Sean Layerle, co-founder and Head of product development at Fred le Hamster, discusses his company’s ambition of becoming the largest energy marketplace on the planet.
What led to the creation of “Fred le Hamster” (Hamster Fred)?
In the early 2000’s, I was living in California when peer-to-peer file sharing services exploded onto the scene. Websites like Napster and Kazaa drew huge amounts of users (and controversy) by enabling anyone with an internet connection to share almost any kind of digital content.
This idea of “peer-to-peer” kicked-off a domino effect of disruptions across sectors with everything from Youtube to Uber to AirBnB or Kickstarter.
The idea of peer-to-peer was so emblematic of the spirit of Silicon Valley: use tech to challenge the status quo and innovate beyond the establishment.
My mindset today is heavily influenced by the years I lived in California.
I’ve spent the last 15 years working for tech companies in the energy sector and have observed two things. First, a macro-trend of decentralization: more local renewable energy with more smarthome, smartbuilding, smartcity and smartgrid solutions coming to market. Second, the sector continues to drown customers in regulatory jargon, impossibly confusing rate structures, and administrative burden.
Shortly after I returned to France in 2018, it hit me that consumers and SMEs need a platform to enable peer-to-peer energy.
The idea floated around my head for a while until the spring of 2020 when I settled on a go-to-market strategy: first, offer automated electricity and gas contract management, a universally useful value proposition. Then, centralize people’s energy-related data and contracts (electricity, gas, solar, vehicle charging, connected devices, etc). This will enable a much more natural transition to peer-to-peer energy, where energy is traded among users.
Could you present Fred le Hamster's offer?
The service is super simple, by design: Fred completely automates your electricity and gas contracts. In practice, this means Fred finds the best rate based on your priorities, takes care of everything to switch your supplier and continuously monitors the market to make sure you’re always on the best rate.
The focus on peoples’ priorities and the automated supplier change puts the customer back in the driver’s seat: Fred’s algorithm and software does all the work so that you can focus on what’s most important to you.
By the way, can you believe we’re the only service provider in this space that starts by asking people what their priorities are (and not the size of their water heater)? This is a great example of what sets Fred apart from the rest of the sector.
So, if you go to www.fredlehamster.com, all you need to do is select your priorities and upload a bill. Fred’s algorithm will find the best rates based on your priorities and will make the supplier switch as soon as you give the green light. It’s really that simple!
From there, Fred sends you a monthly check-up to confirm that you’re still on the best rate for your priorities. If we see any need for a change, we’ll let you know proactively.
Fred also manages any unpleasant surprises from suppliers, which are rare, but super tedious to deal with when they happen! As energy experts, we know how to get things resolved. Having Fred is like having a friend who works in the business!
We’re currently working through a round of fundraising in order to make progress on our roadmap towards peer-to-peer energy. We’re targeting to conduct initial tests of these features later this year.
What's coming next for Fred le Hamster?
Our vision is to become the largest energy marketplace on the planet. It’s ambitious for a little hamster, I know! The good news is that we have lots of great work in front of us! We’re currently working through a round of seed / angel fundraising. If any of your readers want to invest in the future of energy, I encourage them to reach out to me via LinkedIn!
For 2021, the rest of the year is going to be spent on growing our customer base and making progress on our roadmap towards centralizing energy data and contracts (electricity, gas, solar, vehicle charging, connected devices, etc). We want to start testing peer-to-peer exchanges later this year. In parallel, we’re also looking to make our proprietary rate comparison tool available in a B2B SaaS model for service companies in the energy sector.
We have known from the beginning that Fred’s service can work in every country with energy retail competition. This is the case in most of Europe and we have aggressive international growth ambitions.
Once our peer-to-peer platform is launched, we will turn our sights to the North American market, where there is a great product-market fit for peer-to-peer (no retail competition and lots of decentralized energy).
Sure, Fred is just a little hamster, but he’s got big dreams!