The 500 Solaris!
This week our operations in Tanzania are reaching a great milestone: 500 Solaris are currently in use in the north of Tanzania, providing a daily access to sustainable and affordable electricity to 3752 people directly and about 1500 more (indirectly) through the many micro-entrepreneurs using their Solaris equipment to provide energy services to their community (such as phone charging or hair cutting).
Such 500 Solaris kits are supported by 20W to 80W panels, which represent about 17240W all together. How much is 17240W you may ask? Well, look around you, you may find a functioning heater close to you, probably 60x120cm big. Got it? Imagine about 7 to 8 of those that are meant to bring comfort to 2 households of 4 people in Europe, which is exactly the amount of installed power we are currently using to fulfil most of the energy needs of 3752 people living in 500 households who are using Solaris everyday!
Solaris Tanzania is now installing about 100 systems per month and plans to triple the rate as soon as we leverage more funds to be converted in kits!
October 28th 2016.
Help 2400 people get electricity and get a return by crowdlending with TRINE
Recently, the TRINE project team went to Tanzania to visit our headquarters near Lake Victoria. After arriving in Mwanza and speaking with Thibault (co-founder), they made their way to our Sengerema shop. The trip there involved taking a ferry across Lake Victoria and then a local bus (“Dala Dala”). Once there they met the whole team of sales agents, Rafikis, and interns before heading out to visit the actual customers.
After this thorough investigation, TRINE decided to partner with us and thanks to this collaboration you can now invest directly in our clients and get a 5% annual return! If you are interested to do so, just head to the campaign here.
August 9th 2016.
Bring in the consultants
Solaris is getting ready to GROW BIG! We are hosting Laetitia, manager at Accenture, who is helping us to improve our processes and to prepare the expansion toward thousands of families to be impacted through access to sustainable energy. The 2 week consulting mission is offered by the Foundation Accenture as part of its programme Social Entrepreneur Academy. Again, kudos to Alizée from MakeSense and Sensecube who supported us to become a Laureate of the programme.
January 18th 2016.
New partnerships, new opportunities
Last week we started a promising collaboration with Cedar Tanzania to better empower a 4000 inhabitants rural area. We encourage you to glance an eye at their article and to stay tuned on the positive impact such collaboration will generate in a near future!
"Ana is going to have electricity in her home tonight, for the very first time, courtesy of Eternum Energy and Cedar Tanzania. She peeks through the curtained door and watches Thibault from Eternum Energy, explain to Claire, from Cedar Tanzania, how the whole Solaris unit works. Its brand new wires and white sockets stand in stark contrast to the chipped earth-cement walls that make up her cramped two room home. But she has welcomed us warmly and now listens intently.
Thibault is on a role. He speaks fast, his English sporadically slurred with the tones of a French accent. His hands are animated moving from one button to another, using technical terms like A/C D/C converters and sealed lead acid battery for storing energy. All this is not part of our everyday language, but this is a “Plug and Play” device, something that Thibault is very proud of.
So Ana thankfully, does not need to know the ins and outs of this technology. She only needs to follow the straight forward steps that the Solaris technician or Solaris ‘Rafiki’ (‘friend’ in Kiswahili) has already explained to her. She knows now how she can plug in up to nine USB based recharger cables in to the Solaris Unit. She has already been provided with the USB chargers as part of her installation fee of $3.5 (7,000 TZS). And Ana understands how her weekly payments of $1.8 a week (TZS 3,500) for three years will allow her to own the whole Solaris unit out right.
Her Solaris Rafiki has already explained to her how the lead battery will store the energy, from the 20W solar panel installed on her roof and how this will come in handy on rainy and cloudy days. She understands how to clean the solar panel if there seems to be a problem with the recharging of the unit.
Her Solaris Rafiki’s number is already saved on her phone, a phone that she has charged for the first time in her own home.
Usually she tells us, she has had to recharge her phone at the local Kamanga ’duka’ or store, where they have a generator. Even though the village of Kamanga is on the electricity grid most of the villagers cannot afford it, and the intermittent way it is turned on by Tanesco (Tanzania’s Electricity Company) has not given Ana any incentive to get her home hooked up.
