Power grid supply in Africa is erratic and inconsistent, affecting rural and urban households and businesses. For restaurants or convenience stores dealing with perishables, frozen foods, and beverages, having intermittent electricity slows down their business. Some of them turn to diesel generators, which are expensive and toxic, to provide electricity.
Companies like cabbage box offer an alternative by creating a solution that can generate cooling without power. The sustainable refrigeration company, which provides accessible cold storage solutions to businesses across Africa, has raised $2.5 million in seed funding.
Nigeria-based growth equity fund Aruwa Capital Management led the round with participation from Acumen, Blue Earth Capital, All On, GSMA and other investors. Koolboks has since raised $3.5 million Ayoola Dominic and Deborah Gael founded the company in 2018.
At the time, Koolboks’ original product was essentially an outdoor camping refrigerator aimed at European campers. But in 2020, the France-based Africa-focused startup turned to a new market: business owners in off-grid locations in Africa and emerging markets, starting with Nigeria.
“Koolboks wanted to change the way the world experiences cooling. We initially started with the camping world in Europe. Despite some success, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our technology could have more of an impact on the people who need it most,” Dominic, the co-founder and CEO of the startup, said during a conversation with toptecheasy.com. “These people find it difficult to feed their families because 40% of their food is already spoiled before it hits the market. Some work day and night to collect their savings to buy food supplies that they can throw away the next day due to lack of refrigeration.”
According to Dominic, Koolboks refrigerators tap into Africa’s abundant supply of water with water that can generate cooling for up to four days without power. A typical Koolboks unit works like a fridge, freezer, or light as it comes with two LED lights and USB ports for cell phone charging.
The Paris and Lagos-based company uses a pay-as-you-go model that allows these individuals and small businesses, such as fishmongers, to pay $10 to $20 a month to own one of its 110-1000 liter off-grid solar refrigerators. They pay through their cell phone or a POS agent near their stores; they get tokens which are entered as codes in the fridge and use them for a certain period of time.
“In Koolboks we have devised a way to store energy in an extremely cheap way. The exciting fact is that we have integrated a pay-as-you-go technology into this solution that allows individuals to pay for their refrigerators in small monthly, weekly or daily installments.”
The four-year-old company currently sells in 18 countries, the CEO said. These are markets where it has distributors or dealers; 13 of these are located in sub-Saharan Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal and Sierra Leone. However, the company only has a physical presence in Nigeria and Kenya; the latter opened as an affiliate office last month. Koolboks is also looking to DRC and Ivory Coast as next offices, Dominic said.
Koolboks will deploy the capital to expand across Nigeria, including building the team to support its growing B2C business and building a local assembly facility. It will also help catalyze expansion into new markets and scale the company, which has acquired more than 3,000 unique customers in all markets. Dominic claims the entire transaction signed by Koolboks in 2021 was completed in the first two months of this year.
“We are impressed with Koolboks’ innovative solution, which goes far beyond reducing food waste. The team’s laser focus on ensuring clean, renewable energy in off-grid areas is critical to the survival of many small businesses and industries and advancing economic gender. equality,” said Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes, the founder of the female-led growth equity fund Aruwa Capital Management. “Equal access to clean and reliable energy is key to closing the economic divide between men and women in rural areas, and we are delighted to see Koolboks’ expansion continue to make economic equality a reality for millions of women across Africa.”