Y Combinator-Backed Senegalese Startup Gets Francophone Fund Investment

Avatar
Written by Peter Pedroncelli


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 market-leaders serving 34,000 households in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali, according to ImpactAlpha.

Oolu graduated from Silicon Valley-based tech incubator Y-Combinator, perhaps the world’s most powerful startup accelerator program, in 2015, with the seed funding provider stepping up as one of the startup’s earliest investors.

In 2017 Oolu raised $3.2 million in a Series A round of funding led by Swiss-based impact ventures investment firm 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.

solar startup
Oolu agents installing a solar panel within a Senegalese village. Photo – Oolu

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, based in London, and LGT Venture Philanthropy of Switzerland.