Bangladesh-based SOLshare has closed a $1.1 million financing round and the off-grid solar energy marketplace firm will use the fund to bring smart solar micro-grids to off-grid, underserved communities in the country.
Dubbed as the AirBnB of the energy off-grid space, SOLshare was founded in 2014 in Dhaka, the company said in a statement yesterday.
To date, the company has set up 30 peer-to-peer solar electricity trading grids in Bangladesh and India. SOLshare helps people to turn their excess solar electricity into money with zero hassle.
It also enables them to purchase more power on the go whenever they want as well as they get to invest in more power generation and trade it off for a handsome return with minimal risk.
For the funding, the company was supported by IIX Impact Partners—the world's most successful debt and equity crowdfunding platform for impact investing—through its network of impact investors.
Current investors, innogy New Ventures LLC and EDP Ventures, are also part of the round, as well as new angel investors from around the world.
Innogy New Ventures LLC is the venture capital investment arm of the German utility firm innogy SE and EDP Ventures is the investment arm of Portuguese based utility firm EDP, according to the statement.
"The SOLshare team had been working on a financing round for many months and Covid-19 was an additional unexpected challenge," said Sebastian Groh, managing director of SOLshare.
"Thanks to the tremendous support of existing investors, support partners, and mentors the company was able to move forward. We're thrilled that investors recognize the critical need on the ground, especially in some of the most vulnerable communities in the world who risk losing access to clean energy as well as the great potential SOLshare has to show the path into a better energy future."
In the aftermath of Covid-19, venture capital rounds dropped by 44 per cent in the US alone. In the first quarter of 2020, no capital was secured by ASEAN-focused private equity funds, demonstrating a challenging fundraising environment.
To support SMEs in raising capital, IIX is leveraging on-the-ground data-driven insights to provide businesses and investors with comparative, standardised information on risk, return, and impact (RRI).
The RRI will help them create risk mitigation strategies, make capital allocation decisions, and more effectively and transparently drive capital towards where it is needed the most.
"IIX is thrilled to continue supporting SOLshare, following our 2018 investment through our IIX Growth Fund," said Robert Kraybill, IIX chief investment officer and managing director of portfolio management.
Over the past decade, IIX has built a highway of support for enterprises across their stages of growth, effectively connecting them to capital markets through Impact Partners, Kraybill said.
"With investors reeling from the market meltdown, we believe that RRI investment strategies will become the new norm. Investors who can assess opportunities through the lens of risk-return-impact can look to make attractive returns from investing in COVID-resilient businesses while creating positive impact for people and planet."
SOLshare is working toward an energy future fuelled not by fossil fuels but by democratisation, by decentralisation and decarbonisation, the company said.
The funding will put SOLshare on track to positively impact 2.5 million people by 2023.
"We are doubling down on SOLshare's vision and mission, which continues to prove to the world that a deep commitment to underserved communities pays off for investors," Stefan Padberg, managing director of innogy New Ventures LLC.
"We are excited to be a part of this journey to make affordable clean energy accessible to everyone."
SOLshare's peer-to-peer marketplace in solar villages creates economic value, allowing the use by small businesses of individual household's power that otherwise would be wasted, said Luís Manuel, executive director of EDP Innovation.
Even before the pandemic, SMEs formed the backbone of the global economy, making up over 90 per cent of all firms, 70 per cent of total employment, and 50 per cent of gross domestic product.
SOLshare is now negotiating a framework agreement to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Bangladesh supplying smart solar micro-grids in the Rohingya refugee camps.
SOLshare has also announced that it has won the Ashden Award in the energy access category for "Finance and Business Model Innovation", a gala ceremony referred to as the Green Oscars at the Royal Geographic Society in London, UK.
Ashden spotlights and supports climate and energy innovators around the world, including businesses, non-profits and public sector organisations which are delivering proven, ready-to-scale climate solutions.