Eternum Energy’s Solaris initiative has recognized the need for affordable and easily accessible electricity. And tonight when Ana’s brother continues to study, past the twilight hours, by the light of the new installed bulb, she and her family will be a testimony of Solaris initiative and Cedar Tanzania’s success."
December 7th 2015.
Growing our network
This week, we are visiting our partner Village Energy in Uganda to better support them fostering energy access in this wonderful country. Check them out, Village Energy is this awesome Echoing Green start-up (yes they won it!) lead by Jay (former rockstar at Google San Francisco, on the left side of the pic) and Abu (brilliant Ashoka fellow). Can't wait to proceed to the first delivery, btw get ready to see your favourite Solaris changing of colours for the occasion…
October 30th 2015.
Our first shop has arrived!
Solaris expansion never rests, even on saturdays! Today we celebrate our first shop opening by inviting candidates for a day of interviews and role plays! Who will be the next team member? Stay tuned!
October 3rd 2015.
The trials and tribulations of Solaris business mentoring
Our mentoring is an innovative and unique offer from a solar energy provider, with physical visits conducted by a dedicated Rafiki (friend in Swahili) to each entrepreneur who runs a solar phone charging business on a regular basis.
The system works phenomenally – entrepreneurs are receiving recordkeeping help, marketing assistance and technical support. So why do we say we’re coming up against obstacles? The road to business education, solar awareness and customer service is smooth and opening up in front of us. But sometimes, just sometimes, the physical road ahead isn’t quite so clear (see video above).
September 4th 2015.
Time will tell
For any student trying to grasp the basics of Swahili – the Bantu language which is officially spoken in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda – telling the time is harder than it might first appear. Though pronunciation may be fluid and grammar may be perfect, it’s the concept of telling the time in the area which makes many people new to the language stumble on this basic lesson.
Under the Universal time system, midday (the 12th hour) is when the sun is at its highest, and 12 hours later (12th hour or 0 hour) is when another day begins. In Tanzania, midday is the 8th hour. This is because time starts at 7am, referred to as ‘hour 1’. All hours thereafter count upwards, until circling back to 7pm, when it is hour 1 ‘evening’.
This is because across this area of the world, close to the equator, the sun rises at between 6am and 7am (Universal time). And so the working day begins once there is enough light, at around 7am. This logic is highly relevant in an area where, without daylight, many households are prevented from starting their day without using expensive and unsustainable lighting methods such as kerosene or battery-powered torches.
When scheduling meetings or arranging to meet friends, make sure you’re aware if it’s ‘Swahili time’ or not, or you might get a nasty surprise. It’s especially important for scheduling Solaris deliveries, so we make sure we double and triple check when arranging to deliver to a household or entrepreneur!
August 11th 2015.
Across the counter and into your home
This week has seen Solaris come to Sengerema. This area of the lake region of Tanzania is scattered with tiny, remote villages, sometimes only accessible through dirt tracks with a motorbike or bicycle, and often flooded by flash rainfall. It’s also now a place where many of the inhabitants have Solaris home systems, to light their houses and power their phones and radios.
Installation of a Solaris in a customer’s home or business takes no time at all, and customers can be up and running within an hour, with working lights and the know-how to operate and maintain their Solar device.
Customers discover Solaris at the electronics retailer in the centre of the nearby town, where most heads of households go at least once a week. Once they place an order, delivery is made as soon as possible so that they get the energy and charging facilities they need. Many more are going to be installed around Sengerema in the coming weeks, so villages are going to get a lot lighter at night.
July 14th 2015.
It's your turn, interns!
Solaris is offering a placement in Spain for a skilled, promising electronic/electrical engineer, to join the team in developing the Solaris solar charging station to best meet the needs of our customers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We’re looking for one person who has a bachelor or masters in electrical and electronic engineering (or equivalent) and who has practical PCB design skills and experience of CAD software. This person must also have basic software development knowledge (C/C++) and speak fluent English as that’s the working language within Eternum.
Did we just describe you? Or your cousin? Or your neighbour? We want to find the best person for the job (alright, it’s an internship, but it could turn into a full-time paid position if things go well) so spread the word!
