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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Crowdfunding to work as catalyst for the launch of modular solar product in the Tanzanian market

Shamba Technologies has launched a crowdfunding space in an effort to raise capital to launch a distinctive range of solar products. Their aim is for their products to penetrate the BOP market and to allow off-grid families across Sub-Saharan Africa to buy and accelerate their energy access via modular solar units.

Created in 2009, Shamba Technologies is focused on creating innovative low cost solar products accessible to the 115 million households living off-grid. In 2010, Edward Matos and Oliver Kynaston, founders of Shamba Technologies won the ‘Young Engineers of the year award’ from the Society of Environmental Engineers for their work and contributions to the bioenergy sector. Shortly after they developed their patented-pending IO Solar product range. From studying the local financial climate and spending time understanding energy needs in Tanzania, they believe that their building block product can fill a gap in the market by allowing families with low incomes to build a solar home system suited to their personal energy needs.

These unique and sophisticated solar products offer a range of possibilities so far unseen in the solar market. The inter-connectable units can be used singularly or connected to one another, creating a greater potential output and allowing multiple devices to function simultaneously. The ‘Starter Set’ priced at $20 can charge small USB devices such as torches and lights, followed by the ‘Battery 100 Set’ priced at $58, which contains an internal battery capable of powering two LED ceiling bulbs. The biggest module, which is currently being developed, is the ‘Battery 500 Set’, which is priced at $93. Families can select the modules that best suit their income level and stack them together. These modules will then share solar and battery power to act as a single unit. This allows them, over time, to climb the energy ladder in accordance to their own budget and needs.

Oliver Kynaston, co-founder of Shamba Technologies explains, ‘after having spent time living in rural Tanzania, it became clear to us that the concept of starting small and building up is applied to several aspects of life for rural communities. We have seen many houses being built over long time periods relative to when villagers have the means to buy the required materials to continue. In creating IO solar kits we have tried to mirror this, enabling customers to add to their system as and when they have the means'

After facing some initial difficulty securing capital, Shamba Technologies decided to launch a crowd funding space, with a principal aim to raise the capital required to launch their product within a high-impact market. The crowd funding platform allows potential funders to gain a better understanding of the businesses’ journey to date and its future ambitions. Shamba Technologies is a fairly unique business on the Crowdcube platform, which has hosted a limited number of companies producing energy products and operating in East Africa. The platform that they have chosen enables those who invest to become shareholders in the business. Two options are available for the angel investors - Investing £5000 or above permits investors to vote in AGMS and have the option to participate in other significant decisions concerning the development of the business; those investing under £5000 are shareholders but they do not have the right to vote. All shares, whether they are voting or non-voting, will receive equal financial return in the case of Shamba Technologies making a successful exit.

The Shamba Technologies crowd funding space is open until the 27th of July. Reaching the proposed target, of £95,000, is critical, as the company will receive none of the funding committed so far if the timeline expires before the set target is reached. If you are interested in helping catalyse the growth of this innovative business, please visit their space and contribute capital at Shamba Technologies.

IO Solar products permit energy freedom; they allow for flexible energy uses. The product was created to fit energy demand, and it allows users to choose how and for what they employ their solar stack. Modern technologies are an aspirational product for low income families, and Oliver and Edward wanted a desirable and sleek looking product. To achieve this, they partnered with a product and brand consultancy Sebastian Conran to design an ultra-modern, ergonomic product.

Since November 2013, GVEP’s Advisory Services team has been working with Shamba Technologies to fine tune their investor pitch materials, and has provided feedback regarding their capital raise, in terms of both grant and equity acquisition. Once Shamba Technologies sources the capital necessary to launch the product in Tanzania, GVEP plans to engage with the team in a business development capacity.