Interview: Peter Allan, managing director of Surple

Tech Dragons recently caught up with Peter Allan, who founded energy technology company Surple. We asked him about the app, his start-up journey and future ambitions.

TD: Who are you, and what does your business do?

PA: My name’s Peter Allan and I’m the managing director of Surple. We are a small team of four based in Newport and build software that helps organisations optimise their energy use.

We help organisations understand their energy consumption through simple visualisation, allow them to pinpoint areas of inefficiency through our intuitive analytics platform, and finally target and communicate the challenges to the relevant stakeholders – whether they be budget-holders for technical infrastructure investments or people on the ground wasting energy – through our engagement platform.

TD: Why did you set it up?

PA: The average person spends approximately nine minutes a year thinking about energy – that’s simply not enough for something we interact with and consume on a daily basis.

How can we expect to change attitudes towards climate change and reduce the £7.5bn worth of energy that’s wasted annually in the UK when we spend such a little amount of time thinking about it?!

To make matters worse, most, if not all, of those nine minutes are spent while at home. So how does an organisation engage their staff with energy in order to reduce the organisations energy use?

You can probably see where I’m going with this because organisations spend an unbelievable amount on energy. Through simple energy efficiency measures, both technical and human changes, an organisation’s consumption and thus carbon footprint can be significantly reduced.

TD: What has your start-up journey been like, so far?

PA: From what I’ve read about the ‘start-up journey’, I think I have come across most of the usual problems and pitfalls. So I imagine I feel pretty similar to most other entrepreneurs, in that I’ve experienced lots of ups and downs and just kept going.

But I have come to some important conclusions thus far: I’ve realised the importance of having an open-mind about your business and where it could go, the need for a good team you can trust and the importance of developing pockets of support around you.

TD: What makes your business unique?

PA: We are linking engagement to analytics with a measurable product – energy. Running behaviour change campaigns around energy efficiency is usually a thankless task and can be difficult to prove a return on investment.

We are trying to break down these barriers and let companies see the impacts that an engaged and educated workforce can have on energy consumption and other sustainable practices such as waste and recycling.

TD: How have you found the Alacrity Foundation?

PA: It’s been brilliant – without the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals with such different skill sets to me I would not be running such an awesome software business.

When I was in my old job, in a B2B marketing agency working with large technology firms, I could see the impact of technology across so many sectors. But I couldn’t dream of writing my own code – my brain just doesn’t work that way.

With the coding bootcamp at the start of Alacrity and the chance to work with such talented software developers, I have co-founded Surple with an amazing team.

TD: What has been your biggest success and biggest obstacle?

PA: Success – finding a team that I can trust no matter what.

Obstacle – myself. I’m a bit of a dreamer and can get carried away with ideas. It helps that I have good people around me who can keep me grounded and break those dreams down into more achievable tasks!

TD: Where do you see yourself and the firm in five years’ time?

PA: With the energy transition on its way, we see the data we are collecting as vitally important to providing a better understanding of consumption in buildings.

We think this data is invaluable to both organisations in terms of improving their understanding of the demands they have and to the suppliers who want to know more about how their customers are consuming energy. So hopefully playing a big part in the transition to renewable local energy systems.

TD: What advice would you give to the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators?

PA: Always back yourself. Some people, for whatever reason, feel the need to tell you that what you’re doing isn’t important or it’s not the coolest business around. If you have put the hours into figuring out whether people will pay and ensuring customers need your product, then you just have to trust yourself and your gut and keep on building.