Dutch market leader in solar software, ready to conquer the world from The Hague.
After revolutionising the solar software market in the Netherlands, hi-tech start-up Solar Monkey has started operations in Belgium and Spain. But the company, which last year opened a new head office in The Hague, does not intend to stop there. “In about five years we want to be world market leader in solar PV software,” says co-founder Jan Pieter Versluijs in an exclusive interview.
The choice almost fell on Rotterdam. But Solar Monkey in the end decided on moving to The Hague.
The company, founded in 2016 in Delft by two graduates from the Technical University of Delft, Jan Pieter Versluijs and Mels van Hoolwerff, has transformed the Dutch market for design and installation software of solar PV systems. Last year, it achieved revenues of over €1 million with 29 full-time employees. As a result of this rapid growth, Solar Monkey had outgrown its offices at Yes!Delft, an incubator for tech startups affiliated with the university.
After some soul-searching, Solar Monkey decided to set up shop in The Hague Tech, a smart office hub for young tech companies right next to the Laan van NOI train station. That choice was not predetermined. ‘We did hesitate between Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague,” says Versluijs. But the excellent location and connections of The Hague Tech won the day. Versluijs: “A co-working hub offers a lot of advantages to a young company like Solar Monkey.”
The idea behind Solar Monkey was born in 2015. Versluijs and Van Hoolwerff were convinced that the installation of solar panels could be made much more efficient. Installers had to personally visit potential clients and inspect their roofs before they could make an offer. The young entrepreneurs transformed that time-consuming process. They managed to collect data from all roofs in the Netherlands and developed a smart computer program which lets solar PV installers prepare a tailor-made offer for every building from behind their desks in a matter of minutes.
The product proved to be a big hit. Already some 300 installers are working with Solar Monkey software in the Netherlands, producing 350,000 offers on an annual basis. A number that is still growing. “Our service is a no-brainer for installers,” says Versluijs. “They can do in a few minutes what used to take them half a day.” The gain is not only in the time it takes to make an offer, but also in its quality. The program calculates what is the best design for any particular roof and makes it possible to monitor the performance of the panels.
Solar Monkey is now ready for the next step: Europe awaits. The company is already active in Belgium and Spain, both “markets with high growth potential in which a lot of technological progress is still possible”. And this is only the beginning. “We want to become global market leader in our field,” says Versluijs. “That is the great thing about software: it works across borders. We can use our knowledge everywhere in the world.”
To conquer the world Solar Monkey will need new funding. The company collected €1 million in March 2019. One of the investors was Innovation Quarter, a regional economic development agency for the Province of Zuid-Holland to which The Hague belongs. This money enabled the company to scale up to its present size. In 2020 it is looking for a similar amount to fund its foreign expansion.
So it’s not unlikely that the solar monkeys will have to find new offices again in the near future. Will they stay in The Hague? That’s quite possible, says Versluijs. “The Hague is a great place to work, but also to live. It’s on the sea. I love wind surfing and kiting.”