Freeze or sneeze? – How innovation improves life

Since the covid warnings have spread through the news even faster than the virus itself, we have started to ventilate like never before by opening our windows at home and at work at any time and length. Now that winter is coming and energy prices haven been soaring to unknown heights, this could turn out to be very expensive. Is our choice limited to either freeze or sneeze .. or even worse?


Effective Air Purification

Over the last two and a half years, several scientists and researchers have emphasized the role of air quality in airborne transmission of respiratory viruses. Dutch air purification innovator and scale-up VFA Solutions has developed the patented ASPRA technology that powers indoor air purifiers and removes fine dust, viruses, bacteria, fungi, smells and gases. This is how it works:

  • unhealthy air is pulled into the device
  • the particles are electrically charged as they pass through an electrostatic field
  • biological particles, such as viruses, are deactivated directly in the device
  • the particles, pathogen residues and aerosols are captured on a proprietary collector (particle filter) inside the device
  • clean, purified air leaves the device

The following substances are removed from the air: particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, PM1), ultrafine particulate matter (PM0.1, submicron and nano-particles), microbiological contaminations (viruses, bacteria, fungi, spores and pollen), VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and odours (by adding a VFA Active Carbon Filter). [1]

The ASPRA air purification system uses high efficiency electrostatic precipitation & filtration. Recently a Belgium school had the results measured by an independent specialist with convincing results [2]. Compared to solutions with standard filters or ionisation technology, it offers several advantages and higher effectiveness [3].

ASPRA technology in actionSource:

Less wealthy but still healthy

VFA Solutions’ ASPRA air purification systems are available with different capacities and features. They can be used in almost all indoor spaces, including:

  • your home
  • offices and education institutions
  • sport and fitness spaces
  • airport, transportation and car parking facilities
  • entertainment and leisure venues
  • hospitals and care homes
  • retail and logistical complexes
  • agricultural and industrial indoor spaces

With that the choice for this winter is no longer ‘freeze or sneeze’ but ‘less wealthy but still healthy’.



Energy Transition in Action – Hydropower Hope

Renewable Energy Challenge

In 2019, the share of electricity in final energy consumption was 19%, which according to Bloomberg could grow to 49% in 2050. This means a massive increase from 79 EJ to 192-194 EJ mainly driven by wind, solar and nuclear power [1]. Surprisingly the Bloomberg report does not mention hydropower, which in 2019 accounted for a third of all final energy consumption generated by modern renewables. One wonders, what the role of hydropower could be in the decarbonization race. How big a challenge the road to net zero in 2050 is, illustrates the fact that the share of modern renewables in total final energy consumption in 2019 was just 11.2%, while fossil fuels attributed 80.2%, and others 8.7% [2].


Having lived in the Netherlands in the Rhine/Meuse/Schelde delta and near the North Sea for many years, and currently residing in Switzerland, I have witnessed the tremendous force of water. Hydropower uses that energy to produce electricity or to power machines. Did you know that close to 60 percent of Swiss produced electricity already comes from hydropower [3]? However, in countries with less elevation than Switzerland, seas with tides and currents, but also rivers and lakes have a potential for hydropower as well. Let’s review how and where hydropower can generete and store energy and how cost-effective it is.

Energy Generation

According to Fred Ferguson, CEO of Waterotor Energy Technologies from Ottawa, Canada, water is both a powerful and a cost-effective clean energy source. His company develops innovative water rotors that extract energy from rivers, ocean currents, and tidal flows. According to Ferguson, hydropower is “830 times more powerful than wind” and it also “flows continuously”, as opposed to wind and solar energy [4]. Waterotor power generators extract energy at an average cost of CAD 5-10 cents per kWh, compared to the average electricity price worldwide of CAD 18.7 cents (source: 2020). [5]

As the Waterotor story shows, hydropower can be generated in rivers, lakes, seas or oceans. A Quantum Tech HD clip reviews some interesting technologies [6]:

