NovoMoto LLC is a company that offers electricity systems to areas with less access to electricity. Founded by Mehrdad Arjmand, and Aaron Olson, NovoMoto is on the verge of completing its first phase of 100 solar lighting installations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The startup offers the system on a rent-to-own basis. This is taking place on a plateau almost 80 kilometres away from Kinshasa the country’s capital city. The client is required to pay a down payment of $10 and weekly instalments of $12 for a period of three years. After the final payment, they take the full ownership of the system.
According to Olson the main source of lighting in the rural of DRC is Kerosene, candles or flashlights by the use of one battery. But none of the above sources is reliable and adequate. This is why the duos decided to come in with small electricity system equipped with controller, battery and solar panel to rescue the area residents. The company uses a digitized code as their secret point. The code is used to unlock the system using an SMS after receiving the payments in each week. The last code is unlocked permanently after getting the final payment.
Olson says that 100 more systems will get to Kinshasa after three weeks. NovoMoto has secured financing for 450 more systems to be assembled and shipped in the course of this year. Olson adds that the idea behind NovoMovo has its roots from Madison. Olson is finishing his PhD course in mechanical engineering at UW Madison. His counterpart completed his PhD in the same field at the same institution. The idea to come up with the startup came in 2015 as the two were preparing for the Weinert Applied Venture in a class of entrepreneurship in the business school. Their main point of focus was to offer electric solar for the underserved individuals in the third world countries in business terms.
According to Olson, India and Sub-Saharan Africa were the only places in their minds at the start of the venture. Olson had an advantage of having travelled in many countries and realized how people were successful with the idea of a rent-to-own model of solar system. He then decided to work on the same concept to help his motherland DRC where he stayed before leaving with his parents to Madison. The two decided to do away with their original idea of developing their own equipment. This came after they examined the already existing equipment. They decided to source for money and work with an already established supplier. This had seemed cheaper compared to developing their own kits.
Getting starting capital has always been hard for startups. However, by Q1 of 2016, the firm had secured $110,000 from two U.S. Department of Energy grants. It also got an investment proposal from Clean Energy Trust of Chicago. By 17th May 2018, the startup had started serving Mboka Paul. This is a village located in the northwest of Kinshasa. NovoMoto’s entry-level package is in a position to store 20 watts per hour. This is despite the intensity level of the sun in that day. This can power six hours on two indoors lamps with an addition of 12 hours for a single outdoor lamp and charge a mobile phone. The three lambs combined are in a position to serve the same purpose as a 40 watts incandescent bulb.
Despite the homeowners being their main point of focus, the startup has carried out free installations in a clinic and a school in every village it serves. It is also coming up with package meant for large businesses needs like electric bike charging and refrigerator. According to the director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business Dan Olszewski, the business has received a good reception. The startup is targeting to have 2,000 clients before the end of 2018 and 20,000 customers by the end of next year. The expansion will include gradual transition which is already ongoing to a mobile payment system.