CrowdCube: Closed & Funded!

CrowdCube: Closed & Funded!

Daniel Fogg, our Chief Operations Officer, has some great news about our CrowdCube campaign.

On 12 March, our equity crowdfunding campaign on CrowdCube closed. We reached 201% of our £265,000 target, having raised £533,000 in pledges from the CrowdCube community. Over the following weeks, once we had gathered all the funds from our investors, these pledges translated into £496,000 in committed equity investment, 187% of our campaign target.

This is a huge milestone for everyone at BuffaloGrid.

When the company was started in late-2011, the plan was to design and manufacture a simple, purchasable product to help provide power to off-grid communities in Uganda. Since then, so much has changed: how we generate electricity - from kinetic energy (bicycle) to solar energy; what we "sell" - from a power-generating product to a managed, community utility service; and even where we provide our service - from villages that are strictly off-grid in Uganda, to grid-edge and also fully on-grid towns in India.

What has not changed is why BuffaloGrid exists. We exist now, as we did four years ago, to help more people gain access to the transformative powers of their mobile phones and a greater connection to the wider world.

Now we have a service that's in high-demand, a technology platform uniquely designed to address the mobile power challenge and a brilliant team working hard on scaling our service. With the success of our CrowdCube campaign, we also now have the financial backing to take our service to the next level.

We will be using the investment gained through CrowdCube to take our Generation-III Hub into mass production. We will be deploying these new hubs with our partners in clusters across India, and aim to be present in over 500 villages by the end of the year, allowing us to reach over 100,000 customers.

So thanks to all our amazing CrowdCube investors for supporting our business during this exciting period. We've got a busy, exciting year ahead.

BuffaloGrid Receives Support from DFID

BuffaloGrid Receives Support from DFID

Daniel Fogg, our Chief Operations Officer, brings some exciting news about a new grant partner.

Last week, we received a contribution to our CrowdCube campaign from the UK Department of International Development (DFID aka UK Aid) via the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP). DFID contributed £20,000 as a grant, marking the first time the department has supported a CrowdCube campaign.

This contribution forms part of DFID and GVEP’s strategy to partner with established equity crowdfunding platforms, through which the direct financial support will be channelled to innovative projects focusing on energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

This is exciting news for everyone involved in the BuffaloGrid mission. We see this contribution as further validation of our unique approach to getting more people across the world supplied with power and connectivity. We're looking forward to working with DFID and GVEP over the coming months.

You can read more about the DFID contribution and our CrowdCube campaign here (PDF - Press Release).

Picture: Sgt Neil Bryden/RAF

Welcome to Hirenellur

Welcome to Hirenellur

Research is an essential part of how we understand our customer behaviour and the markets we operate in. This post from Chris Marples, our Product & Service Lead, shows some of the insights gathered from a research exercise performed in rural-Karnataka in October 2015.

A recent Indian government report [PDF] states that 97% of villages in India are electrified. However the definition of an electrified village is not quite what you might expect.

The Indian Ministry of Power’s definition [PDF] of an electrified village says that a village must have:

  • basic infrastructure such as a distribution transformer and power lines
  • electricity provided to public places - schools, local council, health centre
  • electricity being provided to at least 10% of the total houses in the village

Nowhere is this misunderstanding of electrification more evident than in villages like Hirenellur, a rural village in the Shimoga district of Karnataka, Southern India and one BuffaloGrid’s first trial locations in Karnataka. I visited Hirenellur in October 2015 to measure the impact that our service is having on people’s lives.  Along with Daniel Fogg, our COO, and with the help of Jagan SH, our India Operations Manager, we conducted a qualitative survey to understand customer behaviour and village context around power, mobile phone use and home lighting. The results of this survey can be seen at the bottom of the page.

We found that although power infrastructure (pylons and substations) is installed and power lines connect most homes to the grid, the electricity flowing through the grid is not sufficient to supply people with power when they need it. This demand peaks during evenings, when villagers are cooking meals, studying or want to communicate with their friends. This was confirmed in our survey, showing that 60% of our village sample had less than 4 hours of grid power each day.

Since deploying a BuffaloGrid Hub through our agent in Hirenellur, villagers now have a reliable source of electricity to charge their mobile phones whenever they need to.

Our service has been particularly popular with the young people of Hirenellur.  Around 60% of our customers included in the survey were under the age of 30.  Many of this group also explained that their phone usage was heavy and frequent and expressed how useful the service was when needing to charge their phones multiple times in one day. So it seems the youth of rural India are as inseparable from their mobiles as the rest of the developed world.

When surveying villagers occupations, 34% - the largest group - were farm workers and 23% - the second largest group - were labourers.  This is certainly indicative of the area, however the survey also revealed the importance of mobile phones for these workers to find work in nearby towns and villages.  Many also live out of town and use BuffaloGrid to charge phones when coming to work in the village centre.

It is apparent that the mobile phone is becoming much more than just a lifeline to these rural people.  Our survey revealed that 38% of our sample own smartphones, using them to stay in contact with their friends through WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, to read news articles and to download videos.  One young villager showed me his favourite YouTube clips - a selection of Bollywood hits, motor racing, accidents and stunts.