Anliatec Technology 2-50 kW micro turbines in rivers and irrigation canals
Landustrie 4m x 6m hydropower screw turbines
Nering Industries 3 m x 1 m water wheels
Ocean Power Technologies moored sea buoys with a sliding top that moves with the waves
OpenHydro Group (out of business) vertical 2 MW sea bed turbines with 16 m diameter
JAG Seabell Co. 0.4-44 kW ultra low micro hydro turbines
Turbulent Hydro enclosed Hydro turbines for rivers and canals that don’t disturb wildlife
Waterotor Energy Technologies water rotors for slow moving water

The Landustrie screw turbine solution

Energy Storage

The water reservoirs in the Swiss Alps enable a more or less continuous flow of hydropower and even allow for energy storage. Some turbines not only generate electricity, but in reverse mode also pump water to higher reservoirs, that can feed the turbines during times of peak electricity demand. Could it also be possible to apply these principles in flatter landscapes? In the Netherlands, when in winter, spring or even summer, the amount of water in the rivers exceeds its capacity, the so-called ‘uiterwaarden’ bring relief. These winter beds are elevated parallel rivers that fill up once the dike of the main river overflows and are emptied into the river once its level sinks. Raising the height of the summer dikes and installing two-way, lockable turbines could be an additional source of clean energy and energy storage. Couldn’t uiterwaarden-like reservoirs be an energy and overflow option for more countries?

Energy Transition

As about 71 percent of the earth’s surface is water, hydropower has a huge potential to be a main contributor to decarbonisation. Even the tiny Netherlands has 6000 km of rivers/canals and 450 km of coast line, excluding the Dutch islands. Recent innovations like the Waterotor power generator prove that electricity prices can be very competitive. Governments can support the energy transition to hydropower by stimulating innovation, by regulation, and by infrastructure investment. See the recently published ‘San José Declaration on Sustainable Hydropower’ of the IHA (International Hydropower Association) [7]. What if every ship would be equipped with reversible turbines that, once anchored or docked, could generate electricity? What if all rivers could have fixed or floating rotors and turbines? What if every oil rigg and offshore windmill could be equipped with hydropower turbines? Or, even better, what if underwater turbines and rotors could be installed in every river or canal, and at every coast? After all, who wouldn’t prefer the visual aesthetics of underwater equipment to windmills?

The Waterotor Energy Technologies power generator

Hydropower Hope

Hydropower has many advantages: water resources are wide spread around the world, technology is robust, proven and increasingly efficient, energy generation is flexible, operating cost are low, and plant life is longest. Its environmental impact is low and better than windmills. Special attention is given to protection of fish by creating parallel passes to turbines. Recent innovations have brought smaller, more affordable solutions allowing a deeper market penetration. Digitization further increases hydropower productivity, efficiency, integration and security. Therefore the hope that hydropower will be a major contributor to the energy transition seems realistic, a role that might be even bigger than anticipated.


[2] REN21; Renewables 2021 Global Status Report, Figure 2
[4] CAD = Canadian Dollar

The 25-day Marketing Plan with the LIST Marketing Framework – How Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive

During the last years, Philip van den Berg had the privilege to set up the marketing function at a number of startups with a similar challenge: Building a marketing machine that ‘produces’ from the beginning and brings growth. He used the LIST Marketing Framework, which addresses, how Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive. At every case on which he worked, it took roughly 25 working days to agree on the marketing strategy, write the plan and start the first implementation. This article describes how LIST got the job done.


The List Marketing Framework uses three building blocks: the ‘Build-Measure-Learn‘ continuous loop from Eric Ries’ well known Lean Startup methodology, the Insights-Based Marketing Method I developed and the Scrum Principles of transparency, inspection, & adaptation applied to marketing. This article discusses each in more detail with the use case of Apilio in Q1 2020.

