New gBETA Madison class includes solar electricity startup NovoMoto

By Jeff Buchanan, Xconomy

Despite having a population of 77 million-plus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo only has access to only 1.3 gigawatts of electricity, says Aaron Olson, a graduate research fellow at the University of Wisconsin Fusion Technology Institute. To understand how miniscule that figure is, Olson says, consider that Madison, WI, and the surrounding area—home to about 600,000 people—are powered by 1.5 gigawatts of electricity.

“The average Congolese household spends $22 a month on kerosene lamps inside their home and charging their cell phones,” Olson says, adding that this sum represents about one-quarter of a typical D.R.C. resident’s monthly income.

Olson is the co-founder of NovoMoto, a Madison-based startup that sells packages of solar panels, lamps, batteries, and other equipment to Congolese villages. The company uses a pay-as-you-go model, so that customers receive the equipment upfront and make relatively small weekly payments over a five-year period, says Mehrdad Arjmand, NovoMoto’s other co-founder. After five years, clients own the equipment, he says.

Launched in 2016, NovoMoto has already gained a fair amount of traction: the startup says it currently has a group of beta customers across three D.R.C. villages and expects to serve about 150 clients by the end of 2017. Arjmand says that to date, his company has received more than $147,000 in awards, grant funding, and outside investment. [Updated with information on NovoMoto’s current-year growth projections.]

Still, NovoMoto’s ambitions are lofty, and the startup will of course need to bring in and spend more money if it is to continue growing.

Given NovoMoto’s growth projections, the company earlier this year applied for and received an invitation to participate in gBETA, a free accelerator that helps entrepreneurs with things like pitching their products, adding users and customers, and raising money from investors. Read more …

Tags: , , , , , ,