5 Mins With ... Tim Mendelssohn, CEO of Spark
Tell us about Spark, how the business started and your objectives?
In early 2019, we launched Spark Commodities (Spark), based in Singapore and backed by Kpler, the industry-leading commodities data & analytics provider, and EEX, a world-renowned global exchange that is part of the Deutsche Boerse Group. The goal was simple; to redefine how commodity markets trade, beginning with creating an LNG freight index. The reality was that we were taking on some of the biggest, most established players in a multi-billion dollar part of the energy industry. However, a strong combination of shareholder support and a strong, in-house developer team gave us the foundation to make an impact. We’ve now got over 200 companies on the platform, 1000+ users and have recently listed our contracts on ICE.
How can modern startups compete with established legacy operators and what are the benefits and limitations for new enterprises?
While we don’t have the legacy of our competitors, we compete by building an organisation that is designed to respond to the market. If you logged into Spark two years ago, and then logged in now, you would see a fundamentally different platform. This iterative approach means we can deliver what our customers need, deploying modern technologies in a more powerful way that adds greater value. The challenge is that you have to build trust through strong, continued and sustained delivery and execution. When your competitors are 100+ years old, well funded and have hundreds of employees, there are no second chances.
We hear a lot about 'customer centric' operations, what does that mean to Spark in the context of the technical industry?
We take customer data to form robust indices that the market can use when managing risk. When creating and developing both the platform and our indices, we must ensure our products are both accurate and valuable. The only way to do this is listening continuously and iterating as the market and their respective needs evolve.
How important are partnerships in attracting and sustaining business?
Without our partnerships, we’d join the long list of companies with good ideas but limited validation. Partnerships, in the form of shareholder structures, collaboration with exchanges (in our case ICE) and developing relationships with key customers demonstrates validation and our ability to add real value. Without this, it’s hard to transition from an idea to a functioning business.
What role will digital transformation play in the energy transition and achieving net zero targets?
It’s a vast subject but conceptually, an increase in digital offerings will facilitate greater transparency, which in turn should lead to greater trust, greater adoption and therefore faster adoption of transition-focused solutions. I believe that transparency will act as a natural accelerant to the process and we aim to be part of that process.