At first Aidon had a go in Finland; the company is now conquering Norway and Sweden will follow next. The rest of Europe looms in the future. The growth rate is around a hundred per cent, and turnover will soon hit a three-digit figure – in millions.
Focusing first on the remote reading of energy consumption, Aidon was launched as a spin-off by former workers of a company called Enermet in 2004. The seven founding members had a good deal of vision, experience and customer relations across the Nordic countries.
“We were no longer schoolboys when the firm was set up – many had decades-long experience of the sector and international business. Since some of the founders came from Norway and Sweden, it was a natural choice for us to head to the Nordic countries,” Chrons says.
Soon after its establishment, Aidon left its competitors far behind. Today the company is a pioneer in utilising smart grids, and is incessantly copied by competitors.
Ten years on the crest of a wave
Aidon has achieved perhaps the most coveted place in business: the trailblazer in its sector. The term has undeniably suffered from inflation, but in Aidon’s case the title is deserved. Among other things, the company has made use of big data and the Industrial Internet for over ten years – long before these terms had even been coined.
“Around 2005 someone invented smart grids, and it was as though they were made for us,” Chrons says.
The basic idea behind smart grids is that consumers contribute to the production and use of energy in different ways. By using renewable energy sources, consumers also become energy producers. This sets new requirements for power grids.
Alongside smart grids, Aidon began to add more technology to its principal product, remotely readable meters. The meter developed into an energy service device that generates data not only about the consumer’s power consumption but also about the power grid itself. This was the origin of smart metering.
“Aidon did to remote reading what Nokia did to mobile phones: loads of technology has been added to the device, but the original purpose has been preserved. You can still make calls on a smart phone; similarly, our sensors can still read energy consumption, even though this feature is only a small part of the device’s functionality today,” Chrons explains.
The Industrial Internet and big data change the sector constantly. Aidon’s millions of readers accumulate data on power networks without interruption. Analysing the data enables technological innovations and thereby better products and services for customers.
“We have changed the nature of demand throughout the sector in the Nordic countries: reading meters has been replaced by managing a smart grid. We spend huge amounts of time in discussion with our customers; this constantly pushes the requirement level higher. That’s our way of working,” Chrons summarises.
A Growth Loan filled the financing vacuum
When asked about the greatest challenges encountered along the way, Chrons doesn’t beat about the bush: financing, financing and financing.
“Banks don’t provide sufficient financing for companies like Aidon, whose greatest growth will come in the future; they only stare at figures in the company’s history. We have had to find financing elsewhere,” Chrons says.
Various financing solutions have been used: the owners’ own assets; insurance companies’ services; and several of Finnvera’s instruments.
“Finnvera granted us financing even before Aidon was established; a Capital Loan – as it was known then – got us going. With our initial financing of nearly four million euros, we were one of Finland’s biggest start-ups,” Chrons reminisces.
More than ten years later, Aidon can no longer be called a start-up, as its turnover target is approaching a hundred million. According to Chrons, this is a critical phase where few financing solutions are available.
It’s as though Finnvera’s new Growth Loan was made for Aidon.
“When a company grows from medium-sized to large and starts to impact on the national economy, it’s really hard to find financing. Finnvera’s Growth Loan was excellent for filling this vacuum,” Chrons says with appreciation.
A Growth Loan is granted for growth and internationalisation projects and corporate reorganisations in SMEs and midcap companies that have been in business for over three years. The loan is intended to attract financiers operating on market terms to invest in projects where risks are high but profitability and effectiveness are deemed to be good.
This is no problem for Aidon: according to Chrons, the market offers as much potential as they have the capacity to take on. In Europe alone, there are 270 million metering points. However, the focus is first on the Nordic countries.
“In the Nordic countries, we’re expanding our service offering to data analysis, big data and services. Then we’ll be ready to conquer the world,” Chrons concludes.
It’s best to buckle up.
- The Nordic countries’ leading supplier of smart metering systems
- More than a million energy service devices in use
- Founded in Jyväskylä in 2004
- Turnover: EUR 19 million (2015), EUR 42 million (2016, forecast)
- Locations: Jyväskylä, Täby (Sweden) and Asker (Norway)
- Own research and development unit, strong technology cooperation
2004: Aidon is established in Jyväskylä
2004: Sweden is the first Nordic country to adopt digital systems for reading electric meters
2011: Aidon’s turnover more than doubles on the previous year, to EUR 35 million
2015: Aidon signs the largest supply contract for remote reading in the Nordic countries, covering 700,000 devices
2016: Aidon secures the leading position in Norway
2016: Aidon is nominated a candidate for the Nordic Council Environment Prize