If working for the most innovative, open, solar energy startup doesn’t do the trick, then knowing that all business-related expenses are covered and there will be a monthly stipend, might make the decision even easier. And also the fact that there’s room for new ideas, teamwork is essential and we get to bring light and energy to some of the poorest communities in East Africa – that might be quite convincing too.
So don’t hang around a minute longer; get in touch, with your CV and cover letter or to ask more questions about the post: firstname.lastname@example.org
July 3rd 2015.
A Tale of Two Solaris
Vicent Constantine is no ordinary Solaris entrepreneur. We like to think that all the Solaris entrepreneurs are pretty great, and they are: they produce clean, solar energy, providing lighting and charging facilities to their families and their neighbours, and they run businesses which are growing, month on month. But Vicent has gone a step further, by owning not one, but TWO solar charging stations. This means he has a power capacity of 120W, the equivalent of ten modern household lightbulbs.
Since he discovered Solaris at his local electronics retailer, he has built a shop in his village, Ngaya, three hours south of the district capital of his region of Tanzania. He quickly built up a solid base of customers waiting to get their phones charged, or top up lamps or other electronic devices. Some customers leave their phones with him so they can get on with farming or selling and can easily identify which phone is theirs because of the little green sticky label each phone carries. Others hang around, buy a soft drink and catch up on the goings-on in the tight-knit community.
All of this brings Vicent six times the income he used to earn from sporadic farming activities, and he can extend his opening hours after nightfall (which, in Tanzania is around 6pm) thanks to the USB-powered lights supplied with his Solaris devices. This means that he can provide charging services to those who return to the village after dark. Sometimes his customers use their phones not only to communicate with friends, business contacts or family in other villages, but also as a light source in case of emergency.
We’ve prepared a nifty profile sheet for Vicent, which you can find here, and get a closer look at the man himself.
June 9th 2015.
Life’s a pitch: update
Last week we were gearing up for Pitchup15, the world’s largest pitch competition featuring international startups competing for a prestigious cash prize in front of three renowned judges.
This time last week we were gathering evidence from Tanzania, from the entrepreneurs and households who have been using Solaris for the past few months to power their homes and businesses with clean, safe lighting and phone charges, and who have been earning more money than ever before thanks to their new solar charging business.
That was last week.
This week, we can announce that we were chosen as the best pitch, from a strong cohort of innovative and ambitious projects and that the value of the Solaris solution has been granted further recognition on an international platform.
The $US10,000 prize money provides an invaluable boost to the production and distribution of the next generation of Solaris charging stations, for which we already have a waiting list of eager entrepreneurs ready to get Solaris-ed. So we’d better get cracking –there’s no time to waste!
May 29th 2015.
Life’s a pitch
Excuse us for the questionable wordplay, but it’s for a good cause, be assured.
The cause is the world’s largest pitch contest, taking place this week, to showcase startups, small and medium businesses and NGOs, in the running for a prestigious prize and added value to their innovative ideas. And of course, Solaris will be taking part in the contest. Otherwise it would be just another wasted pun.
Hundreds of followers voted for the initial Solaris presentation posted on slide software site emaze.com, allowing us to move on to the second round, which culminates in a live e-pitch on Tuesday 19th May. We want to say a huge Solaris thank you to all who voted and got us to this stage.
You can sign up to receive more information about Pitchup15 and watch the entire process here and cheer on Solaris on the big day. This is an important opportunity to address a worldwide audience and present the Solaris solution, representing the challenges, successes and ambitions of energy entrepreneurs and non-electrified households in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We hope you’ll join us at 3PM GMT (4PM local time in Britain, 6PM local time in Tanzania) on Tuesday 19th – even if we can’t hear the cheers we’ll feel the support.
May 18th 2015.
A different sort of plug and play
We sometimes call Solaris by Eternum a ‘plug and play’ solar kit, needing minimal technical knowledge and instalment time to be up-and-running. The idea of being ‘plug and play’ implies simplicity, user-friendliness and efficiency, whilst being portable and durable. All of this is true for Solaris. We even checked with a few solar entrepreneurs, and they agreed with us.
