• Introduction - Start Here
  • Section 1: Planning Your Business

    In the first section, Planning Your Business, you will learn how to find your customers, how to create a value proposition (a product that customers want) and how to build a business model around it. You will also learn how to use your startup to test your business model quickly and cheaply, and how to make necessary changes.

  • Section 2: FUNDING Your Business

    In the second section, Funding Your Business, you’ll learn how to test your startup like an investor. You’ll also better understand how venture capital works.

  • Section 3: PRESENTING Your Business

    In the third section, Presenting Your Business, you’ll learn how to present your startup to investors and customers.

  • Resources

    Finally, the Resources section at the end contains a glossary and reading list to help you on your journey from an idea to a profitable business.

  • Primer Demo Day

Case study: Enervalis

Case study: Enervalis



To learn more about finding your first customers, especially as a B2B company, we spoke with Stefan Lodeweyckx, founder and CEO of Enervalis.


Enervalis focuses on three markets: Smart Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging, Energy-Clever Buildings and Intelligent Micro-/Off-Grids. Their solutions add intelligence to end-to-end EV propositions, as well as to solar/wind installations, batteries, and building energy management systems and grids by integrating these into one intelligent and automated system that can include sun and wind forecasts, the wholesale energy market and added energy security against intrusion and force majeure events.


How have you found most of your customers? Marketing, word of mouth, or other methods? Which method has been the most successful, and why?


For me, the key thing the first couple of years was networking. I went to the typical exhibitions, but they were not really highly successful. The key thing is finding your first potential customer, gaining some trust and using that as a reference, then going from one to the next one. Of course, as an entrepreneur, in the beginning you have to bluff somewhat, to show that you have more exposure than you actually have, but it’s definitely not about traditional marketing and those toolsets—that really doesn’t yield any major benefits. It’s all about face-to-face [interactions], meeting people, talking to people—that’s the key recipe for gaining customers, I would say.


As a B2B company, is there a difference in how you approach potential customers compared to a more traditional B2C company?


There are different B2B companies. There are propositions that have one business customer as a customer, but for us the key thing is B2B channel partners. Those channel partners can on the one hand be a customer, but actually they should enable us to get even greater potential business. The key thing is making sure that you fully understand their problems, and/or uncover opportunities they have not seen and present a solution that adds value to them. It’s having a dialog, listening a lot, understanding and seeing how your portfolio could fit in or be reshaped to really provide the value that they need. It’s definitely not about trying to get in there for every last euro; it’s about long-term partnerships. If you are looking for a quick win, you could also have a quick exit. It’s more about being there for the long term.



At what point in the development of your startup did you begin approaching customers? Was this too early, too late, or just right?


The answer is that it was too early. In the beginning, you’re eager—you think you have the solution and you try to really turn around and get money as soon as possible. I think one of the differences between the States and Europe is that in Europe, there’s less initial funding. The initial funding we got through the InnoEnergy acceleration program was just enough to survive, not really to do anything else. So you have to find all types of ways to make sure you survive and can make it to the next level. If you compared that to some startups funded in the U.S., they might have $500,000 and are not in such urgent need, so they can sit down for 6 or 9 months and really work on what they think is the product, and then start pitching it to customers. Whereas, I didn’t have the liberty to do that, so for me, I was trying to get interest as fast as possible.


In the first year, we did some things that deviated from the final strategy, but it was a way to survive. We did go to the market too early, as it was from a need perspective, but I would say the upside to that approach is that it led us to really understand the value proposition and the needs of the market. If we had instead sat back and worked on the product for 9 months, maybe we would not have hit the mark. Our mission statement and our general strategy is still the same as 4 years ago, so that hasn’t changed, but the execution of the actual product has changed over time, and that was only really possible because of our very early market feedback. So the approach has pros and cons.


What do you consider the most important factor that has led to Enervalis’ success so far?


For myself, the most important factor was complete, stubborn perseverance. 100% not giving up. At times we were close to bankruptcy, but as an entrepreneur you have to always think about the opportunity and you have to survive. Sometimes the outside world will say, “what on earth are you doing, why are you still doing this,” but you have to have stubborn perseverance.