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Our Latest Investment: Solaris Offgrid

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  • East Africa

We are excited to announce Acumen’s new investment in Solaris Offgrid, a social enterprise offering pay-as-you-go software to energy companies—enabling them to serve more customers, and at even lower income levels.

The Challenge

With pay-as-you-go purchasing services, low-income customers can buy typically unaffordable products like solar home systems or water pumps on credit, repaying through incremental installments. Once the customers have fully paid for their devices, they use their solar energy free of charge.

To offer pay-as-you-go purchasing, companies need software: to collect and track customers’ incremental payments, remotely meter out energy from the devices installed in their homes and assess new customers’ ability to pay. Finding a suitable software system, however, is not easy. There is no right-sized solution for companies, whose options are limited to purchasing costly, generic software that does not fully serve their needs or the complex process of developing their own in-house customized software tools. Both of these imperfect options put a significant drain on companies’ limited working capital and restrict their ability to grow.

The Innovation

Solaris Offgrid’s PaygOps software is one of the first to enable companies to easily offer customers their energy services with pay-as-you-go plans.

The PaygOps software’s customer database is paired with automated management services such as billing, maintaining loan repayment information and customer satisfaction tracking. Energy companies pay Solaris Offgrid a fee for each active customer managed by PaygOps at half the price of competitors. This saves early-stage companies the high operational costs of setting up their own in-house systems, bringing them one step closer to profitability and enabling them to charge customers less for their energy products and services. This is significant given that the majority of Solaris Offgrid’s clients are newly launched companies offering underserved customers first-time access to clean, off-grid energy. 

In addition to cutting company costs, PaygOps increases efficiency with elements such as feature customization, SMS-enabled and offline functions for field service agents visiting customers’ homes in remote areas with low connectivity. The software also easily integrates with over 100 other third-party applications and a wide variety of hardware such as Acumen investee BioLite’s solar home systems. 

Solaris Offgrid currently operates primarily within the off-grid energy sector, with plans to partner with companies offering other kinds of essential goods and services.

Why Acumen Invested

Solaris Offgrid’s PaygOps software reduces solar energy companies’ operational pain points from cost to inefficiency, enabling them to reach more low-income customers, increasing their chances of scale and catalyzing the growth of the off-grid energy sector at large. Acumen invested in Solaris Offgrid alongside co-investor Compass.

“Solaris Offgrid is drastically improving the off-grid sector’s pay-as-you-go value chain with its agile, customer-centric software. We are excited to partner with the company’s exceptional leaders in taking the off-grid energy sector to the next level,” said Leslie Labruto, Acumen’s Head of Global Energy.

Solaris Offgrid will use the funds from Acumen’s investment to acquire new clients and develop additional product features to further increase the PaygOps software’s versatility. “We are thrilled to receive Acumen’s support, enabling us to grow our infrastructure and development capacity and take our product features to new levels. Acumen’s central place in the industry will also allow us to connect with the right partners to expand our product use beyond solar lighting to other critical off-grid appliances,” said Benjamin David, Solaris Offgrid Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer.

Solaris Offgrid is Acumen’s eighth investment as part of our Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative (PEII).