Startup News & Analysis

Blockchain energy trading startup Power Ledger to pitch to Richard Branson after becoming Extreme Tech Challenge finalist

Dominic Powell /

Power Ledger

Power Ledger co-founder Dr Jemma Green and Extreme Tech Challenge co-founder Bill Tai.

Emerging Aussie blockchain startup Power Ledger will soon find itself pitching its power trading platform to Sir Richard Branson himself after getting into the finals of the Extreme Tech Challenge pitch competition in Las Vegas last Friday.

The pitch comp is one of the world’s largest, held at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and judged by members of the international startup community. Perth-based Power Ledger made the semi finals along with three other blockchain tech companies, but was the only one to emerge into the top three.

Power Ledger’s platform offers consumers with solar panels a platform to trade excess energy they don’t use via the blockchain in exchange for the company’s POWR tokens, which are currently worth around $1.50 each. The company has landed grants from the federal government to implement its tech in a Perth ‘smart city’, and has gone from strength to strength since its $34 million initial coin offering (ICO) in last October (now worth upwards of $100 million in digital currency Ethereum).

Speaking to StartupSmart, Power Ledger co-founder and deputy Lord Mayor of Perth Dr. Jemma Green says the whole experience at CES was nerve-wracking: the team were facing a room of judges and hundreds of people, and competing against nine other companies with great business ideas.

“We only had about five minutes, which isn’t a lot of time to distill the Power Ledger platform down and explain it,” Green says.

“I also wanted to make sure we were explaining the product and the problem, making sure we’re not looking like a product still looking for a solution.”

The announcement of the finalists came without feedback from judges (which Green was hoping for), with the judges announcing the winners without providing clarifying comments, and then handing the winners “massive cheques with no money on them”. However, Green says she has since sought feedback from the judges independently.

The other two startups that will now pitch to Branson are infant health care company Owlet and crowdfunded smart camera company Revl. While the three companies would usually be quickly jetting off to Branson’s private island in the British Virgin Islands, recent hurricanes have devastated the islands and the finals have been rescheduled until Spring so further rebuilding efforts can get underway.

“The British Virgin Islands are still recovering from the devastating effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Rather than leave or change the location for the XTC Finals during its most vulnerable time, we have made the decision to stick with Necker Island as the community works to rebuild,” Extreme Tech Challenge co-founder Bill Tai, who is also an adviser to Power Ledger, said in a statement.

This won’t be Green’s first visit to Branson’s Necker Island, after attending a blockchain summit there in July last year. She says she’s already crafting and practising her pitch to Branson, which will likely happen in October.

And while the competition doesn’t have any prize money attached, Green says the opportunity it provides winning startups is invaluable, as they receive mentoring and endorsement from prominent venture capitalists and Branson himself.

“I met the competition’s winners from last year and the year prior, and they said the opportunity had a profound impact on their business moving forward,” she says.

Milestones ahead for the Power Ledger platform

Outside of international pitch comp accolades, the Power Ledger team is in the process of finalising the contracts for the Fremantle Smart Cities project, which will get underway in two to three weeks. With some other governments’ interest in blockchain “waxing”, Green calls the Smart Cities grant a “great level of endorsement from the federal government”.

The company has also signed a contract with Thailand government-backed renewable energy developer BCPG to bring the Power Ledger trading system to parts of the country.

The goals ahead for the company in 2018 include increasing the of utilisation for the company’s POWR token and to launch a token germination event to “factualise ownership of energy assets using the blockchain”, allowing POWR token holders “to become co owners and beneficiaries of renewable assets”.

The startup also wants to deploy the trading platform into 11 more international jurisdictions and reach more than 100 megawatt hours traded on the platform.

“The Power Ledger community has really had an enormous impact on the company. We had over 15,000 buyers from all over the world participate in our initial token generation event, and a lot of them work in the electricity market,” she says.

“We’ve got over 17,000 people in our Telegram chat, and it’s been quite amazing to see the level of support, and connect with people who connect to and relate to the purpose behind our platform.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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