Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on all great, new ideas. This is the second post in a series called Out of the Valley where I highlight the whos, whats, whens, wheres, and whys of the most exciting and innovative companies located outside of Silicon Valley, and the talented entrepreneurs that lead them.
This week we go waaaay out of the valley to feature The Sun Exchange.
The Sun Exchange was founded by Abraham "Abe" Cambridge. Abe has an MSc in the Science of Climate Change from the University of East Anglia. Abe's first foray into the world of solar energy was as the Technical Director in charge of overseeing the development of the UK's first 2 Megawatt industrial solar array. He later moved to Africa to pursue solar infrastructure opportunities.
The Sun Exchange is a solar energy funding and production platform integrated with blockchain technology. The company plans small-scale solar development projects that aren't large enough to warrant a major development project by a solar infrastructure company. Once the plan has been finalized, The Sun Exchange will list the project on its funding marketplace. A crowd sale then takes place to raise money for the project. Individuals fund a specific amount of the solar cells needed for the completion of the project. Similar to Kickstarter, the project only begins development once it has been fully funded and if it is not funded by the project's deadline, all funds are returned to the individuals that invested. Once a project has been fully funded, The Sun Exchange will move forward with the construction and development of the project. After the project is completed, users will pay The Sun Exchange for their newfound access to a cheap and sustainable source of energy. Backers of the project are compensated by receiving a portion of the users utility payments every month based on the percentage of solar cells that they funded. All of these transactions are done on the blockchain to ensure quick and efficient transactions across international boundaries.
The Sun Exchange was founded in 2015. The company raised a $1.6 million round of Seed funding in October 2017. Investors include Techstars, Kalon Venture Partners, Boost VC, Powerhouse, and Network Society Ventures.
The Sun Exchange is based in Cape Town, South Africa. The successful projects have so far been based in South Africa or neighboring countries. Location is key to the purpose of The Sun Exchange. A country like South Africa receives approximately 220 watts of sunlight per square meter each day. This compares to a maximum of 150 watts per square meter in certain parts of the United States and only 100 watts per square meter in Europe. Africa's relative abundance of sunlight is in sharp contrast to its availability of electricity, as only 2 in 5 Africans have reliable access to electricity every day. This disequilibrium is precisely what The Sun Exchange is attempting to correct.
Access to electricity is a fundamental building block to prosperity. Without stable and reliable electricity, any efforts by a country to modernize are severely hamstrung. Lack of electricity disrupts economic growth, hampers the education and development of children, increases food insecurity through a lack of refrigeration, and can even lead to safety concerns as people burn toxic materials for light/warmth. The Sun Exchange tackles this issue in an innovative and sustainable way. By creating a marketplace to fund small, localized projects, The Sun Exchange facilitates the financing and development of projects that are too small for traditional infrastructure investment, but large enough to have an outsized impact on their community. Lately we have seen a trend where blockchain technologies are incorporated into anything and everything as the latest trend du jour. This is a platform where relying on the blockchain not only makes sense, but is a vital piece of the puzzle as investors fund projects across countries and currencies with vastly different levels of legitimacy and dependability. The Sun Exchange is one of the first examples of a "blockchain for good" and could pave the way for more technology solutions that are as positive for society as they are transformational.
The Sun Exchange delivers on the optimistic promises of the blockchain by facilitating and incentivising the funding of impactful energy solutions to communities that need them.
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