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How different are Europe’s new energy companies from their more established competitors?

The energy sector has seen a wave of new companies enter the market during the past decade. Their business models and market approach tend to differ from the more established companies – but just how big of a generation gap is there, really? Let’s find out in this final instalment of our series on turning digital footprint data into actionable industry insight.

Photo of a contemporary co-working space

Over the past few months, we’ve been experimenting with public digital footprint data to figure out how we can better understand our clients through sources like their capital market day materials, social media, open job positions and patent data.

So far, we’ve run three experiments, the first one looking at sustainability-related messaging in social media content and investor materials, and the other two comparing the sustainability agendas of Europe’s largest energy providers – through the lenses of their open job positions and patent data. This time, to conclude this series, we’re doing a quick experiment to find out how these big players compare with the new kids on the block.

How do old and new energy providers compare on social media?

We collected all the recent social media posts from two energy startups – Octopus and OVO – and compared them with those of our energy giants from the past two experiments. A number of noteworthy differences stood out across three themes:

  • Culture and related words like diversity, purpose and people
  • Social and related words like community, human rights and inclusion
  • Renewal and related words like entrepreneurship, spin-off and venture

Table: new energy companies on social media

While this sample only covers a total of 2,000 posts, the differences are rather significant.

We then looked into the context of the relevant posts – which we’ve learned is always a vital step in these analyses. As it turns out, matches for "lean" might just mean that they’re talking about cleaning a lot, so you have to be careful.

A clear tone was present across most of the posts from the new-school providers:

One post shines a spotlight on an employee who is the “brains in charge of helping other companies adopt our agile tech and culture,” while another talks of the company’s “commitment to building a truly diverse community and an inclusive culture where everyone can thrive because they are valued.”

They laud how their “sustainable technology helps to improve social welfare” and how they can “build #mobility back in the post #COVID recovery in a way that optimises the economic, social and environmental benefits while we continue on our path to #decarbonisation.”

And so on – you get the idea. A healthy dose of hot air, sure, but it’s a compelling, modern message, and it’s jumping out everywhere. Yet, where the big energy companies are concerned, this kind of messaging is something we rarely see.

Are the big players and new energy companies looking for the same kind of talent?

To find out whether the difference in outward-facing messaging is also reflected on these companies’ talent hunt, we took a closer look at how their open job positions compare:

Table: energy companies' job openings

Here we can notice an even clearer split. For Octopus and OVO, their hiring profile looks remarkably close to that of a tech company (we should know). Compared to the more established energy companies, the new kids are seeking lots of software developers, cloud experts as well as data scientists or engineers, and they’re placing a much stronger emphasis on customer service. They’re also actively hiring tech recruiters to help with the talent search, so this similarity to tech companies seems set to keep growing.

Granted, a somewhat different hiring profile is to be expected here. Octopus and OVO are focused primarily on energy retail alone, while the big providers are also involved in things like power generation and transmission, too. But the contrast is still stark – they’re all in the retail business, yet our two new-school players are hiring almost as many data scientists as seven of Europe’s largest players combined. Let that sink in for a minute.

Small fish, but with big teeth?

Admittedly, all this is just another weak signal – the data is quite sparse, and further research is still needed. But what we are able to see from these new-school players sure makes them seem like modern tech companies. Given that we spend a large proportion of our time helping our clients with digital and cultural transformation, that’s a profile we’d bet our money on in the longer run. Either the larger players have some catching up to do, or they need to make sure their digital footprint better represents what they’re actually doing.

What’s next on our digital footprint journey

Through this experiment, we’ve learned a lot about using the public digital footprint to generate market insight. There are many pitfalls to avoid if we want to find the real signal in among the noise. And the insights rarely tell you the whole story – the real value comes from combining the weak signals from the data with human insight and market knowledge.

But the value is clear. The data gives us a new level of visibility over our market, which drives our client centricity. After this experiment, we now have a better idea of which trends to build our offering around, what our clients' challenges are, and what language they’re speaking.

As this capability matures, it can become part of our data and analytics offering as well – the same sort of insights that enable our own client centricity can also enable our clients.

The general vibe among our team is that there’s definitely something here. What started out as a small experiment has generated quite a bit of knowledge that we believe might be of interest to the energy sector. That’s exactly why we’ve decided that as our next step on this journey, we’re going to level up the insights we’ve gained and refine them into a report – covering everything we’ve learned about the energy industry and the public digital footprint so far. So stay tuned!


  • Portrait of Tuomas Syrjänen
    Tuomas Syrjänen
    Co-Founder, Chair of the Board, AI Renewal/Artificial Officer
  • Portrait of Aleksi Roima
    Aleksi Roima
    Business Lead, Data Management
  • Portrait of Jack Richardson
    Jack Richardson
    Data & AI Transformation Lead