This year has been momentous for building a global hydrogen economy with numerous organizations breaking ground on production facilities, introducing next generation products, or creating alliances in order to more effectively advance hydrogen forward. One noteworthy advancement this year was the creation and opening of hyfindr.com by Björn Lüssow and Steven Oji, since with its creation there is now a marketplace where buyers and sellers of hydrogen components and systems can find each other.
Hyfindr removes a lot of the legwork it takes to locate the parts to create a prototype, which enables people to more effectively build new products. Ultimately this benefits all of us.
On 11.02 FuelCellsWorks sat down with Björn Lüssow to learn more about Hyfindr and how it fits into the hydrogen economy.
FCW: What has been the greatest challenge so far with setting up hyfindr.com?
Well, actually Hyfindr as you know is meant to be a B2B marketplace for the hydrogen industry because we want to create transparency, and as it is a marketplace people expect to find products. So, we decided when we founded Hyfindr and agreed on a business strategy that we would have to find vendors of reliable products that would give us the trust to register with us so that we can present the market with products, and we successfully managed to do that. We have acquired the network and published our marketplace just recently in September and we had 17 vendors by that time. It was a challenge to explain what we want to achieve as the vendors need to buy into the marketplace to the hydrogen economy. From my point of view, it is very inspiring to see that what we are doing has value for many players. We decided to act because we think that the hydrogen economy needs more than public funding to be activated. We have experienced ourselves that lacking transparency is also sometimes killing projects or making it hard for market players to successfully build systems in a good period of time, and we think that we can contribute and you see this transparency we are currently providing in other industries where it is fairly established that you have a place to go to find reliable components. It was quite surprising for me and my co-founder Steven Oji to see that the hydrogen economy does not have that place to go. We are definitely inspired to be that place.
FCW: Do a lot of Hyfindr’s clients tend to being large OEMs that are trying to source a part for a prototype they are working on, or are the clients usually smaller firms that are trying to find the parts they need to create a working product?
I think that over time it will be both. Basically, a marketplace serves two stakeholder groups. First, we call them the searchers, and that could be any professional in the hydrogen industry either a developer or a purchasing professional searching for a reliable product with a defined technical spec. Those people are in small companies and in big companies. The difference between small companies and big companies, the larger companies tend to have very extensive sourcing processes and their own supplier network. I would think that companies that have the biggest volume at the beginning would be the smaller and the mid-size, but over time the bigger companies will be surprised by the transparency and the products that are out there. What is normally not very easy for bigger companies is to adopt to market development. We think that as we can be approached very easily that we can let products shine that even global players might not even know about.
On the other side, I think that companies with reliable products can use us basically for two reasons: brand marketing, putting a flare out into the market that they are there, they are delivering certain products and services. On the second side we create high quality sales leads for them, because customers who are searching for products and comparing products on our marketplace and there after deciding to contact the vendor are in the vendor’s sales channel compared to simply sending an e-mail to a catch-all address like [email protected]. I think that is the value we connect the industry in a very efficient way.
FCW: What countries do most of the orders for the parts in Hyfindr’s marketplace typically come from?
Hyfindr is not selling anything, we are the lead generation platform. We don’t sell the products listed under our brand. We enable an efficient connection between the searcher and the vendor who lists the products on our site. With regard to which countries, we have seen questions and that means leads from Australia to Germany, from Czech Republic to Germany. I think the main value is also why we can act quickly [since] we are not building extensive IT interfaces. We generate leads that the companies can follow-up on their own within their regular sales channels and that enables us to implement our marketplace fast.
FCW: Is Hyfindr eventually going to turn into a place where a person can buy the parts?
Currently I think we have a strategy of lead generation, but obviously we will not stop there. We have many ideas to develop this marketplace as a place to go for several reasons, but currently we are focusing on creating more coverage. Because the customer value of our site obviously increases if he or she [a client] has the chance to basically see the market. We have just started and the signals are very promising, but we are currently focused onboarding vendors with reliable products.
FCW: It does not look like a person can buy completed hydrogen products like a UAV/drone and things like that. Is that something Hyfindr is looking to offer?
Obviously, we have a different type of business. We have components like air compressors, filters, and things like that. We have on top of that complete systems. We also have a category where we present systems that are to be integrated that are to be self-functioning, like a power system. On top of that we also have equipment that is used for the production of hydrogen and fuel cell related components. What is also very inspiring is that people approached us and said that, “please don’t forget about the services;” because when you want to develop a good product you need development services. We also have very reputable listings in that regard, and we are currently onboarding very good players that can help manufacturers of systems and components to bring their products to the next level. All of that is transparent and we are not only focused on the component side. I think what is also worth mentioning is that we take pride in creating high-quality listings. We have pictures that speak about the quality of the product that inspired engineers can zoom in and learn a little bit about, and we register all products be it a component or a system with technical specs. And you can compare them also. The level that we want to get to is [hydrogen] professionals find all of the information needed to immediately decide whether or not it is worth it to contact the vendor. We ourselves experienced in a given practice that sometimes people are very reluctant to speak about their products and demands without signing non-disclosure agreements, and that is slowing the process down.
