The rise and rise of Bboxx: Off-grid solar supplier lands another $50m


London-based off-grid solar company Bboxx has secured another $50 million for its African and Asian operations after a series D funding round led by Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi.

A statement this morning by financial advisory firm Enexus – which worked on the successful funding round – stated Bboxx plans to expand its product offering after a recent move into clean cooking in Rwanda and the PR company working on behalf of the start-up told pv magazine that included an ambition to provide gas and water as well as essential services such as insurance and finance.

Bboxx supplies solar home systems in 12 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and in Pakistan and a spokesperson for the Instinctif PR firm said an announcement about moves into new markets would be made “in due course”.

Bboxx installs a solar panel which can power up to five lights, a television, radio, torch or a 12 V battery. The customer pays for the service on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis using an app on their mobile phone.

Customer data is recorded by Bboxx on its Pulse monitoring platform and it is that data which could give companies such as Bboxx the ability to branch out into lucrative and relatively untapped markets such as microfinance and insurance in one of the world’s most populous regions.

Data collection

The Instinctif spokesperson told pv magazine “Bboxx’s solar home systems are remotely monitored and the collection of data allows for proactive troubleshooting. An example of how this works in practice is that a technician can be scheduled to fix a depleted battery before it even becomes an issue for the customer. Bboxx also uses customer and product data to ensure that every household has a suitably sized system for their specific needs. Customer data is strictly protected and confidential to Bboxx.”

The announcement of the series D funding round said Mitsubishi Corp led a group of backers which also included the Engie Rassembleurs d’Energies unit of French multinational electric utility Engie and impact investors from Luxembourg (Bamboo Capital Partners), the Netherlands (DOEN Participaties) and Canada (MacKinnon, Bennett and Company).

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The injection of capital is the latest in a string of investments for the company. DOEN and Bamboo are long-time backers of the business, having contributed to a $3 million series B funding round in March 2015. A further $15 million was secured from the two investors, as well as Engie Rassembleurs d’Energies; MacKinnon, Bennett and Company and others nine months later.

In January 2016 Bboxx teamed up with Dutch investment firm Oikocredit International to announce plans to attempt to securitize its solar home system business as an asset class, following the model of third-party solar companies in the U.S. At the time Bboxx said it was aiming to generate $2 billion from the move within five years.

Presidential approval

Seven months later, Engie Rassembleurs, DOEN and MacKinnon, Bennett and Company were again on board as part of a $20 million series C round. In July 2017 Bboxx announced plans to install 300,000 solar home systems in Togo after winning approval from president Faure Gnassingbe and three months later the company announced a $5 million credit line from Deutsche Asset Management. The Togo operation prompted French electric giant EDF to acquire a 50% stake in Bboxx operations in the nation last year.

Moving into crowdfunding last year, Bboxx raised €1 million ($1.1 million) in a month in March 2018 and a month later started a similar program to attempt to generate £2.5 million ($3.05 million) annually from the same source.

And in May, the company secured an $8 million loan from the African Development Bank, denominated in local currency, to expand its Rwandan operations. That followed the injection of $31 million from the Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers fund in January.

This article was amended on 28/08/19 to include Instinctif’s response.

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