An Australian solar energy retailing startup has completed the world’s most popular equity crowdfunding offer, attracting 17,500 investors who together contributed to a $2.5 million raise.
DC Power Co is a Melbourne-based startup that launched just six months ago, founded by Nic Frances Gilley, Monique Conheady, Emma Jenkin and Nick Brass, a four-strong team of former startup founders, energy experts, and investment bankers.
Conheady previously founded Flexicar, which sold to rental car giant Hertz in 2010 for an undisclosed sum.
DC Power Co was born out of the founders’ discovery of a clear gap in the energy services market for Australians with solar panels, with co-founder Emma Jenkin explaining to StartupSmart the typical solar panel owner isn’t your typical consumer.
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“Solar home owners are prosumers, are they both consume and produce energy, much different to the traditional energy model,” Jenkin explains.
Some 16.5% of Australian households have a solar photovoltaics (PV) system and that number is estimated to hit 50% in the next 25 years. It’s little surprise then that the DC Power Co team could see a unique and growing, but unaddressed, market for an energy retailing startup to tap into.
DC Power Co is aiming to offer solar PV owners better deals around things like feed-in tariffs and provide better-structured offerings tailored to solar power. It’s also looking into serving customers stronger insights around their solar use, with Jenkin saying many customers are left in the dark when it comes to statistics and optimisation.
While the founders of DC Power Co have been working on the startup for 18 months, the company was only incorporated and launched in June last year.
The most popular equity crowdfunding raise
DC Power Co’s equity crowdfunding campaign was completed through OnMarket, which received its license earlier this year after a long and drawn out legislative process to get the funding method approved in Australia.
The startup raised a total of $2.5 million, half of the $5 million amount a company is able to raise through the equity crowdfunding. While some companies are using the funding method to bolster already existing companies, Jenkin explains DC Power Co chose to use the method as a way to help get funds to launch the company.
“We’re launching a new company and a new brand out of this campaign, so we think the $2.5 million amount is a fantastic outcome. We’re also currently seeking sophisticated matched funding, and that’s proceeding well also,” she says.
DC Power Co has also raised $500,000 from private investors and $1.5 million to help kick off its crowdfunding campaign, an amount contributed to by the government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
But the amount raised is not the most notable part of the startup’s equity crowdfunding campaign, as DC Power Co also managed to secure the largest number of individuals to contribute to an equity crowdfunding raise ever at 17,500.
Jenkin says the team is thrilled with the number of contributors, as they set out to find a way to allow solar PV users to be not only a customer of the business, but an owner too.
“We spent most of last year working out how to do that, and then when equity crowdfunding became available in September we knew it was the perfect platform,” she says.
“A lot of people who do crowdfunding are just after money, but we were after not only investors but a dedicated future customer base.”
$50 minimum the key
This record-breaking number of investors was aided in part by the company offering investors a buy-in as low as $50; of the 17,500 contributors, two-thirds went in at the $50 minimum.
This is the way of the future for equity crowdfunding, believes Jenkin, who thinks more companies will follow suit and offer lower minimum amounts after DC Power Co’s success.
Some companies might balk at the prospect of answering to 17,500 shareholders, but for DC Power Co it’s not an issue.
“We’re a team of seasoned professionals, and we have a great company secretary. As I see it, these people are going to be our customers, so we’ll need to be communicating with them anyway as part of our day-to-day business,” Jenkin says.
However, in a word of advice to other startups considering equity crowdfunding, Jenkin recommends not underestimating the process behind converting to a public unlisted company, which is currently necessary for startups as the government is yet to pass legislation to give proprietary companies access to the fundraising method.
“Also, get some corporate legal advice around the offer document process, as it’s very new for some startups, and you’ll likely need legal advice,” she says.
“But as more equity crowdfunding offers come through the process will be ironed out and become a well-trodden path.”