starting business success stories: Nefino

starting business success stories: Nefino

What is behind Nefino?

The wind energy and photovoltaic market represents a central pillar of the German energy transition and is under great pressure due to increasing regulation. For many companies, it is increasingly challenging to assess which site is suitable and profitable for a wind power or photovoltaic plant. With existing plants progressively falling out of the EEG subsidy, many wind farm operators are also faced with the question of which option now makes sense for their site: continued operation, repowering or dismantling after all?

The startup Nefino, founded in 2018, has recognized these challenges and offers analysis and consulting services for players in the wind energy and photovoltaic markets. In particular, this includes carrying out area analyses, taking into account legal requirements, to determine which sites are suitable for the construction of wind power or photovoltaic plants. Nefino also supports plant operators in layout planning for the optimal use of an identified site. The basis of its analyses is the integrated processing and simulation of extensive data on site factors and profitability indicators.

EXIST start-up grant as start-up financing

The three founders André Koukal, Jan-Hendrik Piel and Chris Stetter got to know each other through their research on software solutions for potential analyses in wind and solar energy at the Institute of Information Systems at Leibniz Universität Hannover. The fact that their research results met with approval from the business community was the initial spark for the start-up project. For André Koukal, it was an obvious step: “Ever since I started studying, it was always clear to me that I wanted to start my own business at some point.” After an initial sounding out of market needs, the team made the decision to start up.

With the approval of the EXIST start-up grant from the funding program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) in the summer of 2018, the team was able to hit the ground running. The security provided by the grant enabled them to focus solely on the technical development of their services and the market entry of Nefino for 12 months.

What are the learnings?

When the founder looks back today, many earlier stumbling blocks no longer look so big. In the beginning, for example, it was challenging to remain calm in the face of financial bottlenecks and to anticipate the order situation correctly. The fact that the founders have been successful in the past is also shown by the current team size: Nefino is now backed by a team of 17, which now also includes a dual student. In the future, the startup would like to take the training of specialist personnel more into its own hands. The further development of the products does not stand still at Nefino either, Koukal assures. For example, in addition to consulting services and analyses as part of projects, the startup also wants to offer software-as-a-service solutions in the future that customers can use independently and flexibly.

One piece of advice that Koukal gives to prospective founders is to sound out as early and as broadly as possible in networks and among potential customers whether there is actually demand for the planned offering. In doing so, one should not be deterred by a realignment to the needs of the market. Building and maintaining networks is another key element in establishing a startup on the market. Here, membership in associations and societies can also help to gain sponsors. And, of course, taking advantage of existing funding programs. “I would recommend every team with a startup project to apply for the EXIST grant, as long as it is at least promising. We would have pursued our idea and self-employment even without the scholarship, but then we wouldn’t be where we are today,” explains Koukal. In addition to the monthly scholarship amount, the money for materials and premises and the coaching offered as part of the scholarship were also a real support for the team.

written by: André Koukal

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