Whether it is for work or social use, it is clear that the villagers of Hirenellur enjoy the benefits of their mobile phones and spend a significant proportion of their weekly wages on keeping them running. 58% of our sample spend at least 100 INR on average each week on phone credit, with one villager spending in excess of 500 INR every week.

We have found that our service is having a large and positive impact on the lives of the people of Hirenellur - providing them with a reliable source of power to continue their daily routines and stay connected with friends and family.  Below is a testimonial from Devappa, one of BuffaloGrid’s first agents.

How has BuffaloGrid improved your business?
“I'm very happy to be providing the BuffaloGrid service to my customers and they are very satisfied. The introduction of the service in this area is a good thing for our village. With time I think this service can really help us.”

How has BuffaloGrid changed village life?
“Our village has frequent power outages and before BuffaloGrid arrived people could not charge their phones at these times. Villagers now come and charge with BuffaloGrid. They can call anyone anytime they like now!”

Customer DemographicsInfographic

Live on CrowdCube

Live on CrowdCube

Daniel Fogg, our Chief Operations Officer, provides a run-through of our equity crowdfunding campaign.

Today, we launched our equity crowdfunding campaign on CrowdCube. Our goal is to raise £265,000 during the next 30 days. We will use this investment to take our Hub into mass production and expand our operations into new parts of the off-grid world.

We’re running this public campaign as we want as many people as possible to share in the success of BuffaloGrid. It’s a great way to fund the next stage of our business, while also generating exposure for the mobile energy and connectivity problem we’re trying to solve.

Right now, if you’re an angel investor or a friend of the company, you can buy equity in BuffaloGrid for as little as £10. It’s an exciting prospect - like an early-stage, mini-IPO. 

As well as a stake in the future of our company, every investor will receive one of our rewards. Some of the more interesting awards will see us engraving customer names on hubs and sharing live hub data with our investors through our monitoring platform. We’re even going to take an investor out to meet our agents and customers in India.

So it’s going to be a big month. And we’re thrilled to be sharing our unique solution to energy poverty with the world, in all it’s detail.

If you’re interested in checking out our pitch, you can head over to our live CrowdCube page.

Telling Our Story

Telling Our Story

When BuffaloGrid was founded back in 2012, our goal was nothing less than providing mobile power and connectivity to millions. Over the last four years, we've been relentlessly pursuing this goal, but we have not been sharing this work publicly. So most of our progress and most of our thoughts on how to solve this civilization-level challenge have remained hidden away in the minds of our team.

That is going to change. Getting the Bottom Billion powered, connected and online is a huge challenge. We want to share our approach to meeting this challenge in the hope that other teams will be inspired by our journey and learn from how we overcome the obstacles along the way.

This new openness means we will start sharing data about our operations, our technology and our investment strategy. This thing, our blog, will be a big part of that. As will our social media feed, our newsletter and our attempts to share our mission through the press with as many people as possible.

At BuffaloGrid, we're going to solve one of the biggest challenges facing the world in the 21st Century. You'll be able to find out how we're doing that right here.

Getting On Your Bike, Not Always the Answer

Getting On Your Bike, Not Always the Answer

We have been featured in The Times, thanks to James Hurley, who wrote an article about our shift from pedal power to solar power, and how the Royal College of Art backs startups. Excerpt below:

When Daniel Becerra thought of using the humble bicycle to bring electricity to a billion of the world’s poorest people, he thought his solution was both elegant and simple. Visiting Africa showed him how wrong he was.

Mr Becerra and Phil Schluter, a coffee trader, were trying to solve one of the biggest problems associated with soaring mobile phone use in the developing world: in many areas, it is nigh on impossible to charge them.

The industrial design and engineering graduate came up with the idea of bicycle-powered generators and travelled to Kenya to test the approach in 2011.

“It is not uncommon for a farmer to commute for a couple of hours every few days to charge their phone, an extreme amount of time for something that is so easy to do in the west. But the bike was the wrong solution. It took four hours of peddling to charge more than twenty phones.” Farmers understandably preferred tending their fields to furiously peddling away for hours on end. “They said thanks, but no thanks.”

Check out the full article here


Brand, reputation and staff: the business case for social good

Brand, reputation and staff: the business case for social good

Our Co Founder and CEO Daniel Becerra was mentioned in a Guardian article about business combating poverty. This was due to him being a panelist at a seminar debating the issue.

'Does business have a role to play in combating global inequality and poverty, and what happens when the drive for profits comes into conflict with corporate social values?...'

The photograph above is from the article, and copyright of Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.

'The role a business can play in contributing to global social good will often be determined by its core function, such as providing mobile and internet connectivity.'

BuffaloGrid at the Berlin Museum

BuffaloGrid at the Berlin Museum

We're excited to announce that we've been invited to exhibit our second generation product in Germany.

Come and see our old unit at the Berlin Museum!

BuffaloGrid on Forbes

BuffaloGrid on Forbes

Forbes contributor, Trevor Clawson has written an article about us entitled “Off the Grid - Powering Internet Services In Remote Areas”.
"'Can a small UK-based technology company help kick start the mobile internet revolution in those areas of the developing world that have yet to be connected to an electricity supply?' Daniel Becerra, one-time design consultant and co-founder of BuffaloGrid believes the answer to that question is ‘yes.’'