The Aalto Formula

Peter from Vensum: "It’s crucial to have a clear vision of the impact you aim to make. "

Vensum is an Aalto-born energy technology startup advancing the green transition by revolutionizing the power conversion industry but the path has not been easy. Read more about CEO Peter Nisula's thoughts about steering a start-up through hardships.

Peter Nisula from Vensum

Hi Peter, could you give us a short explanation of what Vensum does and what is your mission?

Certainly! In short, Vensum is an energy technology startup and we advance the green transition by revolutionizing the power conversion industry. We have developed a groundbreaking technology called Software-Defined Power Conversion that reduces energy loss occurring in power conversion.

We’re currently a team of 11 people, located close to the campus of Aalto University in Otaniemi, Espoo.

What specific problem was Vensum founded to address?

Vensum’s story was ignited by the urgent need to address some of the main problems our energy system will face in the near future. 

Electrification of the society and green transition play a key role in solving the climate crisis. However, these efforts also result in a significant surge in global electricity demand. In fact, the world electricity demand is expected to triple by the year 2050 (McKinsey & Company, Global Energy Perspective 2022). To meet such a staggering increase in energy demand, it becomes imperative to discover more efficient methods not only for electricity generation but also for its conversion into usable forms. Hence, Vensum was founded in 2018 to address the issue of energy loss in power conversion, and I joined the team a few years later in the spring of 2022.

Power conversion, you don’t often hear about that when discussing the future of the energy industry and technology. Could you tell us more about it and why it’s important to focus on that, too?

That’s right, power conversion often remains an overlooked aspect within the industry. While there’s a lot of emphasis on developing new, sustainable, and effective energy sources, it’s equally important to pay attention to power conversion efficiency. A highly efficient power conversion system can minimize energy losses and maximize power output, making it a crucial component of sustainable energy production.

You mentioned that Vensum has developed a revolutionary Software-Defined Power Conversion technology. Could you explain how it works and how it differs from other power conversion technologies?

Our technology has a wide variety of applications within the power industry ranging from electric vehicle charging stations to improving the productivity of wind and solar power systems. Essentially, our power converters convert the voltage of the power grid to suit the specific requirements of each device. 

What sets us apart is that our technology eliminates many of the bottlenecks commonly encountered in existing power conversion systems. With traditional converters, around 7-10% of the energy goes to waste in the conversion process but with our technology, the number drops down to 3-5%, which is a significant improvement considering how many electric cars are charged daily in Europe or even in Finland, for instance. Additionally, our technology takes up a lot less space than existing power converters, which makes power conversion more efficient and enables innovation in product design, even completely new product categories.

What does Vensum’s journey look like so far? Have there been any challenges that you have had to overcome?

So as I mentioned, Vensum was founded five years ago, in 2018, by Jyrki Penttonen and Mika Marjalaakso. However, only a few years later, in 2022 we were faced with an extremely tough situation as Jyrki, Vensum’s CEO at the time, passed away suddenly. We had to decide what to do with the company: keep going or just dissolve it. We decided to keep going. Since that decision Vensum’s team has grown from just a couple of employees to over 10 and we’re constantly hiring more. Moreover, we recently secured a seed funding of over 3 million euros to develop our power converter technology further and we’re hoping to pilot our product already this year.

And could you tell us how Aalto and Vensum are connected? Aalto and its research community had a role to play in the inception of Vensum, right? 

That’s true. Vensum shares a connection with Aalto University in various ways. Notably, both founders of the company pursued their studies at one of Aalto’s predecessor institutions, Helsinki University of Technology. Moreover, Jyrki held a PhD from Aalto University and was actively involved in the university’s research team dedicated to advancing power conversion technology. 

And as you said, the inception of Vensum was inspired by discussions with professors from Aalto University, who shared their concerns about the anticipated challenges within the energy system over the next 5-10 years. These conversations served as a catalyst for the creation of Vensum.

What’s next for Vensum? How do you envision the future of Vensum's impact? 

After conducting extensive research and technology development, we are thrilled to enter the next phase of productization, propelling Vensum towards becoming a growth-oriented company. Partnering with stakeholders who share our vision, we aim to provide valuable solutions to our customers’ burning  needs. Our commitment to sustainability remains steadfast as we continue to drive positive impact through green transition.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs aspiring to start impact-driven businesses? 

It’s crucial to have a clear vision of the impact you aim to make. Break this vision down into achievable steps, while maintaining a high level of ambition. Surround yourself with not only skilled individuals but also people who share the right mindset to support your goals. When it comes to funding, ensure you find the right investor who aligns with your development stage and future ambitions. With the right resources in place, it's important to keep the momentum going and drive progress swiftly. Growth doesn’t happen on its own.

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