Apilio is an international Startup in Home/Home Office Automation, that deploys an innovative SaaS solution. The product allows customers to set rules with their phone, tablet, or pc, to control smart devices for lighting, heating, home entertainment, etc., using both external sources (weather information, sunset/sunrise information, etc.) and internal sources, including people’s mobility data. See

read more about Lean Marketing

read more about Insights-Based Marketing

read more about Scrum in Marketing

LIST and the 25-day marketing plan

Apilio had a simple request: within three months, provide us with a plan to boost subscribers and start implementation, with a focus on Online & Social Media. Applying the LIST Marketing Framework enabled me to write a first Marketing MVP in 15 days and have it signed off in 25 days, while being completely new to the industry.


In order to determine the marketing strategy and write the marketing plan, I needed more insights about the market, about customers and about digital marketing. I was positively surprised about the amount of syndicated research that was available for free, both publicly and through a collaboration with an Educational Institute (the ZHAW). I could enrich this with free general social media reports (such as Google Trends) and tools (such as Neil Patel) as well as metrics on Apilio Social Media (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter metrics) and customer messaging (Intercom).

Marketing Strategy & Marketing Plan

The danger of any strategy is, that it is remote or even disconnected from ‘real-life’ implementation. Therefore I included the full marketing strategy in the marketing plan and made sure strategy parts had ‘building blocks’ part like personas, customer journeys and messaging that could be implemented immediately. Based on new insights that emerged both during the planning phase and during the first campaigns we run afterward, these parts were regularly updated and fine-tuned.

Part 1 – Marketing Strategy 2020 and beyond: Mission, Offering & Positioning; Business Objective & Marketing Goals; Market Opportunity: Definition, Market Size, Competitive Analysis, Target Segments; End-User Personas: Key Personas, General Persona Characteristics, Customer Journeys; Communication Strategy incl. Tactics, Mix, Demand Generation Framework, Messaging, Themes; Metrics; Risks; Glossary

Part 2 – Marketing Plan 2020: Timeline; Campaigns, Programs & Projects; Campaign Template; Budget

Using the collected market and customer insights, combined with knowledge from the team, the following components of Part 1 of the marketing plan were defined:

  • Target Segments: Acquisition Customers, Retention Customers & Advocacy Customers + Influencers (journalists, bloggers, forum posters and analysts) + Partners (Smart solution providers)
  • End-User Personas: End-users mapped using four dimensions and four use case related personas were defined for four customer journeys
  • Strategy: Inbound marketing, low cost, focus on social media marketing and knowledge sharing, around theme-based campaigns, and the three-stage customer journey 
  • Inbound marketing framework: a visualization of the customer journey through the external digital media and the Apilio digital media to the landing page
  • Tactics: theme-based modular text and video messaging with landing pages, quarterly virtual events, multi-channel communication
  • Demand generation framework: marketing channels and activities per stage of the RACE-funnel model + communication matrix with media and communication type per target audience segment and three campaign types: full campaign, mini-campaign, communication
  • Themes: five themes
  • Messaging: Strategic behavioral message, Customer Need messaging (why) incl. Sound Bites, Functional messaging (What) incl. Sound Bites, using Sven Hughes’ Verbalisation methodology
  • Metrics: per stage of the RACE funnel

The RACE Framework

The SmartInsights RACE framework divides the funnel into four parts or stages: Reach, Act, Convert, Engage. Each of these steps represents a different level of customer intimacy and therefore represents different marketing activities and often even different messaging. It is comparable to the XoFu-framework with ToFu/MoFu/BoFu to which I added a fourth state for customer up-sell, cross-sell and advocacy, that I call WoFu = Widening of the Funnel. This listed in the below table, to which I add the marriage analogy for ‘visualization’ reasons.

the RACE/XoFu Funnel Framework

In Part 2 of the plan, a first list of Campaigns, Programs & Projects was made, including a high level planning by quarter. As first Digital Projects were defined a SEO/Keyword plan and the website makeover. Part 2 was completed by sections on the budget, the risk and a glossary to make everyone speak the same language. 

Implementation readiness: Templates & Influencer List

The other things I did to make the plan ready for implementation were to deliver templates and an influencer list.