Steven and myself had a situation in 2019 where we were desperately searching for a hydrogen blower, and it needed to fit into our design and provide the right performance criteria. We ended up engaging the entire project team for six weeks with Google search and with WhatsApp and with many phone calls. We searched the world and eventually found a company in Germany to successfully implement our fuel cell project. By that time Steven and I said that this cannot be 2019, there must be more efficient ways to significantly reduce the search period [for components and systems] to something like five minutes. I think this is the value which helps the industry to do their projects faster, and I think the risk people currently face with all the inspiration they want to bring to products that immediately after the design phase they find out that there might have been a better component. I think transparency is key for the hydrogen and fuel cell industry to mature, to get to a competitive state on a global scale, and I think we can contribute to that.
FCW: What is the plan for the site to make money?
The basic model is that in order to make it very easy for vendors to decide whether or not to register we had a pre-trail period for six months, without an obligation to maintain the listing. We do the work so what we need is good pictures, the technical files and product information, and then we draft the listing. With every new register the customer value of our website increases. We want to a have with the vendors a trustful dialogue prior to the end of the six-month period, and then agree on a reasonable annual listing fee. The feedback that we receive is that the [vendors] want people to talk to. We are not a mega platform where you cannot talk to people. We are there, we go into meetings even as an engineer and understand technical details of products, and this is well perceived [by vendors]. This is very interesting for us to have these talks, because the better we understand the products of the vendors the better we can design listings for them. We are getting pretty efficient at that, and the clients like the way we treat them.
FCW: Is Hyfindr planning on offering do it yourself kits where everything to create something like a small hydrogen fuel cell car (like the mini-Mirai) will be included in one package and the buyer just needs to assemble the kit?
We have a plan, and you can trust that there is value in our ideas. We pay a lot of attention to registering the components with the relevant specs, and over time we can build intelligence about them. There are sites in the world where you can create your personal dream PC and you choose the components and you get recommendations for a good cooling system. Once we have all the relevant components together knowing that a fuel cell system has despite all individuality a very basic design that requires some key components. We think that with intelligence and the data we generate we can help developers rapidly prototype on our platform.
FCW: Does Hyfindr ship any of the equipment it sells or do the orders get routed directly to each manufacturer for fulfillment?
The lead generation is currently addressing the need of the industry for information and collaboration. We are connecting the relevant people. Buying an air compressor is not like buying a shirt with a click. You need to understand in many meetings what is the part we have developed. We know and we are experienced professionals in that industry, and we cannot change the way do project. But we try to support the actual practices with efficient information, therefore we are not shipping anything. We are enabling the connections to do their business.
FCW: If everything goes well for Hyfindr, then what will things look like for it 5 years from now?
The vision would be that our brand is well perceived, that we have a relevant place, that vendors think that they should register with Hyfindr in order to present their products globally, and if you are doing a fuel cell project Hyfindr should be a checkpoint in that project to see if all relevant components/products have been evaluated for a specific purpose. We are focusing really on the customer work because we think that our efforts should go into trying to make our customers more successful without losing focus, since this will be the basis for our success.
The first thing I do in a meeting with a new vendor is to ask the person how she or he learned about Hyfindr. Recently I had a U.K. client that asked its client why it had not yet registered with Hyfindr. We do not know that client, but thank you to all of the potential buyers in the U.K. for acknowledging that Hyfindr has a role to play. I think this is a very nice signal that we are on the right track.
What is also worth mentioning is that hyfindr.com does not only put a website out there but we also try to efficiently inform people. Everybody in the hydrogen industry is pretty busy. In order to not miss out on a new component we created Hyfindr Monthly. That is another example that is very inspiring to us, because it is a management information which is designed like a directory. Once a month (without spamming people) subscribers get an e-mail with a link to all of the newly registered products in a very efficient way. Within two minutes they should jump on that information if there is something interesting inside, and then they can go immediately to the product they are interested in. We think this tool will add value to the industry as well. It is growing heavily. Just within the last month we had 350 new registrations, that is globally and those are decision makers, developers, and potential contacts and leads for our vendors. We think having an update once a month on what is going on is a very good thing. We would be highly delighted if more people register on our site for Hyfindr Monthly.
It was definitely a pleasure during FuelCellsWorks’ chat with Björn to see the dedication, knowledge, and keen interest in hydrogen that he brings to Hyfindr. Hyfindr is very much reminiscent of a site like Newegg twenty years ago, and today Newegg is perhaps the biggest market leader where selling personal computer components and systems are concerned. With its thoughtful leaders, solid marketplace beginnings, and its essential element in the hydrogen economy, Hyfindr is definitely an organization that is helping to advance hydrogen and the whole world forward.
Jesse Lyon, Contributor
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