After winning the Governor’s Business plan contest in 2018, Novomoto has big plans for expansion in 2019 and beyond.
The company provides rent-to-own solar electrical systems for families in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is looking ahead to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We’re definitely expanding and trying to grow the company,” says Aaron Olson, company co-founder.
Olson explains that current customers are relying on kerosene lights, batteries and flashlights for power in their homes, and the Novomoto system provides a reliable and safe alternative.
The company’s current focus is customers working in places like schools and hospitals, as well as those employed by the government. Olson says that’s because these groups often have a steady income, ensuring they’ll continue paying for the service.
Novomoto began in 2017 after spinning off from UW-Madison, and the company has grown quickly under co-founders Olson and Mehrdad Arjmand. At the end of 2017, the company had 20 paying customers, and Olson and Arjmand managed to grow that tenfold by the end of 2018.
Within the next month, the company is looking to have 500 paying customers in the Congo. With additional funding and employee hires coming soon, Novomoto is aiming for 5,000 customers by the end of this year.
A key step in achieving this goal is visiting the Congo and expanding their operations in the country.
“This trip we’ll put together a team that has the capacity to serve these customers,” says Arjmand. “It’ll also give us the chance to work with the team on the ground and talk to the customers, so we can help them and ensure they have the best experience.”
Much of the hiring plans in the Congo involve adding service technicians that can install the systems. Additionally, Novomoto will look to hire managers to help maintain the larger team.
The team is also looking to form and solidify partnerships in the area that will facilitate smoother communications, customer service and marketing.
A recent agreement for the company involves Vodacom, the largest telecom company in the country. Its mobile app payment platform, called M-Pesa, functions similarly to Cashapp and Venmo. Novomoto’s customers send payments for their systems and instantly receive activation codes to start service.
The co-founders also mentioned long-term goals of offering business-level solutions for solar power. While the company is currently committed to serving individual customers first, a future goal is to provide service to small businesses in rural areas that rely on generators.
“We feel we can provide greater capabilities to these businesses and help them get away from using kerosene,” says Olson.
Beyond 2019, the co-founders are considering further expansion into other countries outside of the Congo, like Tanzania and the Ivory Coast. By 2026, the company aims to reach a million customers.
The company is seeking additional funding to reach their goals, as more capital is required to purchase the systems and hire a larger team.
By Tyler Fox