As a business, Bulb is required to publish an annual financial report. We’ll be filing that in a week or so, at the end of the year. But in putting it together it occurred to us that it doesn’t really discuss the things that actually make Bulb tick, or the things that you might be interested in as one of our members. So we’re starting a new annual tradition – reporting to our members on how we’re doing, looking at the money, but looking at other things as well.
Investing in growth
The report will show how we performed over the past financial year (April 2017 - March 2018). In this period, Bulb generated £182.8m in revenue (broadly, that’s the amount we get paid by our members). We made a gross profit of £12.1m after we’d paid our generators and the energy network. And after we deduct the costs of paying all our people, for our offices and the costs associated with acquiring new members we ended up with a £23.7m net loss. This is because we choose to invest in growing the business and signing up new members; something we’re unashamedly interested in doing. Every new member means a greener UK. But we only grow in a sustainable way; we make a fair and healthy profit from every member. And in the middle of this year we sold shares in the company to investors for £60m. This was recognition of the solid, responsible business we’ve built, and will fund our continued growth.
In 2018, we grew from 200,000 members at the start of the year to over 870,000 now.
We think that represents the British public voting with their feet – for great service, fair prices and renewable energy. And we’re especially pleased that around 20% of those members joined through our referral programme. That means we’re rewarding our members for helping us grow, much the best way to do it.
Cutting bills, cutting emissions
We started Bulb to help our members reduce their bills and their carbon emissions. Although the wholesale market has driven us to raise prices recently we’re still, on average, £134 cheaper than Big Six standard tariffs. This is despite the introduction of an energy price cap which has forced the Big Six to bring those tariffs down. A very good thing in our view. Collectively, Bulb’s 870,000 members help save over one million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere every year. This is a significant, positive impact on our environment.
As is tradition, we’ll send every member an impact report in January telling them how much they, personally, have contributed.
This year we also introduced products that will help a wider range of people save money and cut their emissions. We now supply Prepay meters, bringing Bulb’s affordable renewable energy to even more people. Our tariff is one of the most competitive in the market. We Launched our Warm Home Discount scheme. And we can now purchase renewable generation from our members with solar panels through our Feed-in Tariff. This year, the Bulb community reduced their energy usage by 2% compared to the UK average. We’re excited to see what more we can do next year to continue the trend.
Focusing on service
We’re able to grow that fast and still have a score of 9.4/10 on Trustpilot because we’re investing in great people and great technology. We’ve hired brilliant, imaginative technologists who are constantly upgrading our systems - working to improve the kind of back office software that often slows a business down or causes issues for customers. We think that kind of work has helped our Energy Specialists be 4 times as productive as they were in 2017. Most of you won’t notice that happening - but if you do need to get in touch it means we have more people with more time to help you out more quickly. And, we’re not just relying on technology, we’re also investing in the service team directly – recruiting more Energy Specialists and more training.
This team is the heart of our business, they are a bunch of extraordinary, inspiring people and our growth has stretched them this year. We won’t pretend it’s always been smooth. Because of that we’ve also decided to publish our service performance monthly from January, so you can see if we’re delivering as we promise.
Not business as usual
Bulb is an unusual kind of business. We’re registered as a B Corp, which means we have explicit responsibilities to society and the environment, not just our shareholders. So, for instance, each time a new Bulb member joined us we gave £2 to Trees for Cities - a charity that is helping children learn about the environment. Thanks to our growth, we have now contributed almost £2 million to Trees for Cities, and together we won an award for our work.
We’re also committed to a fair relationship with our own people. We’re a Living Wage employer and everyone at Bulb gets shares - we all have a stake in the business. And this year we introduced some new initiatives to make working at Bulb even better. We now have a generous training budget (£1,000 per person, per year), and give all team members five working days to use it with. We improved our parental leave and pay. And once you’ve been on the team for a year, you can take a one-month sabbatical.
Building for the future
This year, we founded Bulb Labs, our way of learning about new tools or technologies that will help our members save money on bills or cut carbon emissions. Bulb Labs built a bot to help our members understand the greenest time to use energy every day. They ran a successful small-scale trial in which we helped members to significantly reduce their usage during hours of peak demand, between 4 and 7pm (the most expensive and carbon-intensive hours).
We’re also working on a lot of exciting stuff for 2019. Bulb Labs are working on our new smart tariff beta, which will help members reduce their carbon emissions and bills even further than they already have. And we’ve done in-depth research into the EV landscape in the UK, understanding the barriers to adoption and putting us in a good position to build useful products for EV owners in 2019. We’ll share more details on that soon.
Thank you to all our members for choosing to be a Bulb member. We couldn’t have come this far without you. And the more people who join our community the more likely we are to succeed in our mission to make the UK the greenest country on earth.