Get to know Powerfull - Techstars Sustainability Paris Accelerator

May 03, 2024

Powerfull | Ifeanyi Ukwuoma- Founder & CEO | Mayowa Abiodun - Co-Founder & CTO

Powerfull is a solar financing company registered in the United Kingdom. Our mission is to bridge Africa's energy gap with data-driven solar financing.

1.   Describe the problem/the industry that you are trying to mediate (and precise the UN SDG-s you are solving).

If you live in Nigeria, you should know that the national grid in Nigeria is unreliable and limited in supply. It’s a similar situation across other countries in Africa. Residents and businesses are forced to seek alternative power supply from environmentally polluting fossil-fuel generators, which are also expensive to run, at around $0.40 per kilowatt. High energy costs are a huge problem in Africa.

Now, there are a couple of solar financing companies trying to solve this problem, but the repayment default for solar financing within the continent is about 26%. What this means is that 26% of the money deployed for solar financing is not returned back to the fund. This is worrying if we hope to solve this problem on a massive scale in Africa. To mitigate repayment risks, we need to first ascertain if projects are commercially feasible by understanding their power consumption and payment collection from the existing power sources. Secondly, we can then develop a model that captures and understands all financial and operating risks before we provide solar financing.

Powerfull solves these problems by leveraging already existing smart metering infrastructure and digital payment systems to understand the feasibility of projects in Africa, as well as their payment. With our model, we can derisk the customer by as much as 90% before providing the financing to switch to solar.

So, basically, we aim to bridge Africa’s energy gap with data-driven solar financing, reducing the cost of energy from $0.40 using fossil-fuel generators to about $0.10 using solar. To do this effectively, we partner with existing smart metering companies to leverage energy and financial data. We also reduce the payment default from 26% to less than 1% by automatically collecting payment from the customer’s bank account based on the power consumption from the smart meter.

At our core, we are contributing to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, and SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.

2.   How did the idea to create the company come to mind? 

About 4 years ago, I was working as a Manager at Amazon in the United Kingdom, but my Mum lives in Nigeria and owns a cold storage business, selling frozen food products to people within her community.

About 40% of her operating costs were spent on diesel generators as a result of the grid situation previously mentioned. Businesses like hers and millions of others are forced to seek alternative power supply from diesel generators. So, she decided to own solar assets, but almost all solar financing companies rejected her application for a loan. The interest rate was either too high or the payback period was too short.

The reason for this was that they had no visibility of the amount of power she uses and how much she pays for it. I tried to convince a number of them that my mum spends this much weekly for her generator, but they almost never believe me. A particular lender said, “Men Lie…Women Lie…Mum sometimes lie…Data Don’t — Show me with Data that this is how much power your mum uses and how much she pays for it.”

So, I decided to do just that, and I got an energy monitor and traveled to Nigeria for 3 weeks. I connected this energy monitor to the diesel generator and was able to capture and transmit the energy consumption from the generator to the cloud repository and represent it on a front-facing user interface. I also connected a wallet payment solution directly to the energy monitor that collected payment based on the energy consumption. The solar company loved it and provided the financing.

Now, this experience never left me. I decided to quit my job with Amazon months later to solve this problem.

3.   Why did you choose to participate in the Paris Techstars accelerator program? What are you looking forward to the most?

We chose to participate in the program because of its renowned reputation for fostering innovation within the sustainability space and providing valuable resources and mentorship to startups. We believe that being part of this program will accelerate our growth and provide us with the support and guidance needed to scale our business effectively.

What we are looking forward to the most is the opportunity to collaborate with other innovative startups, mentors, and industry experts within the Techstars network. We anticipate gaining invaluable insights, refining our business model, and expanding our network, ultimately helping us achieve our mission of bridging Africa’s energy gap with data-driven solar financing.

4.   What are you the most proud of in your initial journey with your company and what are you looking forward to achieve in the next 5 years?

We take pride in our commitment to sustainability and our contributions to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. I am also proud of our ability to bootstrap for about 2 years to learn as much as we can about the customer and market. Specifically, we are proud of developing a data-driven approach to solar financing that has the potential to revolutionize access to affordable and clean energy in the region. However, there is still a lot more to do. If you can visit Nigeria, please do, and you will realize it is a noisy country - too many generators running on fossil fuel. My life's vision is to be part of the change to elevate the consciousness of the average African that there is a future void of fossil fuel generators, and we are looking to make this happen.

Looking forward to the next 5 years, we aim to scale our impact significantly. We aspire to become a leading provider of solar financing solutions in Africa, reaching underserved customers who have traditionally been excluded by financial institutions, similar to my mom's experience, and empowering them with reliable and affordable energy access. We want to build a VC-backed company that leverages technology to use embedded finance to drive the energy transition in Africa. We envision expanding our operations across multiple countries, partnering with governments, NGOs, and private sector entities to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy. Ultimately, we strive to make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of millions of people while driving sustainable development and environmental conservation.

For the latest news on our applications, please visit our page.