Following on from our interview with Power Ledger's Dr Jemma Green, Techboard's Chief Startup Evangelist Peter van Bruchem recently caught up with Dave Martin, Managing Director and one of the co-founders of Power Ledger to talk, ICOs, Data, PR/Investor and stakeholder relations. Power Ledger took out top prize for Highest Trending Company in the Techboard 2017 WA Awards. Power Ledger has also just been confirmed as a Finalist in the Extreme Tech Challenge and is off to the Finals at Richard Branson’s Necker Island in Late February.
Peter van Bruchem (PVB): It is only 3 months since your very successful Token Generation Event since then the market for POWR tokens has been quite strong to the extent that the price of POWR tokens has risen from your presale price of 5c to over $1 bringing your market cap from $34M at the close of the token sale to now close to $500M. Are you surprised by the interest in POWR tokens?
Dave Martin: We were pleasantly surprised by the level of support at the time of our Token Generation Event. $34 million was at the top end of our expectation range and was definitely the best case scenario for us.
The interest in POWR has been great. It also throws up a whole range of other things to consider for the business. We were a company looking to use blockchain to do energy trading, and now we've probably got Australia's biggest holding group to those currencies. It means we have to put a different level of thought and process into the business.
PVB: Data capture, management and analysis looks to be quite key to the success of power projects that Power Ledger's is involved in.. and your ability to secure more projects into the future. With Power Ledger being only one of many contributors to your various projects could you share some insights as to what you see as the major challenges and opportunities with regards to data and how Power Ledger is managing these issues.
Dave Martin: We require access to data to facilitate trade and with that data, and enabling that trade, we create an economy with lower cost, low carbon energy, that provides a better outcome for consumers. The trial we’re doing with Origin Energy is about analysing data to see what the impact is on consumers. They're saying, "Using your platform, how do the transactions impact consumers of different types, tariffs and consumer classes? And how does it impact us as a retailer? Where are we losing revenue? How does it all work?"
They're running a data analytics piece around the impact of P2P trading and when our platform exists, it creates an economy that incentivizes the installation of distributed generation and storage. The benefit of that to consumers is that it’s much cheaper than the existing framework we've got for energy.
We're also working with a developer up in Northam. They’ve got a property development of 160 houses. They could, like every other property developer in the last 100 years, go to the existing network, extend it a little, augment its capacity with a new demand that's going to be in that subdivision, pay the network provider a couple of million bucks for the privilege, and then, connect it.
Or they can say, "Why would I spend $2 million bucks doing that, when I can stick $500,000 of generation in storage behind the meter, and provide energy to all of these customers? It's carbon free, resilient to the impacts of network disruption, and probably 40% cheaper than what I can get from a normal retailer.” That's where the rubber hits the road, and that's where the value accrues to consumers.
When you take that model, and you say to the customers, ‘right, you install all the PV. You install the batteries to make yourself relatively self-sufficient. And then, using the Power Ledger platform, you can benefit from excess capacity of one of your neighbours, or if they’ve got excess additional demand, and you've got excess capacity, you can benefit financially from that environment.’
There's no major upfront cost for the developer, or for the network. There's really small incremental investments that are low risk, and affordable for each of the consumers to make, and they're the ones that benefit, ultimately, from not just moving to green, clean energy, but from the value of that energy, by being able to monetize their excess.
And the guy next door who can't afford to do that, can benefit from having you right next door, and can pay you for that energy, and it’s still cheaper than buying it off the traditional network provider. That's the economy that the Power Ledger platform creates. The data that comes from the meters enables all of that. But it's the economy that's the important thing.
All of that information is in the platform, and each of the consumers can click on their own wallet, see how much they've made and how much they've paid.
The data crunch is looking at the impact on the network provider of that model and the impact of a traditional retailer of that model.
PVB: So that requires access to that data, which is held by others.
Dave Martin: It may be. Or others may require access to our platform. Which is the model we took with the ICO. We realized pretty quickly that if we were going to be the application host, that managed all of those trading environments, we'd need to grow to a company of millions to have the reach we want to have, which would destroy the value proposition for us.
We needed to take what was an application and turn it into a platform so that other people could access our application, across the platform, and deploy it for their own needs. The trials that we're doing now are all about proving different application models that other people can use and monetize their involvement in trading, but allow their consumers to monetize their investment in distributed renewables and storage.
PVB: Power Ledger is very active in keeping the market informed of your developments, despite not being under continuous disclosure obligations of a listed company. You're doing this, both, via your own channels, active PR, and securing news coverage, and being very active in the recently emerging crypto-conference circuit.
