Essent’s Tankey Venture: Uniting Fuel Partners for Big Discounts

Corporate Startup of the Week

Most businesses know the value of customer loyalty and work hard to achieve it. These days you’d have trouble finding a company that didn’t offer its clients some sort of loyalty program. 

And it’s not surprising! According to a recent article by sifted, the global loyalty program market is worth about  $17 bn. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that action?

The problem is that factors like digital disruption and new generational expectations have begun to change the way people look at customer loyalty. The same old points and rewards schemes are just not enough anymore to secure that highly coveted returning customer. 

Essent, the largest energy company in the Netherlands, has addressed these challenges with their corporate venture Tankey.

This new customer-centric app is disrupting the Dutch fuel market by grouping multiple fuel partners under one umbrella and rewarding its users with valuable discounts at the pump. No old-fashioned punch cards or points required!

Now let’s take a closer look at how they did it. 

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A little bit about Essent

With over 2,5 million customers, Essent provides its customers with gas, electricity, heat and energy services in both Belgium and the Netherlands. 

Despite its strong position as a market leader, rapid changes in the energy industry brought on by digitalization and disruptions in the mobility industry were causing customers to switch suppliers. 

They decided to address these challenges head-on by incorporating digital technologies, improving their self-service capabilities and enhancing their offerings through customer feedback. 

Additionally, they decided to re-invent how they looked at customer loyalty. And that’s how the concept behind Tankey was born.

Essent Tankey example

The Birth of Tankey

Tankey was founded in 2018 by Paul Akass and Eva Oudshoorn, both former employees of Essent. 

The concept was started inside Innogy, the German-based energy company that owns Essent and after one year (and some help from energiedirect.nl and Tamoil Nederland), Tankey was ready to spin-out on its own as an independent company.

The idea was simple: They created an app that adds up your consumer loyalty rewards and turns them into instant discounts at the gas pump. The main goal was to attract new clients and keep the old ones coming back for more.

After only one year, Tankey had 100,000 users and they had already started to break even in terms of profits, which is not always the case with new apps.  

How does it work?

Tankey is a B2C company that works using the following steps:

Aside from the discounts and how easy the app is to use, some of Tankey’s additional advantages include:

  • Hassle-Free savings – You don’t need to worry about accumulating points, stamps or cards. The direct discount is automatically applied.
  • Convenience – They have 400 participating stations in the Netherlands
  • CO2 Compensation – Some Tankey partners offer compensation for your CO2.
  • Higher partnership discounts: If you are a customer of energiedirect.nl or Essent Zakelijk, you get a discount of 5 cents per liter on the listed pump price.
  • Discounts even for customers that don’t use a partner: Users will receive a welcome discount of 5 cents per liter for the first two sessions. They will get a basic discount of 1 cent per liter valid for a year.

As described by co-founder Paul Akass:

“Tankey is very transparent, the customer doesn’t need to worry about saving points. They know the value of what they are getting and they are getting it instantly.”

How Tankey and Essent benefited each other

For Essent, creating a corporate spin-out meant:

  • They got to develop Tankey under a separate corporate identity, meaning they were able to go forward with their plans without the bureaucratic burdens that come with large corporations.
  • Essent was able to reinvent itself by investing in a promising start-up while keeping its legacy and staying true to its core business model. 
  • The app helped Essent’s customers stay loyal and increased their value to the company.
  • Essent was able to find new and valuable customer insights (e.g. fuel consumption and mobility patterns) through Tanky.

For Tankey, spinning out from Essent, proved to be quite advantageous:

  • It was easier to attract and connect with shareholders and investors because they had solid corporate backing.
  • Corporate resources and support meant the founders could focus on developing a truly entrepreneurial culture that encouraged innovation and creativity.
  • They benefited from Essent’s know-how, which gave them a head start over competitors without the same access. 

What’s next for Tankey?

Akass has some big plans to keep Tankey growing in the next few years, including:

  • Widening their fuel network from 400 to 700 stations
  • Actively promoting the app to new partners beyond energiedirect.nl, Essent Zakelijk, Tamoil, VARO, OK and GPGroot
  • Growing the customer base from 300.000 to 500.000 users
  • Bringing a new investor on board

There’s even been some talk about expanding into the electric vehicles market. As described by Akass: 

“I think it’s logical to move into EV (electric vehicle charging). Our goal would be to stay close to mobility and EV is very interesting” 

With these exciting goals on the horizon, the sky is the limit for this young venture. We can’t wait to see what the future will bring!

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Ritza Suazo

Ritza Suazo

Innovation Journalist