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Founder’s Corner: Growing a Business Legacy

Jesper Thiesen remains the leader of his business after selling to Volaris, starting its next chapter armed with a wealth of new resources 

Starting a company during a financial crisis takes both vision and gumption, and that’s exactly what Jesper Thiesen and Erik Madsen had when they co-founded ConWX in 2008. Thiesen and Madsen left their previous companies with the idea to start a weather data and forecasting company. They planned to give their new venture six months to succeed. If it didn’t work out, they’d return to life as usual.

Luckily, they didn’t need their backup plan. The six months they initially imagined for themselves extended into more than a decade, as the two entrepreneurs successfully built their vision for the business. ConWX steadily grew, hired more employees, and developed a strong client base—including in Denmark, as well as neighboring European countries, China, and around Asia. Today, the company's clients include some of the largest energy companies in Europe, major utilities companies, owners of solar and wind farms, and specialized trading houses.

After much success and 13 years of co-running the day-to-day operations of the business, co-founder Madsen was ready for a lifestyle change, while Thiesen wanted to continue leading the business. Both co-founders were still committed to their employees and the legacy of their business. They kept that commitment in mind as they entered discussions with several potential buyers. Eventually, they determined that Volaris was the best buyer for ConWX. 

Jesper Thiesen remains General Manager of ConWX after selling to Volaris.
"We want to take a bigger share of the market in the renewables sector," ConWX co-founder Jesper Thiesen says of his goals after joining Volaris.

After joining Volaris in 2021, Thiesen remains the business leader at ConWX, where he continues the company’s legacy with the resources of a larger company backing him. Volaris Group encourages founders to stay with their companies, believing that entrepreneurial experience is a valuable asset within our global community of software leaders. 

Thiesen spoke to Acquired Knowledge magazine about his outlook for ConWX now that he has joined Volaris. 

Can you give us an introduction to your company?

We serve two business verticals within ConWX. The biggest one is power forecasting for wind and solar. We provide services to big energy houses and clients that trade electricity on the spot market. Our other business vertical is on the data side, servicing energy manufacturers and any company that builds wind or solar farms. Our clients receive forecasts and long-term data to help them plan new farms.

What prompted you to sell your business, and why did you choose to sell to Volaris?

The motivation to sell the business came from my co-founder wanting to take a step down in his work life. Although I wanted to continue with ConWX, the key consideration wasn’t so much about my own role—I was confident in my ability to adapt. My concerns were more about the company I had built, and the future we would be setting up for our employees. My co-founder and I had developed a deep connection to our company after building it from nothing.

We spoke to several potential buyers, including private equity firms, venture capital firms, and others. Ultimately, we decided not to go with them because their agenda for us wasn’t aligned with what we wanted for the company.

"The main reason we chose Volaris was because of the buy-and-hold strategy. It was super important for us as business owners to assure our colleagues that they could work in the same conditions and same environment, and not be merged into a larger company."

–Jesper Thiesen, Co-founder and General Manager, ConWX

Jesper Thiesen working at the ConWX office in Copenhagen, Denmark
Weather forecasts have to be extremely accurate in order for clients to avoid losses. Above, Thiesen works from the ConWX office in Copenhagen, Denmark.

How is your business responding to client challenges, and how is Volaris helping you do that? 

Clients face high volatility in energy prices, so they need to rely on accurate power forecasts to optimize their wind and solar energy production. The data we provide must be incredibly accurate for clients to avoid financial losses.

Those client challenges are an opportunity for data providers like us. We receive data via wind turbines, for example, and deliver our data to clients in 15-minute increments around the clock through a live exchange. And our R&D team continually improves our product by optimizing systems, new algorithms, and better input to help clients in very competitive energy markets in Europe and Asia.

The help we get from Volaris comes from best practices in optimizing the business overall, sales and marketing, human resources, and sharing resources on the finance side.

"For some of [our staff], joining Volaris represents more career opportunities, because they now have a growth path inside a larger company."

–Jesper Thiesen, Co-founder and General Manager, ConWX

What are your goals for ConWX now that you are part of Volaris?

We want to take a bigger share of the market in the renewables sector, lead our competitors, and find sticky products that can grow with our clients.

We have the ability now to provide more career opportunities for our employees. For some of the managers at ConWX, like our Head of Sales and Head of R&D, joining Volaris represents more career opportunities, because they now have a growth path inside a larger company, or within the renewable energy portfolio as it expands.

“After joining Volaris, we have a lot of new concepts to learn, but we think these changes make sense for ConWX’s next chapter. We are comforted to know that Volaris has developed best practices after acquiring and working with more than 100 software companies.” 

–Jesper Thiesen, Co-founder and General Manager, ConWX

Your vertical market expertise comes from your past as a meteorologist. Can you tell us more about your background?

I was working as the Chief Meteorologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, which puts out official weather forecasts and observations for Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. I worked in Greenland, mainly with elevation meteorology. After that experience, I joined a private company as a meteorologist starting in 2000. It was there that, by chance, I got into sales, after a salesperson got sick and I took a client meeting alone. Since then, business development has become a big part of what I do. While many of the roles at ConWX are technical, I’ve taken on the task of winning new clients for the company.

What are the next big trends in the renewable energy space?

We are seeing the entire transition of the energy sector toward renewable energy. Because of this trend, there are big opportunities for us to enter new markets and also to grow in our local markets. The biggest change is that everything is being electrified. We need more than just solar and wind energy—we also hydrogen production for vehicles, ships, and aviation. That’s the next big jump we expect in the next ten years.

One unique part about Europe is that we are first-movers on wind and solar. Many northern European countries have included renewables in their grid quite heavily, and wind and solar take a big share of energy production in Europe. Denmark is leading other countries by committing to using renewable energy for 100% of its energy needs by 2050.

Share of Denmark's energy coming from renewables

What lessons from your life as a meteorologist are particularly valuable for you as a business leader?

What I learned from my background as a meteorologist is that in business, you are always working with probabilities—a situation is never just black or white. That wisdom applies when you hire a new employee or work with new clients. 

The scientific approach I used as a meteorologist also helps build credibility when winning new clients. I can speak the same language as they do in terms of technology, and it gives potential clients confidence to believe in our product.

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