To ensure consistent, fast and full execution of marketing demand generation campaigns, I wanted a simple, one-page template. I took an existing one from SmartInsights with a checklist, that I slightly improved, a.o. by adding a ‘campaign metrics and learnings’ section. The value of the Marketing campaign template immediately paid off during the first campaigns we ran. Adding the results and conclusions not only forced us to analyze the campaign impact, learn from it and fine-tune the marketing plan, but also to document and make it available to the whole team.

To smoothen the execution of digital projects, like ‘SEO/Keyword research and plan’ and ‘Website Makeover’, I adopted and adapted another simple SmartInsights template.

In today’s connected digital economy, influencers are more important than ever. For Apilio this includes Journalists, Bloggers, Analysts and their websites, forums, pages and channels, as well as end-user forums, communities, groups, pages and channels on social media, and smart solution partners. From my first to my last week at Apilio, I built and maintained an influencer list with any person, portal or page I came across, including the number of views and subscribers, and contact details like personal LinkedIn profiles. Rather than leaving Apilio with just a direction to focus on influencers, this gave the company something to act on immediately.

Influencers: Customer Advocates; Press, Analysts, Bloggers; Portals, Magazines, Blogs; Software Review Sites

Partners: Smart Device & Connectivity Vendors; Resellers; Consultants

End Users: General Forums; Smart Home Communities & Forums; Facebook, Google, Linkedin YouTube etc. Groups, Pages, Channels


One of the good things at Apilio was that, besides allowing me to collect insights and write the marketing plan, the team involved me from day one in the operational execution of the existing communication. This way I got to know the marketing tools and could soon conduct first communication activities. Soon after ‘day 25’, I could run the first campaign, followed by new campaigns every one to two weeks. As already mentioned, the learnings from that implementation were immediately shared and integrated into the marketing plan. Developing a campaign always started with a draft that matured during the sprint.


At the start of the marketing project, Apilio had a great product and several useful marketing components. There were a website, social media pages, a customer messaging platform and good but partly fragmented content. Several components for the marketing machine were there, while others were not yet in place.

The LIST Marketing Framework brought Apilio the following benefits:

  1. Structure in the marketing planning, marketing project and marketing campaign execution
  2. Direction, content and completeness in the marketing messaging, activities and metric
  3. Visibility on the market opportunities, the market segments and the marketing personas
  4. Operational building blocks that could be implemented immediately

Besides that two marketing projects could be completed, the first marketing campaigns could be executed and initial learnings could already be incorporated. Apilio got an MVP of the marketing machine in place, can now move its demand generation into a higher gear and is set-up to accelerate sales.

How about big companies?

Some years ago at a grill-evening, I asked a friend about his job. ‘I am a Scrum Master!’ he replied with a big smile. The rest of the evening he told me all about Scrum roles and rules, as well as being agile and lean, sprints and adaptation. 

I recognized a lot of what he mentioned from my own work approach, and I realized that being agile and lean works everywhere. Having worked many years at large ICT corporations, I was always able to build a marketing or sales practice, based on transparency, inspection and adaptation and using the LIST Marketing Framework. This resulted into objectives being met or exceeded, as well as into high adoption and appreciation among stakeholders and management.

In a VUCA environment, one of the key challenges for larger organizations is to be lean. On top of a solid foundation, it should develop flexible capabilities in, among others, insights, marketing, sales and customer service.

By defining the sprints and small enough incremental steps, also in big company, this is possible. And maybe even a 25-day marketing plan can be successfully written and implementation started.

About Philip van den Berg

Philip van den Berg is a Dutch international growth marketing and customer insights enthusiast living in Zurich, Switzerland. He has a Market Strategy Master from the University of Amsterdam and is Certified in Lean Management and Scrum. His expertise includes international and local marketing roles in corporations, SMB’s, and start-ups in IT and other industries.

By building successful marketing practices, he supports entrepreneurship in effectively targeting customers, building client relationships & partnerships, creating advocates and making revenue.

For inquiries about the LIST Marketing Framework, including a LIST scan, LIST consulting, LIST training and LIST implementation, he can be contacted at