At the end of this month, Apricum will celebrate its 10 year anniversary. In this interview, we ask Apricum Founder and Managing Partner Nikolai Dobrott about the early days of setting up Apricum, some memorable moments and what lies beyond this 10 year milestone.
What was your motivation for founding Apricum?
I guess you could say the seed for Apricum was planted more than 25 years ago. It was during my university studies that my passion for cleantech really started. At the Technical University of Berlin, I studied engineering and business and wrote my diploma thesis on the topic of clean waste technology in the automotive manufacturing industry. I also studied sustainable management and became convinced of the importance of considering environmental factors when making management decisions. Although I knew this could be a huge challenge, I felt it was the only responsible way to go.
After spending many years working in management consulting and corporate M&A, I decided to join Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI), Germany’s economic development agency, in 2004. This was the time of the renewables boom in Germany, and it became clear to me just how significant an impact this would have on the largest industry in the world – the energy industry. Back then, Germany was the world’s leader in the development and deployment of renewable energy. It was my responsibility at GTAI to attract foreign companies to invest in the German renewables market and to consult them on how to do it. I realized that many foreign companies had a strong interest in understanding the dynamics and technical developments of the German renewable energy market and industry. In 2008, I decided to form my own consulting company focused exclusively on cleantech, combining strategy consulting and transaction advisory – essentially bringing together the three areas of my career where I had built expertise and experience, and which I also happened to enjoy very much. So you see how my career progression led me to founding Apricum: strategy consulting at Arthur D Little, M&A at Evonik/Rütgers and renewables at GTAI.
Why the name Apricum? What does it mean?
Apricum means “sunlight” in Latin. I knew I wanted a name beginning with A and of course appropriate for a firm in renewables. I decided to pick up my daughter’s Latin dictionary for some inspiration…I didn’t need to search for long!
How did you go about setting up the company?
I literally started with a sheet of paper and a pencil and drew up the range of services I wanted to offer and the types of companies who could be interested. It all went quickly from there – I left my job, got a small loan, found some office space here in Berlin and hired three people. We were officially open for business on March 30, 2008.
Apricum is no longer a start-up, it has matured into a well-established business. Did you experience the typical growing pains that many young companies go through in the volatile start-up stage?
Yes, definitely. We’ve had some good years and some challenging years. Having pretty strong nerves, an optimistic attitude, a strong belief in what you are doing and an excellent team can get you through the tough times. Starting with three people, we’ve grown to a team of 15 in Berlin with 35 senior advisors scattered around the world, with whom we work on a per-project basis. I’ve always charted a course for growth for Apricum, but it is a carefully considered one, which is responsible and sustainable. It was never my intention, for example, to open many offices and have hundreds of staff and risk compromising the quality of our services. As it is, we can offer our clients the services of 50 experts handpicked for their technical expertise and business acumen.
What are some of the highlights for you of the past 10 years?
There really are many, but one, for example, would be the footprint we have developed in the MENA region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where we developed the initial renewables strategy for Saudi Arabian governmental institutions such as NICDP, KAUST and Saudi Aramco. We’ve built an excellent network and understanding of the market and key industry players through our years of activities there. After helping to lay the foundation in 2008 for Saudi’s renewable strategy and staying committed to the region through the years, it was very rewarding to be involved as financial advisor in the Kingdom’s first renewable energy tenders last year. Apricum has also been engaged as financial advisor in most of the landmark UAE renewables projects as well.
Another highlight is our expansion into different cleantech industry areas. In 2008, our focus was mainly solar. We’ve expanded that over the years and can now also offer our expertise and services to clients in the energy storage, wind, water, green mobility and digital energy sectors.
I am also very proud of the high-quality profile and reputation that we have built, which now sees us invited to submit proposals for some of the most interesting strategic and transaction advisory projects worldwide. We are often automatically shortlisted and are winning work for many top-tier companies from the manufacturing, automotive and energy industry.
The last 10 years was a lot of hard work, but we definitely have something to show for it. We’ve built a strong brand, created a huge network of industry contacts around the world and completed more than 200 client projects with several landmark deals last year. None of these great successes could have been achieved without Apricum’s dedicated and talented team – each one of them passionate about renewable energy. I thank each and every person who currently works at Apricum or has done in the past – without you Apricum would not be where it is today. I would also like to warmly thank all of Apricum’s clients, both past and present, for their belief in our abilities, trust and loyalty.
What is your vision for the future of renewable energy?
There is still much to do in the renewable energy transition. While we have seen tremendous development already, we should not get complacent. This is just the start, and there is not much time left. We need to almost fully decarbonize not only the energy sector, but also the transport, industry and heating/cooling sectors in order to avert catastrophic climate change. We are convinced that this transition is technically and commercially possible, but it will not happen automatically; it instead requires further strong political will to drive this transition on a fairly rapid trajectory. At the same time, the transition will create enormous and sustainable business opportunities. We at Apricum are determined to contribute our bit to the transition, helping to safeguard this beautiful planet for our children and future generations.
For any comments or feedback, please contact Apricum Managing Partner Nikolai Dobrott.