Are there calculations in accounting How

Interview with Marco Beicht: The do-gooder

Marco Beicht is one of the most exciting young entrepreneurs between Karlsruhe and Freiburg. With his ERP system for the energy giants of this world, he makes the great energy transition manageable in the first place - and moves billions for it.


An interview by Ulf Tietge, photos © Jan Reiff


Eight years ago, Marco Beicht founded his company powercloud in Achern - today his software enables large corporations, utilities and municipal utilities to manage millions of customer data. But that's just the beginning. Powercloud is taking off in Australia, there is a lot to do in the USA and the founder is planning a high-tech campus for 85 million euros in Achern to completely redesign the world of energy, Teslas and solar cells, data and payment flows from the Black Forest think. Marco Beicht is convinced that the energy world of tomorrow needs a new operating system. His.


I have a suggestion: You can choose the headline for this article yourself: "Baden's Elon Musk", "The world improver" or "How to simply ignore SAP" ...

So let's leave out the third one right away. We have given up talking about SAP in the press. “Badens Elon Musk” is incredibly bold and I'm not. In this respect I take the do-gooder!

Then you should now say in one sentence why Powercloud is so successful that you can make the world a better place ...

We have entered an industry in which there has been no movement for a long time. The energy industry was originally conceived from the point of view of the meter. It was supplied by an energy supplier, on the other side was a consumer ...

... that's nothing new at first, but already the third sentence ...

The market opened up ten years after telecommunications, but initially hardly anyone was interested. At some point came the renewable energies, a lot of political change and finally Fukushima. The start of an innovation spiral. We now have 48 percent renewable energy in the German grid. This is great worldwide and we have “prosumers” who simply want more from their electricity supplier, who have questions about their photovoltaic system or about the electric car.

But how can powercloud help me? You are not an energy supplier, at most an energy supplier improver?

That hits it. We take old, monolithic software systems and replace them with the latest cloud technology: as a modern ERP system for the energy industry.

Is that how you would imagine yourself in the lion's den, or what would your elevator pitch be?

We say: We are the basis for renewable energies to work. Because: If the energy supplier cannot bill and process something, it will not build it either. But he can do this with Powercloud. The interplay of tens of thousands of solar panels and battery storage systems also has to be converted into flows of money. And we make that possible. Stadtwerke Berlin rely on our platform, build solar cells on the roof of their apartment buildings and battery storage in the basement. The great thing is that you can market the energy so locally. You no longer need the distribution network. You sell green electricity from the roof to the people who live in the house. On the one hand, that is an incredible emotional bond. And because network charges and taxes, which normally make up half of the electricity price, are no longer applicable, it is even cheaper.

So will the network of the future be decentralized?

Decentralization will play an increasingly important role. Let's go five years further: There are more and more electric cars on the road - but what happens when everyone comes home at half past five and plug in their charging cables? The big blackout. We have to work to prevent this scenario. Decentralization is one of the key words here. We can not only control production locally, but also consumption ...

... because my electric car doesn't care exactly when it charges. But that doesn't control the network ...

Not today. But it has to be tomorrow. But to do that, you have to know what the customer wants. Because you can't say: “I'm not charging now. Basta. "You need the information from the customer:" Tomorrow I will drive to work as always, 22 kilometers. "But the next one has to go to Hamburg tomorrow ...

... and that's in his calendar, linked to the car.

And that's exactly why you need a digital platform like Powercloud to bring the data together. That is the business model. Then you can go there as a supplier or network and say: “Dear customer, you need a lot of energy now. Unfortunately, I don't have anything on the network at the moment, but I'll get you some for ten cents. ”You say to the other car next to it - if we are allowed to unload the cars at some point -:“ I'll pay you five cents above the market price. ”You need this control you data and platforms - that's Powercloud.

Why do you need you to teach energy giants this? Couldn't they have developed such a system themselves?

In theory, yes. But nobody gets up in the morning and says: “I am developing a billing platform for energy suppliers.” We first started building innovative products. If you go to Verivox today, you have an incredible number of providers who are very close to one another. The majority of them work with powercloud and thus have a market insight. You know how the other energy supplier moves.

That's what gas stations have been doing for 20 years, where the boss drove around in the morning and then adjusted the prices.

Exactly. We calculate billions of prices in the morning, make a forecast of where a supplier might end up and, on this basis, enable him to develop a scenario for tomorrow. That was the first product that we had in the powercloud. That was great. But nobody bought it. Because nobody could account for it. Millions of prices a day? This has massively overwhelmed the existing systems.



Of the six largest German utilities, only one is missing on our platform: Vattenfall.



Was that how you imagined this development when you started?

Not in the beginning. That wasn't our way back then either. In 2012 we wanted to help the young, small energy suppliers. In 2015, EnBW, the first major supplier, came around the corner and said: “Man, you are doing a market communication system? Crazy!"

