Bright raises $4M to bring solar to the developing world


We’re pleased to announce that Bright has raised $4 million in seed funding from First Round, Y Combinator, Max Levchin, and others to bring a distributed solar utility model to developing countries. We’ll use this funding to continue building our world-class solar software and finance teams so that we can tackle one of the largest and most significant challenges of our lifetime: delivering clean energy to a planet of over 7 billion people.

Most homes can’t afford to buy solar panels and many local installers can’t access financing. Bright alleviates this problem, enabling mass residential solar adoption by providing the tools and financing that local installers need to put solar on millions of homes at no upfront cost. On the Bright platform, installers can follow a step-by-step process which allows them to sell, approve, install, and verify installations and most importantly qualify for project financing. On the backend, complicated processes such as underwriting, billing, and project logistics, are made simple so that installers can focus on what matters — growth.

This strategy is desperately needed as the scale of the challenge and opportunity ahead of us is staggering. For perspective, the information communications sector, in which many traditional VCs focus their investments, accounts for ~6% of global GDP. Spending on energy represents ~10%. If this surprises you, you’re not the only one — most folks still underestimate the scale of the world’s energy needs.

Note that the status quo is also worse in the energy sector. In many developing countries, the government is still the only provider of energy and uses decades old technology. As a result, energy costs are non-competitive and much higher. We also see shocking blunders in customer experience such as blatantly incorrect billing, meters broken for months, and so on.

Imagine if the only energy provider in the US was the DMV.

Solar is the path forward. Specifically, it’s a solution that doesn’t need to be centrally controlled and distributed (i.e. it can sit on roofs instead of in one large location in a desert), which means we can be independent from a totally government controlled solution. Further, solar is also on a rapidly declining cost curve which means that customers finally don’t actually have to pay more for better energy. In fact, costs have declined so rapidly that we’re starting to see exponential growth in many markets that have “tipped”:

Image credit to © Earth Policy Institute/Bloomberg
“As we’ve seen with transportation, the right technology models in developing countries can really experience explosive growth,” says Bill Trenchard, partner at our investor First Round Capital. “We think solar could be another one of those areas.”

Bright works by making it easy to share learnings from one installation to the next so that nearly any installer using Bright’s platform can install high quality solar at a low cost and thus access project financing. The goal is for any installer in any country to offer a high quality rooftop solar installation at no upfront cost, and do so over and over, millions and eventually billions of times. As an analogy, consider the taxi industry. Until recently, it conducted the same operations repeatedly and inefficiently. With software, however, now nearly anyone can provide rides and do so while offering a simpler and more elegant experience. As a result, we’ve seen dramatically lower costs, better customer experiences, and a substantial increase in the number of rides provided.

“Solar is going to grow massively, particularly in developing countries. We see technology that enables energy financing as a huge opportunity, and as the way to accelerate adoption. We knew this was a significant opportunity, but didn’t find the right team and model until Bright.”
— Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator

We want to recruit the smartest, most passionate people in the world to do the same for distributed solar energy. Today we have amazing industry leaders from Dropbox, SolarCity, and Chevron joining Bright to go after these huge challenges. But we need more brilliant people to do the same, especially developers interested in using software to enable clean energy globally.

Does this interest you? Come join us. Email me at jonah@thinkbright.mx and help us author the next stage of our energy history.

https://www.thinkbright.mx/?lang=en