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This Lancaster MBA Is Building A Network Of Wind-Powered Data Centers In Europe

Karl Rabe wants to lead the internet into a sustainable future

Thu Jan 26 2017

It’s estimated that the data centers that support the internet account for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more CO2 than the entire aviation sector.

Karl Rabe, an MBA graduate from the UK’s Lancaster University Management School, has set out to fix this problem.

He’s founder and CEO of Windcloud, which runs data centers on locally-generated renewable energy. Since its launch in 2015, he’s pioneered the construction of one of the first data centers in the world to draw its electricity directly from a wind farm.

Located in Karl’s native Northern Friesland - a rural region of Germany close to the Danish border - the entire data center is powered by a single wind turbine. Now, Karl’s looking to sell Windcloud’s cloud and server products to socially-responsible startups and SMEs, and expand across Europe and the US.

Karl picked Lancaster over both Warwick and Mannheim Business School for his MBA. After graduation, he returned home, took the leap, and started his own business. His mission: to lead the internet into a sustainable future.

How did the idea to start Windcloud come about?

I started off with a software solution and, within the first week, I realized that the amount of energy that’s going into the internet, data centers, and computing in general, is insane.

karl - rab

The internet is literally killing the planet. Being born and raised in a region with a community-owned wind farm, I thought, why don’t we have data centers running off wind power?

What do you hope to achieve?

Our five-year plan is to have three data centers in Germany, another elsewhere in Europe, and one in the US. Last year was all about developing and building our infrastructure. This year is about selling.

There’s just no scenario I can see where this is going to get boring or where it makes sense to sell. There will be a renewable energy future. There are other industries besides computing who need renewable energy. I see Windcloud becoming a leading decentralized utility for renewable energy.

What challenges do you face?

We’re operating in a hugely complex environment. We’re not only running our own data center, but also our own cloud and electric power supply. There are still some legal restrictions that we have to overcome. But we don’t face any problems in selling the product. There’s huge demand.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Lancaster?

I was getting frustrated in my role. I had business experience under my belt, but I was going into more specialist positions. I’ve always seen myself as more of a generalist. I was interested in management, and decided to give myself a new direction.

Lancaster was a great fit. It was more affordable than other top-ranked schools. And Lancaster attracts a mix of truly global classes. I loved the class size, the group dynamic, and the teaching environment.

What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?

Business schools are all comparable by ranking, but the decision to do an MBA is hugely individual. You don’t do an MBA twice. Give yourself enough time for the MBA application process. Speak to students and go and visit the schools.

Would you be where you are now without the Lancaster MBA?

Most certainly not! The year at Lancaster gave me the time to reflect on what I wanted to do. It helped me realize that I wanted to try the next biggest possible challenge and start my own venture.

Plus, everything that I learnt, I could immediately put into action. Lancaster is first class for strategy. So many of the new tools and new ideas you’re exposed to – in developing a business model, in finance, and marketing – were hugely beneficial in setting up my own business.

I’ve been back to Lancaster to talk about my experience. I’ve made some great contacts, and I’m in ongoing discussions with Lancaster alumni and people trying to do similar things in the UK.

Student Reviews

Lancaster University Management School




An exceptional educational establishment in the North West of England.

This university has been a fantastic life experience as well as a great academic one. I first decided to go to Lancaster University Management School due to its exceptional business education facilities and have not been disappointed. I recommend the university to anybody that wants to put themselves in a strong position for a career upon graduation.




On Campus

Student Ambassador

Overall, the instruction is decent, however it also depends on your department. The people are friendly, in my opinion. The sporting events are enjoyable, and there is a good sense of community. Although the city is quite remote, it is nonetheless attractive.




Lancaster University honest review

The education system in the university is excellent especially that of the Management School. The campus has great facilities for students to study and live in a relaxed manner. The students can engage in various activities through the socities.




Great opportunities to think beyond

Lancaster University provides a lot of good opportunities to think beyond.There Entrepreneurship in residence program helps students to meet and seek guidance about entrepreneurship and the challenges.Their Work in progress program help to fabricate your startup idea and further to pitch to the potential investors.Apart from that there are lot of programs like Enactus, guest lectures and guidance from seniors to help and shape your career needs. They provide lot of opportunities to shape up your employability skills.




On Campus

A top university in the UK for management science!

If you’re interested in management science studies, Lancaster University is one of the top universities in the UK. The faculty is renowned and have a sterling reputation for research in management science. Candidates specifically interested in Forecasting would find the Centre for Marketing Analytics and Forecasting especially relevant to their field. Besides, the ROI is good as the overall cost compared to other universities is less.




Great university for academia – not great for 'entrepreneurs'

Please keep in mind that my review is nuanced by my expectations of an Entrepreneurship degree :) I came to Lancaster University because it was one of the top universities to have a course in Entrepreneurship. After 4 years in this degree, my most valuable experience has been my placement and not the actual course. The course is heavily focused on impractical elements, which is a bit odd for an Entrepreneurship degree. There are some modules that involve hands-on work but the faculty support for such things has not been great. My course also involved a lot of teamwork which has been fantastic and really prepared me when it comes to dealing with the diversity of opinions. In terms of career prospects, the management school does A LOT to host events, workshops and support sessions to help you build up your employability skills. Although, I wish there was more acknowledgement of SMEs/startups as a viable career option. The entrepreneurship team which is meant to support budding businesses is really stepping up their game with tons of guest speakers, workshops and pitching opportunities. The location is a concern if you're not in STEM, Law or Accounting and Finance. Business requires networking with the broader community. However, for Lancaster students, the best bet is a trip down to Manchester or London. On the flip side, living in Lancaster is much cheaper! Overall, if the purpose of your university experience is to receive top academic education and have great facilities at your disposal, Lancaster is a great choice. But if you want to be in business and entrepreneurship, I would look elsewhere.