A three-part question for you. How much of this is driven by interest in crypto, and how much is actively sought by Power Ledger? Why do you put so much time into these activities, and how important to Power Ledger are these activities, in terms of customer and investor relations?
Dave Martin: I’ll start with the back end of the question first. Why do we do it? Because, we felt we needed to. In this whole ICO market there has been a lack of clarity and transparency, which has led to a lot of the confusion, skepticism and suspicion. We sat back and said, "We are a mum's and dad's commodity trading platform. We can't hide in the shadows. It wouldn't make sense for Power Ledger to do an ICO and then go and position it somewhere in the Bahamas, where there's all those cloaks and mirrors around your tax exposure, and your commercial obligations like most ICOs, up until recently, have done."
We did everything with all the terms and disclosures, as close as we could to an IPO (Initial Public Offering) to give comfort to the market. We ran it through our corporate models, through our proprietary limited business. We have tax exposure and we did all of those things because we realize we need to bring some legitimacy to our space and the ICO and crypto space, more generally. Ours is a very mundane commodity that we're trying to provide so, we need the legitimacy that comes with that.
The exposure was all driven from being transparent, and wanting to uphold a new model for ICOs. The exciting thing is that the community that's developed around Power Ledger has grown organically and we have now a telegram group with nearly 17,000 people in it. 17,000 active community members that are engaging with us and each other around the product, the POWR Token and the environment we’re in. It gives us a really strong pool of support to leverage and disseminate information about the business and gain touch points with what the community's saying about us.
I think any large retail business in the world would kill to have that level of exposure and engaged community involvement. It's not all roses. If you do something, and they don't agree, you quickly hear about it. But it's really easy to get your finger on the pulse with what the market and community is saying about your business, your business model, and it’s a great way of informing them about what's coming next.
We've got some strong strategic marketing skills in the business to support that organic growth, helping to segment the different channels that we use, provide the right information to the right channels, and to be very aware of what's being said, across all of those channels, so we can react to and respond to them accordingly.
PVB: So, the way you're approaching it, and the impact on what you do, the way that impacts on the trading in the tokens is in some respects, very similar to, the sort of relationship you'd have with actual investors.
Dave Martin: Very similar. We have rules and automated processes in the Telegram group that stop any speculation around activities or projects. One of the favorite things for people to throw up into these programs is, "I heard Power Ledger is talking to Elon Musk," and everybody gets excited about some kind of relationship with Tesla. We've cracked down on those things. It's rumor, it's innuendo, we can't allow speculation in this sort of space, and now, we've got bots in those Telegram groups that remind every participant when they're starting to verge into that space of price speculation, that's not what that group is for. We’ve automated it to the point where any speculation is removed from the chat group.
We’re approaching it that way because speculation can add to the volatility. One of the things we saw online, not so much in our own groups, but in other groups, is that during the process of the ICO, people try to influence the ICO, through spreading rumor and innuendo, both up and down.
PVB: You had some fake Twitter accounts popping up, didn't you?
Dave Martin: Oh, yeah, that happens all the time. There was a fake Web page. Fake ICO documents. People would cut and paste our information, put our logo on it, and throw that out there as if it were real. It requires constant vigilance in that space so we've got moderators in our chat rooms, in different time zones. We've got a community and marketing person that manages that. The monitoring that goes on is highly analytical, and involves data from Google, Twitter and Facebook, so they're monitoring everything that's going on. Every now and then we have to publish a warning to say, "If you see this, it's not us. We would never ask you for your private keys," and all those sorts of things. But I think that's just a factor in the online community. It's not just us that faces it. In fact, every site you can think of, someone's trying to fake it, and then, scam a few dollars somewhere.
When we were going through the ICO, I don't think any of us imagined it would be so fervent, so quickly. We had people working with us in the U.K., the U.S., and in Canada, so that we could have 24-hour coverage about what was going on to avoid FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) and people spreading stories, to support their own disparate needs.
We'd have Meagan in Canada working through daylight hours there, I'd get up at four o'clock in the morning, pick it up for a couple of hours and then somebody would get into the office, and they'd take over. It was a 24-hour circus for about eight weeks. It was the most exhausting thing I’ve done.
PVB: Late last year you have recently announced the partnership with Thai-Government backed renewable energy developer BCPG to bring peer-to-peer renewable energy trading to Thailand. That is pretty big news. What is next for Power Ledger?
David Martin: The focus for Power Ledger is growing our customer-base and market reach. We’re looking at multiple international jurisdictions through partnering arrangements and working to develop partnership agreements with property developers and property managers to give us reach into the energy consumer markets.
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