When Eviny discovered massive mark-ups for the corporate electricity market, they decided to do something about it. With Appfarm, the new electricity provider Volte was born and ready to onboard the first customers after only 48 hours.
Create a B2B off-the-shelf product
Speedy development to find product-market fit
Create an MVP to iterate on
Appfarm AS and Eviny (Former BKK)
It began with an Excel sheet. A small team from Eviny had a hypothesis that something was off about the pricing structure in the electricity market, and began mapping out actual prices and matched them up with invoices from corporate customers. Their calculations showed that corporate customers were charged unbelievable amounts for electricity.
"Some providers had profit margins of as much as 60-65% for corporate customers, on a commodity product,” Morten Anstenseen, Business developer at Volte said.
In order to help corporate customers gain control of their invoices, they needed to gather more energy data and figures on consumption. They decided to create pure digital electricity provider for the corporate market: Volte. Simultaneously, the Norwegian Consumer Council took on the mark-up issue for the consumer market and accused 29 electricity providers of fraud. It was all over the media, and the idea for Volte had to be put in the market fast in order to gain momentum from the attention the otherwise low-interest topic was receiving.
“The mark-up story hit the news on a Wednesday. On Thursday we reached out to a large traditional IT consultancy firm who said they could sit down with us for a meeting and map out our needs on the following Monday,” Morten explains.
However, with the short window of opportunity, the team wanted to be able to go to market much faster, and rather adapt and iterate along the way. This would be challenging with a traditional approach, coding the new application from scratch.
“We had heard about what Appfarm does and reached out to them as well. They turned out to be a perfect match for our concept and product idea.”
Two working days later, on that following Monday, an MVP application was up and running and Volte could onboard their first customers. Morten has no doubt that no-code was the right approach for the venture.
“People say that technology is an enabler for good business opportunities, but in many cases, it can actually be what holds you back. We couldn’t afford development and implementation slowing down our window of opportunity,” Morten says and continues:
“I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Changes are key
In the early stages of a venture project, the risk for failure can be high. One critical success factor of any initiative are iterations to find, test and verify product-market fit.
“You need to be able to test out your idea and see what works, instead of trying to be right in your perception of what’s needed or useful,” Morten says.
“At this point, a perfect technology stack isn't what's crucial, but rather to provide your customers with something for them to see, use, and test. For this, Appfarm is the fastest I have seen.”
To achieve this, iterations are key. Based on a similar service for the private market, Volte estimated a need for about 80 iterations to stand out with a smooth solution that could onboard new customers easier.
“We were a small team of three people. In order for us to reach the number of iterations, we needed a platform that is quick to iterate with and fast to build with.”
Volte is now the Appfarm solution with the highest number of changes on the platform, at about 100 000 changes organized in 60 major versions of Volte.
“Without this number of iterations, we wouldn’t be where we are today”.
Morten explains that they made decisions in the early stages that turned out to be the wrong ones, and that being able to take a real application experience to the customers, get feedback, and then iterate on it was crucial. He believes this couldn’t have been achieved in the same way and velocity with a more traditional approach.
“Traditional coding from the ground up would have taken considerably longer, and with at least half the number of iterations”.
“Appfarm has a perfect set of functionalities for us in our early stage business development process. We were able to give feedback on additional features we wanted as customer needs arose.”
Debunking the skepticism towards No-Code
The Volte team, which is an offspring from the hundred-year-old corporation Eviny (previously BKK), was met with some skepticism when suggesting to develop using a modern no-code platform. However, they still received the necessary freedom to make the technical decisions they saw as the right ones.
“The level of autonomy we have seen from Eviny since the beginning has been essential to us. There has been an extraordinary willingness from the leadership allowing us to make decisions that could be seen as non-traditional.”
All though coding from scratch can make sense in certain cases, Ansteensen thinks that many traditional companies fail to acknowledge that quickly finding the product-market fit in the early stages of a project demands iterations.
“With a small team of developers, how do you achieve a high number of iterations while simultaneously building an actual solid technology stack in the back-end that you can continue building on?”
Morten thinks that people are far too concerned about not being able to control every single line of code rather than looking at this as a positive. The development speed and iteration flexibility you get with no-code will eventually be what perfects the solution, as you can continue to develop on it based on the product-market-fit.
“Everyone is an expert at business development and technology leadership until they don’t have customers. We now have thousands of customer contracts by using this no-code tool that some people are skeptical towards. This highlights the strengths of Appfarm. It’s a very concrete tool to find product-market-fit.”
The road ahead
Volte has analyzed more than 4000 corporate invoices and has thousands of customer contracts on the books. They are growing fast, and Morten says Appfarm gave them the freedom to bypass a lot of the time consuming steps from concept to implementation.
“Our concept developers has been working directly in Appfarm creating everything live, and can test everything immediately. So the bottleneck of having a UX-designer create something and then put it into keyframes and so on, has been completely removed”.
“We talk so much about agility, but there hasn’t really been a comprehensive tool to support it at an early stage innovation process. Appfarm is a big step forward in that direction.”
Now, as similar services are beginning to follow Volte with full transparency on electricity pricing, they are now looking to tackle other aspects of electricity such as automation and control systems.
“We meet many customers who are thrilled that this alternative exists and that we are cleaning up the issue around mark-ups. Our goal now is to make the segment of price and invoicing control unneeded. We have some of the most exciting companies as customers when it comes to electrification and use of batteries and other technologies, which is something we want to phase into Volte.”
Now he is urging people to consider no-code as a tool on the way to successful venturing and application development.
“People need to at least ask themselves the question: Why not no-code? What are we waiting for?”