Meet Bulb, the fastest-growing energy supplier in Britain. In 2015, when Bulb was formed, less than 1pc of consumers were buying renewable energy. Now, more than 10pc of the market is purchasing renewables. “That’s an incredible shift over a short space of time,” says Hayden Wood, Bulb CEO.
Bulb has been instrumental in driving this change; the business boasts 1.7m customers across the UK, France, Spain and Texas. Wood says: “We are solving a really important problem for people: we’re helping them reduce emissions while driving down their energy bills at the same time.”
Wood, a former management consultant, and co-founder Amit Gudka, who was an energy trader, created the business to meet demand for greener energy from increasingly sophisticated consumers, who were fed up with price rises and opaque billing from incumbent providers. “We knew we were taking on something major,” says Wood. “Residential energy usage represents around half of an individual’s lifetime carbon emissions. We wanted to help millions of people and have a real impact.”
Technology has been key to Bulb’s success; the incumbents are “weighed down” by their legacy systems, Wood claims, which means they are unable to offer the kind of user experience and service that modern consumers expect. “Those monolithic systems were built in the early nineties,” he says. “They can’t be adapted.”
At Bulb, a quarter of the company’s 800 staff work in software development: “Innovation is at the heart of everything we do,” says Wood. “Every week, we look at the manual tasks being completed within the company and think how we can automate them.” Wood is a fan of ‘kaizen’, a Japanese word that is roughly translated as “continuous improvement”. This model of working, popularised by Toyota in the fifties, involves making consistent small improvements to processes and strategies to drive efficiency. “In addition to our kaizen improvements we are making some big bets on the future,” he reveals. “We are moving towards becoming an energy manager rather than an energy supplier.” This will see the brand developing and scaling its electric vehicle products and home battery offering. Bulb is also extending its geographic reach for the first time: it is currently live in France, Texas and Spain.
The COVID-19 crisis didn’t hit Bulb as hard as some businesses but there was an impact. “Fewer people are switching energy supplier, which is a real shame,” says Wood. To offset this softening in demand, Bulb created a new 100% green energy pay-as-you-go product. “This was one of my proudest moments,” says Wood. “It’s the first smart pay product of its kind. We always planned to launch something like this but we accelerated development because of lockdown.”
With a growth rate of 14,288%, Wood says that managing the speed of Bulb’s expansion is his biggest challenge. The business raised £60 million from private equity in 2018 but internationalisation took losses to £129 million in FY 2018-2019. “You’d be surprised how complicated it is to scale a business like this so quickly,” Wood explains. “We’re setting up the structure within the company, creating a great place to work for hundreds of people, while doubling in size every three months.”