Vlerick gave me a toolbox to handle both the technical and also the business side of the company

Lodeweyckx Stefan

What was your dream when you were little?

Well, amazingly enough, I wanted to be a fighter jet pilot. This was my dream from I think when I was about eight until maybe 14 or 15-years old, because the sky was the limit! It would be like flying with the birds; that was something I always wanted to do. I also wanted the kick -- the adrenaline, the speed, the adventure -- those were all the reasons why I had that as a dream.

Do you feel that you’ve achieved your dream today?

I have in a way accomplished my dream, but in a completely different manner than becoming a fighter jet pilot. I am definitely still in the sky as the sky is the limit for sure, but it’s not in a fighter jet plane at the moment! The key reason why I didn’t achieve my dream was my eyes. They just weren’t good enough. Having said that it was because you had to have a technical, scientific background to become a fighter jet pilot that I became an engineer. And then everything took off.

So, what actually happened? What studies did you do and what sort of jobs have you done?

When I chose to become an engineer, it was because I was really passionate about technology. Technology has always been a driver throughout my whole career. After my studies as an engineer the first thing that I did was join Philips where I worked in the research department.

My career then evolved through different companies. I went into the semiconductor business, the hard and software industries … always international. I also worked for Sony but then at some point I decided that the time was right to do something by myself. And then the whole other story started.

What have you started?

The company I started, Enervalis, is the result of a lot of thinking. I was inspired by a lot of ideas that I had, but ideas that I never executed. At some point in time I said to myself, stop just thinking about ideas, start executing. But another thing was, and this was a driver for Enervalis, if I was to start something, it had to be different than simply making the next, new technological product. It had to be something that delivered value to society.

Thinking with my technological background, I said, “You know what is an interesting domain? Energy.” Energy is experiencing a paradigm shift. And green energy is going to be very present there. And so I decided that Enervalis should focus on energy, and make software to facilitate the shift towards mass renewable energy.

Can you explain what Enervalis does?

The vision we have at Enervalis is that by mid-century, it will be a 100-percent green energy world out there. Our mission, as Enervalis, is to build the operating system to facilitate mass-market energy services that stimulate maximum use of green energy, and this in a cost-effective manner. And how do we do that? We make software that reads a lot of different data points … electrical, thermal, and behavioural … as well as other data points out there, and then use machine learning and artificial intelligence to make predictions in terms of consumption, production, flexibility and behaviours. All of this goes to create another layer, something we call automatic control. The result is we are able to optimise towards maximum real-time green energy consumption.

Can you give a few concrete examples of projects your working on at Enervalis?

We have a project in the Netherlands. I would say the biggest smart EV charging project in the Netherlands. It’s in the city of The Hague. There are more than 1500 charge points, and all those charge points are under our full control, and we do optimal trading on the energy markets. So we reduce the price of the charging by changing the charge profile of the cars.

Another example, again, in the Netherlands, is for a big building company that constructs hundreds of houses in one place. There is solar, battery, vehicles, and heat pumps. And what we do is predict and optimally control the different assets to avoid congestion so that we are able to maximize the green energy consumed in that micro grid.

Even though we are a Belgian company, we have always had an international mind-set. We now also have projects in Belgium, and some we’re starting in Germany, Scandinavia, Spain, and then looking into some emerging markets as well.

Can you explain what studies you did at Vlerick and why you did that?

I chose to do an MBA at Vlerick because I was a technically schooled engineer. The result was I knew a lot about technology, but always wanted to know more about the business side of things. Vlerick ensured I received a wide breadth of knowledge and not just pure marketing or finance.

Vlerick was a school that was high in the rankings. So it was a choice based on its merits plus it also gave me the tools to become a more complete person, meaning that I would in the end be able to handle both the technical and also the business side of a company. Vlerick has given me a tremendous amount of skills and a toolbox that I wouldn’t have had if I had just stayed working.

Can you highlight the added value of a Vlerick MBA?

I feel that the biggest added value of Vlerick to date … because things might still come up in the future … has been the ability to start Enervalis up on my own. Normally you can’t really develop a start up based on a technical idea and big markets without financial people, a legal team and others. I was however able to manage it myself thanks in large part to the knowledge I gained at Vlerick.

On top of that, the network you develop at Vlerick is truly invaluable. You get to know the people in a very sociable and also amicable environment. As a result you build up relations from a pure and personal perspective that are very long lasting. We still get together on a very regular basis. So, from a social perspective and then, of course, the network … everyone works in certain companies, so it’s easy to get in touch. For sure, I have fantastic, positive memories of studying at Vlerick.

What would be the key message you want to give to young people?

If I would have to give one key message to young people it would be to follow their heart, follow their dreams, follow their passion, and move forward. Be driven by that, as opposed to being driven by economics, finance or technology. Do what you like, and you will be excellent; you will outperform anybody out there. So, follow your dreams, follow your passion and you will be excellent, that’s the key message.

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