Australasia looks to crowdsourcing and disruption to fund renewable energy
Exploring a new path always comes with great risks—and the potential for either a great reward or a downfall. In an effort to curb the potentially disastrous effects of an energy deficit on the horizon, Australasian countries are looking at the emerging world of renewable energy.
That much is a risk in and of itself—with the infrastructure already in place, traditional energy sources like fossil fuels are more readily available and cheaper right now compared to the investments needed up front to get viable renewable energy sources off the ground. So to appeal to investors, interested agencies are flipping the script from renewable energy as a matter of environmental imperative to a matter of potential economic promise in the long run:
"We flipped it over to make it an investment proposition. Rather than focusing on the obvious and important question of climate change here, [we asked] is this a new economic driver? And it turns out that it is," said Dr. Paul Heithersay, deputy chief executive at the South Australian government's Department of State Development. "It's a very high-tech industry."
But traditional investments aren’t the only path to changing the energy production game in Asia. Countries are also looking to more modern alternative funding methods like crowdsourcing as a way to disrupt the energy production status quo and start changing the energy landscape from the ground up:
"Crowd-funding and community-funding are attractive for smaller scale distributed solar projects in China," advisory firm EY said in a report last year. "Investors can invest small amounts of capital for specific projects. Since financing is provided to individual projects, it provides developers a strong incentive to design and implement quality projects which in turn ensures an efficient use of capital."
In fact, crowdsourcing is already having some success: CNBC reports that last year Hong Kong-based company United Photovoltaics successfully raised 10 billion yuan (around $1.6 million) in China from a pool of 100 investors through crowdfunding, using those funds to build a 1 MW off-grid solar farm.
Unived Photovoltaics already has plans to use crowdfunding again in the near future, and other Australasian businesses are as well—especially given the added bonus that crowdfunding has of showing quite clearly where the public’s interests lie by allowing them to vote with their wallets.
"The force of public opinion can't be ignored and the financial markets are dictating it," Australia's Heithersay said […] “Clearly, [there's]a very strong movement among the general populace that we want to invest in clean energy and they're all there out in force backing these companies that were probably a little bit before their time," he said.
Disruption and grassroots efforts are the way of the future, in the energy industry as much as any other. In this case, it could pave the way for a more sustainable and efficient energy system for Asia and Australia.
Timeline: India takes unicorn leap with six in five days
We chart an historic week in India’s tech industry, where in just five days, between 5-9 April 2021, the country achieved six new unicorns, bringing India’s total to 10 in 2021 to date, an immense unicorn leap from just seven in 2020 and six in 2019.
April 5: Meesho
India’s first social commerce unicorn, Meesho raised US$300m from SoftBank, Facebook and Shunwei Capital, giving the Bangalore-based startup a US$2.1bn valuation, a threefold jump from its previous funding round in 2019. Founded in 2015 by two IIT-Delhi graduates, Meesho connects producers and resellers, helping small businesses sell through social media. It has 45m customers and has enabled 13m entrepreneurs to start their online businesses with no investment.
April 6: CRED
Founded just over two years ago, Bangalore-based credit card repayment app CRED raised US$215m from Falcon Edge Capital and Coatue, nearly trebling its valuation to US$2.2bn from its January US$80m round. Allowing customers to pay off their credit card debt while earning CRED coins which they cash in for rewards, CRED has grown rapidly during COVID-19, doubling its customer base to nearly 6 million in a year.
April 7: API Holdings / Groww
The first epharmacy startup to gain unicorn status, PharmEasy (API Holdings), which has digitised 60,000 brick and mortar pharmacies and 400 doctors across India, raised US$350m in a round led by Prosus Ventures. Founded by four former Flipkart employees as a way of making investing simple, investment platform Groww became India’s second-youngest fintech unicorn, raising US$83m in Series D funding led by Tiger Global, quadrupling its previous round in September.
April 8: ShareChat
New Delhi-grown social media startup ShareChat, founded in 2016 by Mohalla Tech raised US$502m from Lightspeed Ventures, Tiger Global, Twitter and Snap taking its raised total over six rounds to US$766m and pushing its valuation to US$2.1bn. The funding will be used to grow its user base and short video platform Moj, which launched in 2020 following TikTok’s ban in India. The regional language startup claims 280m users.
April 9: Gupshup
AI-led conversational message startup joined the unicorn club after raising US$100m from Tiger Global giving it a ten-fold valuation of US$1.4bn. The smart messaging platform, which has seen accelerated growth during the pandemic, was founded in Bangalore in 2005 by serial entrepreneur Beerud Sheth, whose online freelancing platform Elance is now listed. Gupshup’s API enables 100,000+ businesses to build messaging and conversation experiences across 30+ communication channels.