Solfácil, a Brazilian startup that provides credit lines for installing solar energy, has just closed a $100 million (about BRL 500 million) Series C round led by US venture capital fund QED Investors, which also led the Series B round less than a year ago, and followed by SoftBank, VEF, and Valor Capital Group.
The funds will be used to expand what Solfácil calls its “solar ecosystem”: a range of solutions that, besides the credit lines, the portfolio flagship, also includes a marketplace for solar equipment and an IoT (Internet of Things) device built with proprietary technology to monitor and improve the productivity of solar power systems provided by integrators (partner companies that actually design and build solar panel projects for the end customer).
So, part of the funds will be used to provide more credit – Solfácil’s goal is to reach the end of 2022 with a credit portfolio of BRL 3 billion and 100,000 customers served, and part will be allocated to technology to improve the marketplace and to enhance the IoT device.
From fintech to “solar ecosystem”
When it entered the market in 2018, Solfácil aimed to make access to solar energy popular among Brazilians. With credit lines to finance solar energy panels for individuals and farmers (up to BRL 200,000) and small and medium businesses (up to BRL 500,000), the startup has already financed more than BRL 1.2 billion in “solar loans”.
According to consulting firm Greener, Solfácil is the third-largest financing player for solar energy in Brazil, next to major banks such as BV and Santander. The startup‘s goal is to consolidate itself as the largest solar energy financier in the country. But there is more.
“Today we are more than a fintech, we are a solar energy ecosystem. We have a fintech to provide access to the solar energy system, a marketplace to sell the photovoltaic kit, which is a key part of the investment beyond the installation, and now the proprietary IoT that takes care of this solar system over 30 years of use that it will have in the customer’s home,” said Fábio Carrara, CEO and founder of Solfácil, in an interview with LABS.
Solfácil currently has a customer base of 40,000 and over 8,000 integrator partners connected to its platform all over Brazil. For Carrara, building this “solar ecosystem” was a natural step in the startup‘s journey, since it operates as a B2B2C company and, therefore, has two audiences to serve.
It was from this insight that came the idea to launch, last August, its second product, the solar equipment marketplace that serves both partner integrators and end customers. “We realized that integrators who were financing their customers’ solar energy projects with us had to deal with a very analog shopping experience still,” explained Carrara.
Today, the startup‘s marketplace features more than 5,000 products, such as solar panels and inverters, and connects partner integrators to a variety of distributors and brands. According to Carrara, the Solfácil marketplace solves two of the biggest issues of a market of high demand and unstable supply chain, the prices, and availability of products.
The upcoming IoT, on the other hand, is the result of three years of research and development work. The device will allow real-time monitoring of the photovoltaic system’s energy generation, will issue alerts when any problem is found and will allow remote adjustments to be made. “We believe that IoT is a key part of the ecosystem we are building. Investing in hardware is atypical; most companies choose to outsource with a white label solution. But we consider it strategic to develop in-house,” explained Carrara.
The future of energy is solar
According to Carrara, in 2022 Brazil should become one of the largest solar energy markets, second only to China. For him, solar energy will play a fundamental role so that the country is not held hostage to hydric crisis and rationing threats whenever the economy bears signs of growth.
“Today, the penetration rate of solar energy is only 1% in a country that is sunny all year round. Brazil will definitely be the biggest world reference in the decentralized production of electric energy. The per capita energy consumption of Brazilians will continue to grow, and the country is not prepared to support the increased demand with the traditional centralized model,” he said.