Going Green

Zeroth Energy provides affordable, clean renewable energy

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Approaching its third anniversary, the company began as a one-man band in 2016, consulting with businesses on how they could become green-focussed, says Francois van Heerden, Zeroth Energy’s Director.

Thereafter, their founder, JaCo Venter identified a massive challenge for the ‘right supplier’ to find the ‘right client’, thus, also fundamentally making renewable energy accessible to the mass market simultaneously.

The company provided small businesses and business-minded individuals the opportunity to open their own ‘Energy Brokerage’ and, importantly, for them to have access to renewable energy solutions on any scale.

“This gathered great momentum, and the Zeroth team has now increased to seven directors working around the clock in order to grow the business to 120 partner brokers across South Africa and Namibia by June 2018,” Van Heerden explains.

The importance of green energy

Zeroth Energy services a range of customers, including commercial and industrial buildings, sectional titles schemes, schools, mines and agriculture.

They also incorporate a range of financial solutions into their offering such as asset financing and rent-to-own models, which allow for no upfront costs for going green. In our day and age, the need to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy has become paramount.

“We face a great challenge, where climate change is transforming the way we have to manage food, water and any resource we have. Renewable energy, including solar, is fundamental to reducing our carbon footprint and reduce the detrimental impact we have already made. It really is for the future of our children’s children,” Van Heerden stresses, adding that switching to green energy provides many benefits, including zero emissions, zero upfront costs and with savings that grow year after year.

A highly successful business model

Van Heerden explains that Zeroth Energy is a uniquely African energy wholesaler, specialising in the mass-market roll-out of accessible renewable energy.

“What makes our business model so innovative is, fundamentally, we enable individuals to set up their own business and, at the same time—while creating jobs and helping small businesses grow—we link the best renewable energy suppliers in South Africa to the most suitable customers and projects. Saving time, money and energy in all forms,” he enthuses, adding that they are extremely proud to have been selected in the Top 25 Most Innovative Companies in South Africa (FastCompany 2017). This innovative design model has enabled the company to scale rapidly and drive job creation, particularly in the SMME space.

Van Heerden says that Zeroth Energy has found a way to assist SMMEs and business minded individuals to set up a new product offering—either as an energy broker or through their own brokerage—without the start-up risks and costs associated with it in the past.

“We have all the business infrastructure and networks ready to go from day one. We mentor and upskill our ‘partner brokers’ to be successful, “Their Success is Our Success”. This reduces costs for SMMEs (and other businesses) while creating the opportunity for job creation and business growth.

“At the end of the day, we actually give our partner brokers a franchise at no cost,” he says.

Future growth

According to Van Heerden, the company already has multiple innovations in the pipeline, which will make it simpler and faster to add renewable energy to anyone’s business.

“We will make it possible for businesses to see their expected savings in their first meeting with us. And over time, they will see their financing options in real time from multiple suppliers. We will continue to work on making it easier for businesses to go green,” he says.

This enables this company to be not only the first but the only company at this level of innovation in the renewable energy space.

“We have already experienced year-on-year growth of more than 600%, and we expect this trend to prevail for the next five years aswe expand our reach throughout Africa and beyond,” he says.

Thus, investors have the opportunity to invest at a stage where a path of long-term growth has already been carved out, after innovating and eliminating bottlenecks have taken place.

Zeroth Energy currently operates in South Africa but the company is currently in the process of expanding beyond our borders.

“We have already started executing our market entry strategy in Namibia. We will have 20 partner brokers there by June/July 2018. We also have a new Director of Sales for Africa, who will drive projects in countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and other southern African countries,” Van Heerden enthuses.

Zeroth Energy’s leader

Francois van Heerden obtained his Master’s of Commerce in International Trade/Business from the North-West University and received an award from the World Trade Organization in 2015.

“I spent most of my career in economic consulting, focussing on eastern and southern Africa, advising business and governments on various challenges. I have also launched another successful start-up in the coffee industry,” he says.

Through his studies and consulting career, Van Heerden was able to develop and nurture his critical thinking around strategy, be it financial or commercial.

This helped him to provide insight on how to action a vision from a commercial best-practice perspective. “Learn from your own and other ‘mistakes and success, then apply it to your business for success,” he says. At Zeroth Energy, they have a great team of directors who are focussed on bringing in a large number of sales on a weekly basis.

Van Heerden explains his role has two important aspects: financial strategy and business intelligence (technology).

“Financial strategy focuses on how best we can spend our revenue to grow the business, and also increase the value of Zeroth Energy but, especially, maintaining that growth and value over the long term.

“In terms of technology, it is extremely important for us to become a digital (paperless) business. This is achieved through the business intelligence (data/insights-led) design of our website and other platforms in order to optimise our customers’ journey with us, increasing the efficiency of this over time, from the first to last engagement with Zeroth Energy,” he says.

Ultimately, these two pillars enable the rest of the team to focus on increasing sales and enabling their partners to achieve great success.

When it comes to his own personal brand of leadership, Van Heerden explains that, even though he focuses on innovation or new ways of doing things more efficiently, he is traditional in the way he thinks about and approaches leadership.

“Leadership to me, by definition is to be in front of the pack breaking the boundaries, personally and in business. This makes leading by example one of the most important characteristics of a great leader.

“If you expect sacrifice, you should be willing to sacrifice. All the greats made it happen, they didn’t ask other people to do it for them. Steve Jobs didn’t ask someone else to invent the iPhone. Elon Musk didn’t ask someone to make it possible for him to drive an electric car with autopilot functionality.

“On a day-to-day basis, I wake up at 4:30 am and commit to completing projects and ensuring they are of the highest quality. If I expect this from my team, I should expect even more from myself. This type of leadership is found throughout our business and shown by all the directors. That is why I am so proud of being a part of such a committed and effective team,” he concludes.

Click here to visit Zenoth Energy's website


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This edition

Issue 39