But now we can also say that we’re Plug and Play approved, since we started the pre-accelerator adventure with the world-renowned Plug and Play startup accelerator last week. For 6 weeks, the Eternum team are attending workshops, mentoring sessions and masterclasses, sharing ideas on entrepreneurship, investment and growth. We’re also teaching the participants a thing or two about solar energy in rural Africa.
Plug and Play is an international network of tech startup accelerators promoting the growth of innovative businesses through educational programmes, networking events and mentoring. The Startup Next programme, which Solaris by Eternum is now a part of, involves 6 weeks of personal mentoring with key figures in the industry. And it’s sure to give Solaris’ mentoring of entrepreneurs a boost, allowing us to expand our repertoire of tools and techniques!
So we’re now doubly plugged in and playing.
April 30th 2015.
Stepping up to the Social Entrepreneur Academy
We’re pleased to announce that Solaris has been accepted into Accenture’s Social Entrepreneur Academy (SEA) class of 2015, a prestigious training and development programme for base-of-the-pyramid social entrepreneurs and NGOs.
But this isn’t just any ‘school’; it’s a ticket to growth and scaling-up which has already proven its worth with 1001 Fontaines, Soieries du Mékong and Naandi Community Water Services.
In joining the Accenture family (which also counts Danone Communities and Cegos as partners in the SEA), Solaris and all the entrepreneurs working to produce solar energy for their communities, are embarking on an exhilarating next step of the journey towards mass social impact.
The training process will include mid-term consultancies on-site in Mwanza, Tanzania, working with Solaris entrepreneurs, mentors and managers to equip each tier of operations with the necessary decision-making and problem-solving tools to grow without constraint in the right direction.
So it’s back to school for Solaris, but instead of a classroom we’ve got a world of social entrepreneurship to discover!
April 23rd 2015.
Masunga: Solaris pioneer, leading the way.
Masunga was the first of all the Solaris entrepreneurs, becoming an energy provider for his neighbours at the end of 2014 just after the crowdfunding campaign came to an end. You’ve probably heard about him already because he’s come to represent a lot of good things for Solaris.
Since then he’s been churning out energy, serving customers by the hundreds and doubling his investment. He’s now achieved another accolade: he’s the first Solaris entrepreneur to reach 25% payback. That means he’s a quarter of the way to owning his Solaris device!
After 52 weeks of payment he’ll no longer be a rental customer but will have paid off his entire device, and all the money he generates from selling phone/lamp/clipper charges will be pure profit.
April 8th 2015.
Another day, another entrepreneur.
This month has been a busy one on the field, with Haleluya, Solaris’ first Rafiki, registering more new entrepreneurs than ever. Some have come recommended by existing Solaris entrepreneurs, others discovered Solaris thanks to local electronics retailers, but all have the same objective: generate energy and generate revenue.
We’d like to introduce you to Joseph, who joined us only last week and is now fully equipped with a 60W Solaris device. He usually earns money for his family’s basic necessities through farming and fishing activities (the mighty Lake Victoria is a stone’s throw away) and this is the first time he’s earning money from mobile phone charging.
The 60W panel he has is enough to charge up to 75 mobile phones a day, and start breaking even within a couple of weeks. Joseph insisted on going for the biggest possible panels, as in his village of 540 inhabitants he has seen that there is increasing demand for phone charging and he wants to be as productive as possible – the sign of a true Solaris entrepreneur. In his first week he charged 105 phones, and has now made his mobile money payment for another week of activation. He knows that once everyone is aware that he has a solar charging station, more custom will come, and with the help of Haleluya, his Solaris Rafiki (mentor) he can make targeted marketing campaigns and keep consistent records of sales and expenditure.
The proof of Solaris’ efficiency is in how regularly entrepreneurs activate their device via mobile payment, and Joseph is seeing results from day one, meaning he has every reason to reactivate for another week.
March 22nd 2015.
Masters of business
Last week saw Solaris by Eternum’s first business masterclass in Mwanza, attended by Solaris entrepreneurs and interested potential entrepreneurs from surrounding villagers. Haleluya, Solaris’ first business mentor, delivered a 2-hour masterclass on working capital to the willing participants who went away with key concepts about profit, turnover and capital needs.
