Zola Electric Closes $ 90 Million Funding Round to Advance Technology and Enter New Markets
Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa and emerging markets continue to live without access to electricity. Some reports put these figures between 500 million and 2 billion people despite the prevalence of renewable energy providers in these regions..
Zola Electric, one such supplier, today announces that it has secured $ 90 million in new financing to enter new markets and boost distributed renewable energy.
When electric Zola Was launched in 2011 by Erica Mackey, Xavier Helgesen and Joshua Pierce, the company provided solar home solutions to rural off-grid communities in Tanzania.
The company has evolved since then. In an interview, Bill Lenihan, the CEO who joined in 2015, told TechCrunch that Zola Electric discovered over time that his singular product couldn’t work for the entire market of customers he wanted to target – off-grid or from network to rural or urban and residential or commercial.
“More than 2.2 billion people around the world do not have access to reliable and affordable energy. We needed an energy ladder and a series of products that were all connected in some way but solved different problems for these 2.2 billion people, ”he said.. “So we started to expand and provide more power in these systems.”
Zola has now grown into a tech company whose products can solve energy access issues in almost any market, the company said in a statement..
Last year, Zola launched Infinity, a product the company says can power any home or office device while being integrated with any power source – grid, solar, or battery.. The product works with power grids, solar panels and other power sources before switching to a ready power source and storing it simultaneously.
Image credits: ZOLA
These solutions are managed by Zola’s SaaS software system called Vision and it provides customers with data, analysis and control of their systems.
“What we have is the appearance of an energy ladder where we can go into just about any market and solve any problem, no matter what. Now there is more. gaps in that technology and those market segments that we haven’t addressed. And that’s where our development and our capital is going – to fill that energy ladder. “
The $ 90 million financing raised is a combination of debt and equity, of $ 45 million each. The lack of fairness was led by TotalEnergies Ventures – the venture capital of TotalEnergies; DBL Partners, an SF-based impact venture capital firm; Helios Investment Partners, Africa’s largest private equity firm; Vulcan Capital, the investment arm of Paul Allen; Lyndon and Pete Rive (founders of SolarCity, owned by Tesla); and the New York hedge fund Electron Capital Partners.
Debt financing includes major energy lenders FMO and SunFunder, two companies known to provide debt capital to solar companies in emerging markets..
“This group brings more than only capital to the equation. They bring a strategic benefit to this company and a notoriety which exceeds the capital. And important, it is the group that has demonstrated its confidence and its desire to really solve what is a global problem, ”said the CEO.
He adds that Zola will use the funding to improve product development and business efforts. First, around product development, the team is eager to build next generation digital renewable energy..
Lenihan shares his take on how the Infinity product is the answer for people in emerging markets where lack of electricity has led to the installation of millions of backup solutions such as diesel generations and lead acid batteries – solutions that can be unreliable and difficult to use and manage.
He describes the system as an epicenter of energy supply. With a similarity to the offline network, Infinity connects to all loads in one residence or place of business and controls numerically while providing data and analysis in the process.
“These are the fundamental differences. The solutions in this part of the world today are back-up systems. Zola is the main power supply, and that’s how we differentiate ourselves.”
Over 1.5 million users and over 300,000 households and businesses use Zola products in several African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Namibia, DRC, South Africa, Zambia and Nigeria.
Outside of Africa, the company is also present in the United States, Brazil, Pakistan and the Philippines. He has plans for develop further in North Africa, Asia and South America.
Speaking with Lenihan, two main metrics of this news struck me – total user count and non-billion dollar growth stage review cycle..
For a startup around the block over the past 10 years, just over a million customers seems like a meager sum. While Lenihan somewhat agreed, he cited the concept of distributed digital energy which has yet to take off globally (the startup only employed last year) and a staff shortage on the ground as reasons for the seemingly low figure..
“It’s not that simple to create a technology and go to the shores of any country and think your product would be installed. We need strong field staff, developers, integrators and distributors; people who can connect with the customer in the field, solve their problems, install the systems and maintain those systems, ”he said.
Additionally, this ongoing round of funding comes after Zola’s $ 55 million Series D funding round in 2018. Lenihan did not disclose whether this round of funding was the company’s Series E fundraising round. would look like a round table if that were the case.
Since 2011, the company has raised more than $ 230 million in debt and equity financing. And men this era of unconventional fundraising and valuations, any startup that raised that amount of venture capital could easily be worth it a billion dollars. Nevertheless, that’s not the case with Zola, at least not only Again. Asked about the assessment, Lenihan said he was thinking about the assessment differently of the traditional market game and only said that “the business is very valuable. “
Having said that, Lenihan is excited and believes that distributed digital energy would solve problems faced by emerging markets faster than other traditional energy providers.
“It’s a different ball game because most people start out believed that solar systems would solve the energy problems of emerging markets because the backup systems and inverters of western technology are strong. But now it’s not that solid. We have to start from scratch. We need network-like characteristics in these markets, and we need integration, modularity and intelligence. This is our point of view. “