This solar energy crowdfunding team brings together social, economic, and environmental forces to push great impact investing projects forward
Sometimes making a profitable investment with a good ROI just isn’t enough. As millennials are leading the charge in finance and tech, they are looking to make their money reach beyond simply turning a bigger profit, but to have an effect on other areas of concern.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review noted a Spectrum Group study that “45 percent of wealthy millennials want to use their wealth to help others and consider social responsibility a factor when making investment decisions.” Impact investing that combines social and environmental goals along with a strong return on capital is gathering momentum as an alternative to the single monetary focus of the traditional model.
One company that is looking to become a leader in this field is TRINE. Based out of Gothenburg in Sweden, the company has built a crowdfunding platform aimed at sponsoring solar energy projects in the developing world. Their name means “triple” in Ye Olde English, referencing their trifold mission of achieving ROI, social and environmental goals.
The team launched their own crowdfunding venture in November to build capital through Fundedbyme. With a goal of raising 30,000 EUR, they were overfunded within a few hours and eventually succeeded in bringing in 71,000 EUR by the end of the campaign on December 1 with matching funds coming in from Nordic-centered energy company Fortum. According to TRINE, they will only take in 30,000 EUR now for this round, with the intention of allowing those who did not take part the first crack at their future projects.
Focusing on ending energy poverty
Crowdfunding for causes has exploded over the past few years as worthy individuals and causes have reached out to the public for support. Platforms like those used by Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe have made it easier than ever to raise money for projects.
Part of what makes TRINE stand out from the crowd is their specific focus on solar energy. Through their platform, they break down the different projects based on energy usage, geographic locations and other factors. They also say that they perform their own due diligence before allowing a project to go live, adding an important vetting element to the process and maintaining a high standard for their portfolio.
“Most all crowdfunding platforms work in a wide range of issues,” Manaberi told Geektime at SLUSH 2015. “We want to focus on one thing really well. There are 1.3 billion people around the world who are living in energy poverty and that’s an issue that we think we can have an affect on.”
The TRINE team believe that they have found an issue that speaks to people and can draw the interest of investors.
“Our product is doing good,” says Manaberi, “Even if you have a good sellable product, you need to do more than that. It needs to have an impact to be worthwhile.”
It can be hard to visualize 1.3 billion people, turning energy poverty into a topic that is too hard for most people to conceptualize playing a part in solving Manaberi tells Geektime. However he hopes that they can raise the issue’s profile by working on specific projects.
Direct action in the field
The first project that will receive their investment is in the expansion of the electrical grid in Sidonge, Kenya, expecting to break ground in March. Through a loan to their local partner RVE.SOL, TRINE will bring a KUDURA mini-solar grid to the area, providing new levels of access and opportunities to the people there.
They say that with the 30,000 EUR in initial funding, they will have enough cash to bring electricity to the lives of 50 families and five small businesses. By connecting these families with the grid, they can produce not only power, but purify water for drinking and refrigerate milk for sale.
As many of the people in this area are involved in dairy farming, the ability to keep milk cold will mean that they can sell more of it and put off its expiration. Manaberi tells Geektime that the stations can also be used for producing biogas from cow manure, a resource that is plentiful in the area.
From an environmental standpoint, the people in Sidonge now have access to energy from clean and reliable sources, at a cheaper rate than what they pay for dirty fossil fuels. It gives them the tools to build their communities and keep them healthier, potentially changing the future for the next generation.
Crowdfunding initiatives like TRINE are going to play an integral role in how this generation approaches good works and investing. The values of corporate responsibility and giving back to the (sometimes global) community are elements that this socially conscious cadre of investors expect from their ventures.
Moreover, I find the urge very appealing to reach out beyond established organizations like the UN often behind these kinds of development projects to find a more direct solution.
As with any kind of investing opportunity, it is important to remember that there are certain risks involved. For all its advances, Kenya and plenty of the other countries where TRINE will likely be running projects are still vulnerable to shakeups in stability that can affect the ability of the local partners to operate effectively. Shifts in currency values should also be accounted for when determining the returns for future projects.
With all that in mind, I still vote for TRINE and am really excited to see it grow. If TRINE can connect the public with amazing projects like their upcoming one in Kenya, highlighting worthy causes and properly directing funding, then they will truly play a crucial role in making impact investing a reality.
TRINE was co-founded in 2015 by CEO Sam Manaberi, COO Andreas Lehner, CTO Christian Genne and CFO Christoffer Falsen.