At the 2019 Shenzhen Hardware Battlefield event, Okra Solar took home the trophy and large cash. It’s a happy moment immortalized in a new media briefing announcing the sustainable energy startup’s $2.1 million new round (we also used it in this piece). Clearly, they weren’t the only ones who thought the company’s objective had potential.
The Sydney-based startup develops technology and software to help underdeveloped countries access solar energy. It is now focusing on the Philippines, Haiti, Nigeria, and Cambodia, with an emphasis on renewal in order to reduce emissions while bringing more people online. The business has created a Mesh-Grid, which distributes power through a network of interconnected households. A cloud-based system tracks consumption and maintenance needs while enabling remote access.
In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Afnan Hannan stated, “The worldwide number of individuals without any power presently stands at 770 million.” “These are folks who rely on fossil fuels (kerosene and diesel) to meet their fundamental needs.”
The financing was led by Explorer Investments and Didendum, with involvement from the Autodesk Foundation and Schneider Electric Energy Access. The funds are going to be used to expand the company’s manufacturing and research and development efforts, as well as to target new Nigerian and Haitian markets. The number of employees is also going to rise. Okra now has 28 employees and expects to increase to 35 by the close of the year.
Following this announcement (dubbed “pre-Series A”), the company is already planning a Series A round, which is going to allow the company grows to roughly 50-60 workers.
In a statement, Hannan said, “It feels terrific to lock in this money so that we can speed our expansion. Our Mesh-Grids use IoT and automation to enable last-mile electrification economical and long-term – even for the world’s most isolated villages. Utility corporations throughout the world have expressed interest in our innovation.” Local governments have also been actively collaborating with the company to help speed the adoption of its products.
“Our technology has been accepted for incentives from a $550 million fund created by African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Rural Electrification Agency in Nigeria,” Hannan adds. “Solar-powered Okra Mesh-Grids is really the only solution that does provide sustained productive electricity in last-mile villages, and this is letting Nigerian developers launch our technology very quickly with government subsidies.”