the Founders

Matthias Martensen Karl Villanueva

Ostrom Co-Founders: Matthias Martensen (left, CEO) and Karl Villanueva (CMO/CPO)

Matthias Martensen: The idea for Ostrom came to me during my time advising energy companies at Oliver Wyman. Upon seeing how manual and bureaucratic everything was – everything from 90% offline marketing budgets, to highly manual backend processes – I left around December 2020 to pursue the creation of a better energy utility for Germany.

Karl Villanueva: I joined several weeks later to help with the user acquisition and user experience, having previously worked in several B2C start-ups, such as meal kit leader HelloFresh. I was on the lookout for a co-founding role in a start-up after joining the Berlin cohort of Entrepreneur First.

About Ostrom

Martensen: Ostrom makes switching to green energy as economical and as effortless as possible for households in Germany. We offer just one flexible monthly tariff, end-to-end multilingual support from the website, live customer care chat, and we only purchase 100% green energy. Ostrom fixes the headaches of the usual German energy utility, for which 12- to 24-month lock-ins, non-existent customer service, and paper and fax-based backend processes are the status quo.

Villanueva: The norm for energy contracts in Germany is to lure customers with a large upfront discount, but a long lock-in period, which they hope to automatically extend by another one or two years, giving traditional utilities a lock-and-forget incentive. By offering users simplicity and flexibility, Ostrom is aiming to push the green energy transition further

What really makes Ostrom customer centric?

Villanueva: Customer centricity in the end is a mindset, and it comes out in the way one sets up one’s processes and organization.

Traditional utilities have had the luxury to come from a monopolized industry where they owned all clients in their respective areas. That’s why the energy industry in Germany speaks of “metering points” and not clients, which speaks volumes about the mentality of traditional companies and the way they approach things – impersonal, with very slow communication.

At Ostrom, we’ve never had this luxury and we’ve had to fight for each individual customer. Firstly, to win our early clients but also to retain every individual one. This means we are laser focused on our customers and empower our employees to solve any problems as efficiently as possible. We also provide nifty self-service tools within our app, which clients can manage with their own account. All this combined makes us the most customer-centric utility in Germany.

What are your customers telling you?

Villanueva: Our customers really love Ostrom. We are by far Germany’s best rated utility on Trustpilot with 4.9/5

Customer Review

Customers love our transparency – no tricks, no hassles, and we openly communicate everything. If we adjust prices, we inform every client very transparently and publish posts on our blog explaining the current market situation. Also, customers are amazed by our outstanding service. We have an average email response time of less than 24 hours and a median first response time of around 1 minute. No other utility comes close. Our customers are truly our number 1 priority.

What opportunities do you see for Ostrom?

Martensen: We see the ongoing energy transition as both the largest challenge and the largest opportunity. We have just seen how dependent we are on fossil fuels and how we need to reduce this dependency as soon as possible – by replacing them with renewables. This brings huge challenges to the existing infrastructure, which was not built for such volatility but for stable energy producers and consumers.

We have seen large price swings in the last six months and we need to bring these price signals closer to the customer: In the end, the customer needs to understand that energy is not fixed, but is variable—similar to gasoline prices. This tighter feedback loop also incentivizes customers to use less energy, rather than more. This is also how we believe energy retail must look in 2030.

What do you envision for Ostrom in 2030?

Martensen: Ostrom was founded knowing that the energy landscape will look completely different in the next 5 to 10 years. We have focused all of our efforts on building a winning value proposition with our green and flexible tariff, which has been proven in our outstanding traction.

Ostrom will be the leading energy management platform for end consumers. This starts from the variable tariff for your home, dynamic pricing together with your EV charger, storing energy from your personal photovoltaic system – all managed within Ostrom’s super app, with one clear objective: leveraging volatilities and optimizing energy flows to save costs. On the flip side, we are also helping to stabilize grids, incentivizing customers to use energy when lots of it is available

 

IDC will have its 10th European Utilities Summit in Malaga, Spain on May 9-10. Join us to learn more about utilities’ role in the net zero economy. For more information, contact Charlotte Thygesen Poulsen at cpoulsen@idc.com

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