BioLite, a Brooklyn based social enterprise best known for turning cooking fires into electricity, announced it raised $5 million in growth capital to accelerate the expansion of its off-grid energy products.
The funding consisted of a Series B equity round, led by Acumen with additional investment from Clif White Road Investments, RRE Ventures and the Disruptive Innovation Fund, as well as debt and grant funding from Deutsche Bank and USAID.
“We are proud to be joined by such an exceptional group of investors in our mission to bring ‘energy everywhere,’” said Jonathan Cedar, BioLite co-founder and CEO. “This unique coalition of industry-leading partners will help to support the next phase of BioLite’s growth as an emerging markets energy provider, mission-led outdoor brand, and disruptive technology innovator.”
Three billion people still cook over smoky, open wood fires, leading to 4 million deaths each year, which adds up to more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. BioLite’s clean cooking technologies reduce harmful emissions by more than 90 percent, while converting wasted heat into usable electricity to charge mobile phones and LED lights off the grid. In March, the company launched the BioLite NanoGrid, expanding its technology portfolio to include rechargeable LED lighting and power storage.
“Access to clean cooking, lighting and power for mobile phones are three of the most pressing needs among low-income, energy-deprived households,” said Acumen Chief Investment Officer Sachin Rudra, who will be joining BioLite’s board of directors. “We are very excited to partner with BioLite as the company is in a unique position to integrate and scale across each of these critical energy categories.”
That unique position is due in large part to Parallel Innovation, BioLite’s pioneering business model. The company incubates core energy technologies and markets them in parallel to families living in energy poverty along with campers in outdoor markets. Profits generated by the outdoor market are re-invested into building sustainable and scalable energy solutions for the rural poor.
A departure from the “buy one, give one” model, BioLite uses a market-based approach, designing products that meet the critical needs of rural consumers at a price-point they can afford, thus boosting local economies, improving public health and curbing climate change.
The Disruptive Innovation Fund, which led BioLite’s Series A in 2011, joined the company again for its Series B round.
“Not only has BioLite developed transformative technology, but by bringing energy into rural environments where there aren’t other good power solutions makes BioLite a deeply disruptive concept,” said Matt Christensen, CEO of Rose Park Advisors and portfolio manager of the Disruptive Innovation Fund, “In places like India, one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for mobile phones, electricity is unreliable or outright unreachable for many. BioLite is providing access to electricity for off-grid consumers while they perform the necessary daily task of cooking.”
BioLite’s ambitious technologies, combined with user-centered designs, are used by customers in more than 70 countries and have earned recognition, including Fast Company’s 2014 Innovation by Design Award and a nomination for REI’s prestigious Vendor of the Year.
Since its founding in 2009, the company has raised $10 million, including over $1 million on Kickstarter. BioLite continues to invest heavily in building a world-class team, growing to a staff of 45 professionals across its NY headquarters, and India and Uganda field offices.
“BioLite is a mission-driven company that is executing at a very high level across product, marketing, and operations,” said Deven Clemens, managing director, Clif White Road Investments. “At Clif Bar and White Road, we firmly believe that values-based enterprises are the way to maximize value for business, community and the planet. BioLite is demonstrating that scalable impact and opportunity is the way of the future.”
BioLite is a dynamic social enterprise that develops, manufactures and markets consumer energy products for off-grid communities around the world. The company creates breakthrough cooking, charging and lighting solutions for both outdoor enthusiasts as well as rural families living in energy poverty. It is the recipient of numerous awards including the St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, Popular Science Best of What’s New, Nokia Health Tech Awards, and Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards. Headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, the company was founded in 2009 by Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond. It is a proud member of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives. Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $88 million in 82 companies across Africa, Latin America and South Asia. We are also developing a global community of emerging leaders with the knowledge, skills and determination to create a more inclusive world. This year, Acumen was named one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit companies.
About Rose Park Advisors and the Disruptive Innovation Fund
Rose Park Advisors, LLC (RPA) is a specialized investment firm that applies the theory of disruptive innovation developed by co-founder Clayton Christensen to invest in companies whose business models are well-suited to take advantage of industry change. RPA invests in disruptive opportunities across industries, geographies and company size and stage, providing capital and expertise to help companies achieve disruptive success.
About Clif White Road Investments
Clif White Road Investments is based in Emeryville, CA and was founded by Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford founders and owners of Clif Bar and Company. White Road seeks out and invests in healthy, active lifestyle brands focused on positive impact including Big Tree Farms, Public Bikes, Manitoba Harvest, The Honest Kitchen, Guayaki, Fireclay Tile and Wild Planet Foods.
About RRE Ventures
RRE Ventures is among the largest and most active venture capital firms based in New York. RRE focuses on early stage technology investments across a diversified range of sectors and industries. RRE has managed seven funds since its inception in 1994, with over $1.5 billion under management and investments in over 200 portfolio companies. Active investments include Buzzfeed, Kik, Sailthru, Managed by Q, Paperless Post, Bark Co. and Bit.ly.