Manuel Schoenfeld is the founder and CEO of PowerX, a company with the mission to combat climate change. He has prior experience working with leading organizations like McKinsey and Company, The World Bank, and various other government organizations. Manuel has received multiple prestigious awards and applauds like the McCloy Scholarship for Harvard University, and the Scholarship of the German National Academic Foundation. He is also a Certified Valuation Analyst and a Taekwondo Blackbelt.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Manuel Schoenfeld says:
Being an entrepreneur is hard. If you are seeking fame and fortune, entrepreneurship might not be the right choice for you. Starting up a company because you have a passion or believe in something helps you overcome hard times.
Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Try, fail fast, learn from it. That’s the beauty of life.
Read on to know more about Manuel Schoenfeld and his successful journey.
Please tell me about your personal background, and what are you working on currently?
Manuel Schoenfeld: I am working with my friend and lead engineer, Matthias Veitinger on building PowerX. PowerX’s mission is to combat climate change. We received venture-backing for that mission from both Antler and Y Combinator.
Before PowerX, I spent several years advising governments and the private sector on innovative energy solutions. One promising development in the energy field is cheap electricity from renewable sources. This electricity can be used in many ways, even to make chemicals, such as hydrogen. We call this process Power-to-X (hence the company name).
Generally speaking, my background is a cross-over between energy innovations, data science, and the social sector. This explains why, on the one hand, I worked for companies like McKinsey and Morgan Stanley, and on the other hand did policy work for governments, the World Bank and humanitarian aid organization in countries like Kenya, Somalia or India.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
Manuel Schoenfeld: Climate Change is a global threat – to every living being on the planet. When working on energy efficiency projects in the Middle East, I realized how much CO2 and energy could be saved if our machinery was just a bit smarter. Most water heaters, for example, are dumb boilers. They heat water even if we are on vacation and don’t need it. That is unused energy, CO2 emitted for no reason. PowerX saves this energy waste and by doing so, saves money and CO2. In fact, for a single-family water heater, PowerX saves as much CO2 as what 10 fully grown trees can do each year.
How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start?
Manuel Schoenfeld: We experienced quite some traction when we went live. I believe the reason for this success is that PowerX is good for the environment and for the wallet. It’s a win-win situation.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue? What strategy worked best?
Manuel Schoenfeld: PowerX makes water heating more efficient and can save up to 65% off users’ water heating bill. It is a plug-and-play, non-invasive product, which works with most existing heaters.
We sell hardware units at a fixed price. The hardware connects water heaters to our machine learning software in the cloud, and this software optimizes the heaters. Usually, the units pay for themselves within half a year saving energy at no change in comfort. That makes our product quite attractive. Apart from selling directly through our website, we are now starting to partner with property management companies and other commercial customers that use our product in their business models.
How much money (funding) have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round? (Additionally, any plan for the future?)
Manuel Schoenfeld: We had a robust pre-seed round of approximately half a million dollars. For sure we target more than that for our seed round.
What are some marketing tips to help maximize the success of a product launch?
- Make a product people not only want but need
- Use your networks for first sales and to check the product-market fit
- Listen to your customers very carefully
What is a good product launch checklist?
Manuel Schoenfeld: Start quickly, iterate, and learn from your customers
What’s the hardest thing about product launches?
Manuel Schoenfeld: Convincing the first ten customers of your product. In the beginning, there is usually high uncertainty regarding your target customer and product. Who exactly are we selling to? What do our customers really need and what are they willing to pay for it? What is the best channel to reach them? Online marketing? Cold-calling? Trade shows? Once you get your first customers and can listen and learn from them, things get much clearer.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company? (or What should all first-time startup founders know before they start their business?)
Manuel Schoenfeld: Being an entrepreneur is hard. If you want to be a founder of fame and fortune, entrepreneurship might not be the right choice. Starting up a company because you have a passion or believe in something helps to overcome hard times.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing?
Manuel Schoenfeld: I’m sure there are good books written on this. My sample size is too small to give dependable advice 🙂
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Manuel Schoenfeld: Your product doesn’t have to be perfect. Start quickly with your networks, listen very carefully, and learn from your customers. Iterate and improve.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Manuel Schoenfeld: Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Try, fail fast, learn from it. That’s the beauty of life.
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