Ampeers Energy

“Going to work every morning is a pleasure”

Dr. Karsten Schmidt, Ampeers Energy GmbH
© Fraunhofer / Jan von Holleben
Sometimes, the market does not offer what is needed. Dr. Karsten Schmidt looked to Fraunhofer for a solution. His spin-off Ampeers Energy GmbH has what it takes to make the energy market more straightforward and profitable.

People who are conscious about climate change rarely eat meat. They avoid flying. They are more likely to jump on a bicycle than drive. All these are ways of reducing their CO2 emissions. However, the real estate sector, i.e. everything housing-re­lated, accounts for around 30 percent of CO2 emissions. While property owners and affiliated companies may intend to switch to renewable energy sources, when it comes to concrete questions about types of renewable energy, optimal operation and consumption-based billing for ten­ants, they have not exactly been looking on the sunny side; in fact, they are quite literally out in the cold.

Carbon-neutral housing:Aspirations and reality

Dr. Schmidt was able to quickly identify the gap between our aspirations and the reality. He was in the right place, after all. At the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, he was in­volved in corporate business development in the area of energy. In the Open District Hub, a joint initiative between Fraunhofer and more than 40 industry partners en­gaged with the topic of renewable energy in city districts, Schmidt was continuously confronted with a wide range of questions. One in particular came up again and again: “Didn’t Fraunhofer have smart soft­ware solutions for simplifying renewable energy deployment and making it profit­able?” In short, the need for planning tools and software solutions that would enable optimized operational management and energy flow billing was enormous, but almost nothing was being offered for this on the market. So, Schmidt set out on a technology search within Fraunhofer and found what he was looking for with Prof. Peter Bretschneider at the Fraunhofer In­stitute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB. Prof. Bret­schneider and his team had developed a kind of underlying technology — in fact, it came from deployment planning at power plants. Schmidt decided to use this as a basis for developing decentralized energy systems to the point of market readiness. “I embarked on a kind of scouting expedi­tion at Fraunhofer to find the right kind of technology, struck it lucky and brought it to the market as the spin-off Ampeers En­ergy GmbH,” he says with a smile. “It was exactly the right decision. Going to work every morning and developing the con­cept further together with my colleagues is still an absolute pleasure.”

An invaluable sparring partner: Fraunhofer Venture

Finding co-founders did not take long. Dr. Schmidt, Gerrit Ellerwald and Tobias Müller had already worked together in the Open District Hub, and Schmidt and Ellerwald had even studied together. In­dustry partners were also familiar with the founders. “We had already sent proof of work to many members of profession­al associations, so the first investors from this circle were ready to help finance our idea straight away,” reveals the young en­trepreneur and father of two young boys.


The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft also was convinced that the concept was viable. “The advisors at Fraunhofer Venture were always invaluable guides, and accompanied us step by step through all stages of the pro­cess, both during the pre-seed phase as well as the startup phase itself. They are still on board even today,” adds Dr. Schmidt enthusiastically. He particularly empha­sizes the two-pronged approach offered to every startup team. A commercial planner offers support for aspects such as business plans and company networks, while a legal advisor helps with startup documentation and license agreements with the Fraun­hofer-Gesellschaft and other stakeholders. In addition to this initial pillar for success – in other words, the good preparation – Schmidt views the way that his young team works as the second pillar. “There are two important things that a startup should bear in mind. The first thing is marketing, marketing, marketing – you need to approach customers and let the market know that you exist. Secondly, it’s all about team, team, team – whether you win or lose, it can only be done together.” Because we possess these two strengths, we’ve been able to solve all challenges so far.”


The product being offered is of course fundamental for the success of a startup. Schmidt has hit the mark there. “We offer a software solution that covers everything from planning forms of renewable energy and optimizing operation to billing and implementing lucrative business models within the real estate sector. This makes us unique on the market,” he notes with pride.

We’re all passionate about what we do!


The market appears to be ready for the technology too, with the small company that started out two years ago with three founders already having grown to 35 employees. “We even emerged from the lockdown unscathed. By switching real on-site conversations to digital meetings with clients, we were even able to reach more clients than before and dramatically increase our reach. Despite –  or perhaps thanks to – the coronavirus, the market quickly noticed us,” enthuses Schmidt. “Every one of us has indeed been working much more than would be the case if we had other jobs. But our work brings us all huge satisfaction and we have an amazing chance to make a major contribution to the energy transition. After all, we’re all passionate about what we do.




“Look after your team!”

3×3 questions to Karsten Schmidt, Ampeers Energy GmbH

Did you lose sleep at any stage?

I have an entrepreneurial mindset, so the same chal­lenges that might keep others awake, I see as oppor­tunities. I’m a firm believer in the old saying: Every cloud has a silver lining. So I haven’t had any phases where I slept badly, at least not because of work. You could say, with a twinkle in your eye, that it’s more our two little boys that occasionally keep me awake, since they usually claim my time between five and six in the morning.

What advice has helped you?

For me, it’s this piece of advice: “Firstly, look after your team. If everyone if focusing in the same direction, they will be engaged and motivated. And secondly, to pay attention to the market and let it know you exist.” This is advice we always make sure to adhere to. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who gave it to us along the way. I think it was an investor in the first round of funding that thought our idea was great, but too under­developed, and so they didn’t invest.

What are you proud of?

I’m especially proud of the team we have built. This team that managed to bring us onto the market in less than two years. I am of course also proud that people know us on the market, and that they request our products and services and enjoy working with us.