June 29, 2023

Not dead yet: Zoa is keeping Bulb's flame alight by selling its consumer tech

As Bulb collapsed in 2021, its proprietary tech was carved out. Now Zoa is selling it on to other companies

Freya Pratty

3 min read

When British energy firm Bulb went bust in 2021, the largest company to do so during the energy crisis, it became a symbol of the challenges startups face trying to disrupt volatile markets like energy.   

But surprisingly, not all of Bulb has disappeared. In the administration process, the company’s tech arm — its consumer-facing website, apps and customer service tools — were carved out, and from those remnants a new company, Zoa, was formed. The rest of Bulb was bought by competitor Octopus Energy.

Zoa plans to sell its products to incumbent energy companies looking to modernise their consumer-facing offerings and customer service tools. 


The idea, CEO John Marshall — the former CTO of Bulb — says, came from “looking at what our product and technology was for Bulb and realising that that might be able to help others accelerate their own transformations”.

He believes that at least some of Bulb can still make an impact on the energy market. Zoa's team of 80 is mainly made up of staff from the old tech team at Bulb. 

Sequoia flick on the switch

As part of the administrative process, London-based Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund, which was a secured creditor to Bulb, converted its debt in Bulb into equity in Zoa. 

The fund made a £55m loan to Bulb in 2018, secured against both the supplier and the tech part of the company. Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund's debt stake in Zoa is now worth €11.3m in equity shares and gives the fund majority ownership of the company (some employees also have shares).

“Sequoia, as the key secured creditor, had a part to play,” says Marshall. “And so we started talking and figuring out working with Sequoia and the administrator for Simple Energy to try to figure out what was possible."

Modernising the energy giants

Zoa’s product currently offers three services to energy providers: a digital app to give consumers an oversight of their energy use; AI tools to answer emails (Marshall says 30% of emails to Bulb were answered in this way); and tools for customer service operators to allow them to solve problems faster. The tools could help save energy companies a lot of money, Marshall says.

Zoa’s end goal is to help consumers integrate things like EV charging, heat pumps and solar panels into their energy mix, via apps and digital tools. 

“Our goal is to be the bridge between the suppliers and the consumers. Today, that means building, providing great experiences for consumers that empower them to manage their relationship with energy. Tomorrow, that means providing great experiences to help consumers through their electrification journey,” he says.

Zoa is part of a cohort of startups offering technology to incumbent energy providers. Some of those, like Axle, are also led by former Bulb team members — it's working on an API that connects assets including EVs, heat pumps and batteries to electricity markets to better regulate demand. Axle sells its tech to energy businesses.

The Bulb name

Zoa’s connections to Bulb should give it better brand awareness than most other companies just out of stealth. On the other hand, the link to the ill-fated startup could tarnish Zoa from the outset.


Marshall seems confident that investors and the energy industry appreciate parts of the Bulb story enough to back Zoa. “Everyone recognises that one of the things that enabled Bulb’s rapid growth was the technology and product,” he says.

Jun 29, 2023: This piece has been corrected to clarify that Zoa's investor is the London-based Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund, not the US investor. 

Freya Pratty

Freya Pratty is a senior reporter at Sifted. She covers climate tech, writes our weekly Climate Tech newsletter and works on investigations. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn