Power grid access in Africa is patchy and inconsistent, affecting rural and urban households and businesses. For restaurants or neighborhood stores that deal with perishable, frozen foods and beverages, intermittent electricity can hinder the growth of their businesses. Some turn to generators that run on diesel, which is expensive and toxic, to provide electricity.
Companies like Coolbox are providing an alternative by creating a solution that can generate electricity without power. The sustainable refrigeration company, which provides affordable cold storage solutions to businesses in Africa, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.
Nigeria-based growth equity fund Arua Capital Management led the round with participation from Acumen, Blue Earth Capital, All On, GSMA and other investors. Colbox raised $3.5 million after Iola Dominic and Deborah Gale founded the company in 2018.
At the time, Coolbox’s first product was an outdoor camping cooler aimed at European campers. But in the year In 2020, the France-based and Africa-focused startup ventured into a new market: business owners and emerging markets in off-grid areas in Africa, starting with Nigeria.
“Coolbox wanted to change the world’s cooling experience. We first started from the camping world in Europe. Although it had limited success, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our technology could have a greater impact with people who need it most,” said the startup’s founder and CEO Dominique in a call with TechCrunch. “These people struggle to feed their families because 40% of their food spoils before it even reaches the market. Some toil day and night to gather their savings only to throw it away the next day due to lack of refrigeration.
According to Dominik, Coolbox refrigerators tap into Africa’s abundant solar supply and can generate refrigeration for up to four days in a power outage. A typical coolbox unit works as a refrigerator, freezer or lamp, as it comes with two LED bulbs and USB ports for charging mobile phones.
The Paris- and Lagos-based company uses a pay-as-you-go model that allows these individuals and small businesses, such as fishmongers, to own 110–1,000 liters of water for $10 to $20 per month. Grid solar coolers. They make payments through their mobile phones or at a POS agent near their stores; You get tokens that can be entered into the refrigerator as a code and used for a limited time.
“With Coolbox, we looked for a way to store energy in a very cheap way. Then the exciting fact is that we are involved in this solution, pay as you go technology, that allows individuals to pay for their refrigerators in small monthly, weekly or daily payments.
The four-year-old company currently sells in 18 countries, the CEO said. These are markets with distributors or traders; The 13 are in sub-Saharan Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal and Sierra Leone. However, the company only has a physical presence in Nigeria and Kenya; The latter opened as a partnership office last month. Coolbox is looking at the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ivory Coast as its next offices, Dominique said.
Koolboks will deploy the capital to expand across Nigeria, including building the team and local meeting point to support the growing B2C business. It also helps expand the business into new markets, which has already acquired more than 3,000 unique customers across all markets. Dominique He said that Coolbox’s total sales in 2021 were achieved in the first two months of this year.
“Beyond reducing food waste, we’re impressed with Colebox’s innovative solution – the team’s laser focus on ensuring clean, renewable energy in off-grid areas is critical to the survival and economic growth of many small businesses and sectors. equality,” said Adesua Okunbo Rhodes, founder of Arua Capital Management, a women-led growth equity fund. “Equitable access to clean and reliable power is key to closing the gender economic gap in rural areas, and we’re excited to see the expansion of Colebox continue to make economic equity a reality for millions more women in Africa. We are happy.”