Solaris entrepreneurs are usually agricultural workers or shop owners who earn around $US2-5 dollars a day, and who look to the Solaris business-in-a-box as a way to light their home or business and generate additional income for their household.
The masterclasses are part of the mentoring program which each entrepreneur incorporates the day they register with Solaris. This first masterclass was delivered on the premises of a local electronics retailer, which allowed for comfortable seating and even a makeshift widescreen projection unit. The masterclass was hosted on market day in Mwanza, the day when villagers travel up to two hours to sell and buy in the commercial hub of the Tanzanian lakes region.
Masterclasses will be hosted every month and build on marketing, recordkeeping and business development concepts, with the aim of making each Solaris entrepreneur the most profitable phone charging businessman or woman possible.
February 27th 2015.
Up and sunning
To coincide with Solaris’ spread across the Lake region of Tanzania, we’re also plastering ourselves over the internet, with our brand new website to truly reflect the business image and the successes met with customers in Sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll be regularly updating this news section to show the business’ impact and the entrepreneurial activities of Solaris customers (such as Malimi; see previous article). The launch of this new website also marks Eternum Energy’s growth perspective: we want to be able to expand the model across Sub-Saharan Africa, and later to other continents, and count on concrete success and investments to be able to do this.
On the website (which you’re currently on if you’re reading this) you’ll find all the information you need to get involved, find out what the Solaris vision is, and how its implementation in Tanzania is changing the energy access horizon for rural communities, and creating new business opportunities for poverty reduction.
February 11th 2015.
A close shave to kick off the pilot
A few weeks into the Solaris launch in Mwanza region, Malimi signed up to become a Solaris entrepreneur. He signed up after meeting Haleluya, the Solaris Rafiki (mentor) who looks after entrepreneur needs, scooting across the lake region plains on his red motorbike visiting each of them. Malimi lives in Mwalwigi with his wife and three children, with a population of roughly 200 people from primarily agricultural households.
He signed up as an entrepreneur, making weekly mobile money payments to activate his Solaris device, at the end of November, and has been producing energy ever since. But this wasn’t enough for him. When he saw that any USB-powered device could be connected to the Solaris device to be powered by direct current, he saw further opportunities to generate income, and so made a valuable addition to his Solaris lease plan: hair clippers. For a small payment supplement offered by his Solaris Rafiki, he can now shave, trim or artistically adorn his neighbours’ hair, for a small charge.
Many men in this area of East Africa trim their hair on a weekly basis, so barbershops are big business, and can be a straightforward way to make a modest income, as it’s rare that men will have their own clippers.
Here is Malimi, his barbershop, and three satisfied regular customers. Waiting times are said to be minimal, and good coffee is served a stone’s throw away.
February 2nd 2015.
You kissed, you banked, and you made the Solaris pilot dream come true !
For 50 days in late 2014 you donated, shared and supported the Solaris by Eternum project through the KissKissBankBank crowd funding campaign we ran to raise the necessary funds to implement the pilot project in Mwanza, Tanzania. As a result of all of these combined efforts, €10,175 was raised, giving us the potential to finance the initial capital necessary to equip 100 Solaris entrepreneurs and empower them to run a successful energy business.
Almost 100 supporters from 7 different countries contributed, proving once again that seen from Europe, the idea of solar energy business empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa is a pretty good one. Even a very good one, judging from the size of the contributions...
And so follows the important task of finding out whether the idea is as well-received in Sub-Saharan Africa, as we start putting into action what we’ve been plotting all these months (of course, we’ve conducted ample market research, so we have a pretty good idea, but there’s only one way to be sure). From November 2014, as soon as the KissKissBankBank campaign came to a close, we went out to Mwanza, Tanzania, chosen for its devastatingly low rural electrification rate (4% according to the OECD) to start selling the Solaris device and mentoring concept. So far there are a handful of villagers in communities that have no grid access providing charging services for phones, lamps, clippers and other devices, to their neighbours, family and friends.
We want to say thank you to all of you who contributed, including those who contributed by joining us on social media in spreading the word about energy access. Carry on doing so, on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, whichever floats your boat- as long as the boat is solar-powered and business minded!
January 21st 2015.