How do you win a customer like EnBW? About an advertisement? Just call? Or do you need vitamin B?

Interestingly, the customer called us. A very atypical way. A project was open, you were looking for something and there was nothing suitable on the market. That's how we came into play. We were a small start-up. The risk that EnBW took was great, and we are very grateful to EnBW for that. E.ON and EWE are now also relying on powercloud.

Who's next Vattenfall? The Électricité de France?

Of the six largest German utilities, only one is missing on our platform: Vattenfall. We have the first supplier in Australia with more than one million customers, in other words: We are “around the globe”. At the beginning of 2020 we founded our subsidiary in the USA. China is not an issue today, but who knows what the future will bring.

Your know-how is exportable, scalable and tomorrow will powercloud be a global player instead of a hidden champion?

Maybe we say the day after tomorrow. In 2018 we had to decide what to do. There were two options: Either we remain a purely German player. As for the return, that would have been good too. Variant B was: We give full throttle and go global. But that costs a few euros. That is the reason why we also had to change some of the structure of the powercloud. But for this we can now also supply water and sewage, gas and TV fees, broadband and whatever other commodities there are.

How many employees do you currently have?

Around 150. We have extreme growth: At the moment we are sometimes hiring 20 to 25 people a month. In addition to the 150 there are 300 external people who sit with customers and partners and expand the platform. There is quite a performance behind it all. Even if you look at the big software developers who are originally in the field - what we're currently running with is a different performance.

In 2019 you sold 45 percent to General Atlantic for a three-digit million amount. In retrospect: a good deal? You can't do another deal like this without losing the majority ...

Keeping the majority is important to me. Because that way I can determine where the company is going and we stay fast. If you have to coordinate everything first, it will be incredibly difficult ... Besides, our funding is sufficient. We are not seed or growth, but private equity. Everything has to work out. There is no trial and error, but serious business. And such a private equity deal also opens doors. Sometimes a provider wonders if we are not too small. But then the colleagues from General Atlantic call from the USA and say: “Hey, we currently manage 40 billion. Slack is there, Uber, Flixbus - and Powercloud. You can rely on them, they can do it. ”That helps and makes it extremely fast.



At the end of the day we offer a home for experts who come from all corners of the world.



What is powercloud worth today? One billion?

Not yet. We'll need another two or three years for the billion.

The last number I was able to find on your income statement is from 2017. Balance sheet profit: 3.8 million. That was a) some time ago and b) not that impressive. How will 2020 end - and where will you be in five years?

Of course we have grown, of course things are looking up. But internationalization also costs.

So profitability doesn't even play a role at first?

It never really matters to you. But the marker we control is: How fast are we growing? Who do we want as customers? And who not at first? Those who are successful are copied. How do you deal with it? Our only protection is speed. We work with companies like Accenture or IBM and when they commit to a solution, things move forward.

What influence does Corona have on you? Does it help to get serious about digitization or does it slow you down?

On the one hand, it's cool that we can make deals without ever having seen the people. Exchanging entire IT systems in this way was previously unthinkable and saves us a lot of travel time. On the other hand, utilities slowed down a bit earlier this year and put projects on hold. In fact, it's good for us because we've been able to get a grip on a few things that occur in a fast-growing organization.

You want to build in Achern. But why?

Are we so richly blessed with computer scientists and energy experts in the Black Forest? Are we richly blessed with this anywhere in the world? No. At the end of the day we offer a home for experts who come from all corners of the world. Whether you bring them to Achern, Freiburg or Berlin, is not so relevant ...

But you can say: Look how beautiful the Black Forest is!

Yup! And we offer a campus that has more to offer than just offices. We have living behind it, we can cluster according to cultures, for example we can make a special house for the Spaniards or one for the English ...

... and the Irish don't have to move in next door.

Only if you want to. But that's the point: we're building regulations for different countries. We need the Spaniards, the Americans and many others. And we build an environment for them in which they feel comfortable with their families. We get the experts together instead of sharing our core product knowledge.

The new IT campus shouldn't just become a business park like there are many, should it?

Of course not. It has to be smart, we want to generate more energy than we use without emissions and it's about the future of living. There will be no traffic above ground, but a whole new quality of life. With city park. With playground. A dream!

Is Achern your blueprint for tomorrow's world?

The area does. For utilities, for example, who also roll out concepts like this. But also for the housing industry. Because we are realizing a completely different way of living, a completely different network. The card you use to open your front door also goes with the office. When the doorbell rings at home, it also rings on the cell phone. And when you wait for a parcel, it arrives because there are parcel stations on campus for all services. I believe: this campus will be recreated all over the world. Not just from us, but from many. Because in order to achieve our major green goals, the housing industry has to do more than just replace a heater here and there.


Author Ulf Tietge developed business magazines such as Econo or Business in Baden and now runs his own publishing house in Offenburg. So it's no wonder that he can assess and describe the emotional world of entrepreneurs so well.