Solar powered start-up Barefoot Power raises $5.8 million in funding

Social enterprise Barefoot Power has raised $5.8 million from investors, as it seeks to bring affordable renewable energy and efficient lighting to five million people by next year.

Founded in 2005, Barefoot Power manufactures and distributes solar phone charging, lighting products and business development services to people in less developed countries.

Barefoot Power wants to bring affordable renewable energy and efficient lighting to five million people by 2013 and 10 million people by 2015, in a bid to eradicate energy poverty.

The Sydney-based business is funded through a group of investors and the European Union.

Last year, Barefoot Power featured in the Global Cleantech 100, a list produced annually by the Cleantech Group, which ranks the world’s top 100 clean tech companies.

It has now raised a $5.8 million Series B funding round from three social investment funds – the d.o.b foundation, ennovent, and the Insitor Fund.

These investors join existing shareholders, including The Grace Foundation, Oikocredit and a number of private angel investors.

Financial services firm Unitus Capital was the sole advisor to Barefoot Power for the transaction.

While the terms of the deal are unknown, Barefoot Power chief executive Rick Hooper says the funds will be used to “continue the solid growth trajectory and potential” of the business.

“We appreciate the commitment by new shareholders and the continuing support of existing shareholders,” Hooper says.

“[The funding] solidly positions us to meet our target of impacting 10 million people by 2015.”

Hedwig Siewertsen, director of the d.o.b foundation, complimented Barefoot Power on closing the equity round.

“We chose to invest in Barefoot Power because it provides access to an affordable and environmentally friendly product for people that currently live without electricity,” Siewertsen said in a statement.

“Bringing a product to [African cities] Mombasa or Accra is not so difficult.”

“Getting it deep into the power grid-lacking markets through a network of dealers and micro-entrepreneurs who can offer a warranty for the product – that is the real challenge.”

“Barefoot Power has been addressing [that challenge] successfully in the past few years.”

John Altmann, founder and executive director of The Grace Foundation, based in Melbourne, said the benefits to society, combined with the potential financial returns, are “compelling”.

“We are confident in the ability of the talented leadership team of Barefoot Power to grow the company,” Altmann said in a statement.

“[We] look forward to the value the three new social investment funds will bring through their interaction with management and the board.”

Last year, Barefoot Power founder Stewart Craine told StartupSmart Australia is still a long way behind with regard to social entrepreneurship.

“It’s a shame. We’re an island – Africa is a distant concept and PNG is an uninvestable country,” he said.

“Companies don’t have a strong enough imagination to change the world. If you have to battle with philosophies before getting the money, it’s very difficult.”

“It’s very hard to find the funding in Australia. All the government programs are very expat-focused.”

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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