Y-Combinator Backed Senegalese Startup Gets Francophone Fund Investment

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Francophone social impact fund Gaia has made an investment in Senegalese solar startup Oolu, a graduate of Silicon Valley-based tech incubator Y-Combinator.

The investment amount was not made public, but it’s part of a Series B round of funding for the West African off-grid solar startup, which will come to a close in 2019, according to Weetracker.

Oolu provides off-grid households in rural villages with modern energy access through solar solutions, allowing those in remote areas access to power.

The startup is one of the fastest growing solar companies in the region, having become the undisputed market-leaders in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Oolu graduated from Silicon Valley-based tech incubator Y-Combinator in 2015, with the U.S. seed funding provider stepping up as one of the startup’s earliest investors.

In 2007 Oolu raised $3.2 million in a Series A round of funding led by Persistent Energy Capital (PEC), with the participation of Y-Combinator and other seed investors, according to PVTech.

This recent investment will be used to expand further within the West African region while some of the funds will be dedicated to upgrading current IT systems and software capabilities.

The off-grid solar industry has been growing at an impressive rate across the African continent, with more than $360 million invested in the solar sector in the last five years, according to KenyanDigest.

Dan Rosa, co-founder and chief executive officer of Oolu, expressed his excitement at adding the impact fund, with interests in renewable energy investments, as a partner.

“Thrilled to have Gaia join as an investment partner, adding to the strong base of investors we already have. We have always been selective in the partnerships we form. Given the fundamental focus of Gaia on the tackling energy poverty, its solar industry track record and established presence in Francophone West Africa, we deem the partnership as an organic fit,” Rosa said, according to Weetracker.

Solar startup popularity due to poor access to electricity
The Series B funding round is undisclosed at the moment, but will run until next year and may still gain further momentum before it is complete.

Due to insufficient capacity, poor reliability, and high costs, only around 32 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity, ENCA reports.

Solar solutions are changing that reality for many Africans, thanks to the efforts of companies such as Oolu in West Africa and Kenyan pay-as-you-go solar energy provider M-Kopa Solar in East Africa.

M-Kopa provides affordable, safe and clean energy to three million people in East Africa, according to a press release.

The Kenyan company secured a round of funding in March this year. The investment amount, which was undisclosed, included a first-ever $10 million investment from FinDev Canada, according to ITWebAfrica.

The amount is in the process of being used to extend their product offering to more homes and individuals across Africa.

Led by U.K. government-owned investment company CDC, a previous investor in the Kenyan company which has now committed an additional $7 million, the round included follow-on investments by existing shareholders Generation Investment Management and LGT Venture Philanthropy. Source: Mogul Dom

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