Okra Solar took home the trophy and a giant check at our Shenzhen Hardware Battlefield 2019 event. It’s a moment happily eternalized in a new press release announcing the renewable energy startup’s $2.1 million new round (it’s a nice photo). ; we also use it in this publication). Clearly, we’re not the only ones who saw promise in the company’s mission.
The Sydney-based company creates hardware and software solutions designed to bring solar power to developing markets. It is currently focused on Nigeria, the Philippines, Haiti, and Cambodia, with a revamp tilt designed to reduce emissions as it brings more populations online. Specifically, the company has developed a Mesh-Grid, which shares energy through an interconnected network of homes. A cloud-based system monitors usage and required maintenance, while allowing remote control.
“The global population of people without any power at all is currently ~770 million,” CEO Afnan Hannan noted in a conversation with TechCrunch. “These are people who currently rely on fossil fuels (diesel and kerosene) for their basic needs.”
Explorer Investments and Didendum led the round, which also included participation from Schneider Electric Energy Access and the Autodesk Foundation. The money will go towards expanding its productions and R&D, while targeting more Nigerian and Hatian markets. The number of employees will also increase. Okra currently employs 28, with plans to expand to 35 by the end of the year.
Following this announcement (positioned as “pre-Series A”), the company is already gearing up for a Series A, which will help expand things further to around 50-60 employees.
“It feels great to secure this funding so we can accelerate our growth,” Hannan says in a statement. “Our Mesh-Grids harness IoT and automation to make last-mile electrification affordable and sustainable, even for the most remote villages on the planet. Our innovation has stimulated global demand from utility companies.”
The company has also been actively working with local governments to help accelerate the adoption of its technologies.
“In Nigeria, our technology has been approved for subsidies from a $550 million fund set up by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Rural Electrification Agency,” says Hannan. “This is helping Nigerian developers deploy our technology quickly with government subsidies, simply because solar-powered Okra mesh networks are the only solution that provides sustainable productive energy in last-mile communities.”