Solar financing startup in Africa to finance tech startup in San Francisco

General

This picture is from exactly 5 years ago. I shot it in Kenya, around 5 hrs from Nairobi. I was visiting a solar micro-grid installation that brought electricity to this remote area that was too far from a grid. This is the time I started to see how many high-impact things can often feel very incremental. Between enabling solar financing for businesses (which is what my last company, SunFunder, did) to improving how businesses run their finance and operations (which is what my current company, Jirav, does), it’s sometimes harder to recognize the significant impact of the latter. This is because to lend to these solar business we needed them to have good books and their financial models had to be sound. Which was very often not the case, making it harder for us to lend to them. Creating and improving the financial operating system for the world empowers more people with good ideas to achieve more.

Moving on from SunFunder

General

I want to share with everyone that I recently decided to move on from SunFunder. I will miss the people I worked with but I am also very excited about what lies ahead for me and for SunFunder and I look forward to seeing its super talented team continue to kick ass.

Unlocking Capital for Solar Beyond the Grid

I joined Ryan and Audrey in 2013 as the third co-founder at SunFunder, leading technology and systems. SunFunder has evolved a lot since then. We started as a crowdfunding platform making small investments in individual projects. Now, most of our fundraising is from accredited and institutional investors and our investments are into larger, structured loans. To date, we have made $12M in loans and helped bring electricity to more than 500,000 people living beyond the grid in Africa and India. We are now a team of 20 people spread across Tanzania, San Fransisco, DC and the Netherlands. We also hit some major milestones this year as a company: 1) we launched a $50M fund with a $15M initial investment from OPIC , 2) we launched SAFI, our Structured Asset Finance Instrument, and 3) we closed a Series B equity round which gives us the resources needed to scale.

Earlier this year we took a step back to review the future roadmap of our technology systems as SunFunder enters its growth phase. Around the same time I became aware that I was at a point in my life where I was ready to go back to learning and exploring and to start on something new. We decided that the timing was right for me to move on, especially as Dieter Van der Stock, who joined us last year, stepped up to lead the systems team going forward.

It has been a spectacular journey and we have come a long way together. My work has taken me to many interesting places around the world and helped me connect with the most amazing people doing the most inspiring things. I have had many experiences that, as I recall them, sound too unbelievable to be true. The exposure I have had has helped deepen my understanding of the world and the problems we face and I have also had a chance to learn effective ways to solve them. My time at SunFunder shaped me in ways for which I will always be grateful. And I hope I can continue to grow and find ways to bring positive change.

Storytelling is a big part of what we do at SunFunder and I personally took lots and lots of pictures and videos over the years. I dug through my archive to find some highlights. Instead of more text, I’ll let the pictures do the talking 😀

Solar Projects

These are some of the solar projects that we documented over the years. The aerial pictures were taken with SunFunder’s in-house drone, called Popo.

We used aerial photography using the SunFunder drone, Popo, to help explain how solar is used in places beyond the grid. Uganda.
This solar system powers a barber shop and a local community tv room
Rooftops dotted with solar panels in Uttar Pradesh, India.
A hospital in Rwanda using solar as a backup system to run it’s critical instruments.
The largest utility scale solar project in E Africa, in Rwanda.
A micro-grid powers this remote village in Kenya

Highlights

These are some highlights of our time working together.

One of the very few times almost all of the growing SunFunder team was in one place at the same time. Arusha, Tanzania
A house on Obama Road in rural Kenya. This is where Barack Obama’s immediate family lived for some time. We came across this while we were driving to a solar project site.

My drone pic of a solar farm in Rwanda featured in the USAID Act on Climate Calendar 2016

General

So Audrey Desiderato and I happened to be in Kigali in Rwanda. And we had a drone. We asked around to see if anyone knew of a solar installation that would look good from the air. And someone connected us with the first utility scale solar project in E Africa! This is the very first picture the world saw of this huge, beautiful solar installation that’s in the shape of Africa. This image has been used in many places – including now in the USAID #actonclimate 2016 calendar!

The makeshift SunFunder India HQ office

Uncategorized

Spent the last month in Africa visiting our partners and seeing SunFunder’s impact on the ground (that will be a long exhaustive blog post of it’s own). Enroute to India, developed an abscess in my hand that required urgent surgery under general anesthesia. Spent the last 4 days recovering from the African infection in a hospital in India which gradually became my makeshift office. Infected hand in upright sling, other hand on IV, surprised at how much I could get done with just one hand in the otherwise peaceful setting. Doctors are still figuring out the right antibiotics since nothing has worked (well I did go to some crazy remote places in Africa$. But in safe hands and hope to be out in time.

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And yes, I am getting enough rest, just had to prep for the New Ventures Investor Forum where I present at a session moderated by the awesome Niki Armacost. Glad to be in India as we plan to launch our first few projects here and look forward to meeting all the awesome people here.