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Off Grid Electric Raises $16M To Let Africans Pre-Pay For Solar Energy Just Like Phones

How do you pay for solar energy if you don’t have a credit card or bank account? Thanks to Off Grid Electric, people in the developing world can pay as they go for installed solar power systems electricity the same way they top-up their phone minutes. Now, thanks to $16 million in new funding from American solar finance and installation giant SolarCity, Off Grid Electric is pushing to grow from 25,000 customers to 100,000. “Pre-paid mobile is what really unlocked the mobile phone 5b4 market in Africa, Off Grid CEO and co-founder Xavier Helgesen tells me. “Now it’s the beginning of the era of pre-paid solar.“ By replacing families’ inefficient, dangerous kerosene lamps with solar systems that can run modern lights, Off Grid is bringing the electrical revolution to countries still in the dark. Charging Phones, Changing Lives While most people think of light as the most essential use of technology, Off Grid found the number one reason their customers sign up is because they want to charge their phones. Off Grid Electric CEO and co-founder Xavier Helgesen Many residents of Tanzania where Off Grid operates don’t have outlets in their homes, and they can’t juice up an Android with kerosene. Like in other parts of the developing world, people have to hike to a nearby convenience store or business where someone will make them pay $0.25 to charge their phone, along with the inconvenience of having to leave it there. Without proper energy grids in remote areas, the only option for some families in Tanzania is solar. But the average income b68 there is only about $700 a year. Combined with the lack of banking or credit, installed solar systems that run as high as $1000 are too expensive to buy up front. Even then the customer is taking on a lot of risk while they slowly recoup the cost through cheaper energy. That’s why Off Grid Electric took a cue from how people pay for mobile phone service in the region. Pay As You Go Solar “We’re a pioneer of micro-solar leasing” says Helgesen. That’s important, considering that since population grow has outpaced technological progress, there are more people without electricity now that when Thomas Edison lit the first lightbulb. Customers pay a small $6 installation fee, and Off Grid puts a self-sustaining solar system on their house, complete with panels, lithium battery, super-efficient lights, and a meter. The panels collect energy and store it in the battery. But to use it, the customer sends Off Grid a mobile payment and gets a passcode they can enter on the meter to unlock their energy. For about $5 to $10 a month, around equal or less than they pay for kerosene, Helgesen tells me Off Grid customers get “50X more light” plus the ability to charge their phone or power a television. They can’t run an energy-gobbling blender or toaster, but it all beats igniting jet fuel in your living room, which can lead to inhalation health problems or burns. The idea is that over a 10-year period, Off Grid will make back the money it invests by letting families pay for a solar system over time. Compared to competitors, Helgesen says “Our price feels much more like a utility bill.” And since it uses a bring your own phone model rather than putting a phone inside the meter itself like some solar installers, Off Grid can be cheaper, doesn’t need deal with the telecoms, and works even if a customer’s home doesn’t get cell reception. Enabling The Electrical Revolution Helgesen tells me he met his co-founders and  became obsessed with the idea of Off Grid while studying at Oxford on a scholarship to solve big world problems. Previously, Helgesen star 5b4 ted Better World Books, one of the biggest used book resellers that he says now does $70 million in revenue. But people can’t read without light, so Helgesen moved to Tanzania to solve a higher-order problem through solar. The $16 million from previous investors SolarCity, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, and UK-based Zouk Capital, Off Grid plans to expand its installation workforce while improving its hardware and software. The startup even runs its own vocational schools to teach locals how to be solar installation technicians. The company is vertically integrated, doing everything but the manufacturing of the solar panels. It stands to profit by smoothing the signup, installation, metering, and payment process as it drives towards its next milestone of 100,000 customers. There’s huge potential, as there are 8 million homes without electricity in Tanzania and another 8 million right across the border in Kenya. The model could scale to the entire developing world. Off Grid says it hopes its l 5b4 ong-term payback strategy will help it out-compete others in the space like MobiSol and SolarNow where people pay more up front. The new equity funding could also instill confidence in big banks that Off Grid is tapping to finance the installations. In a moment of reflection, Helgesen tells me he wishes more entrepreneurs would focus on serious, life-changing problems like energy, rather than “just a new app or something more trivial that was a problem in SF.” Helgesen declares “Think beyond the Bay Area bubble”, noting “I’m certainly way more passionate that I would be building an app.” Helgesen didn’t grow up without electricity, but still traveled well outside his comfort zone to learn about a problem without enough potential solvers paying attention. His plan for Off Grid Electric? “Let’s not just build an incremental company, but light a billion people’s lives.” http://www.theconsider.com/off-grid-electric-raises-16m-to-let-africans-pre-pay-for-solar-energy-just-like-phones-4094
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Did Homer and Marge really break up on the 'Simpsons' season premiere?

Did Homer and Marge really break up on the 'Simpsons' season premiere? | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Well, to paraphrase one Reverend Timothy Lovejoy: Short answer, “no” with a “but.” Long answer: The Simpsons‘ much buzzed-about 27th (!) season premiere did, in fact, revolve around a plot that saw Marge and Homer deciding to test out a trial separation —... http://www.theconsider.com/did-homer-and-marge-really-break-up-on-the-simpsons-season-premiere-12121
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Duck boat in Seattle crash didn't have recommended fix from 2013, NTSB says

Duck boat in Seattle crash didn't have recommended fix from 2013, NTSB says | TheConsider | Scoop.it
A duck boat involved in a deadly Seattle traffic crash did not have an axle repair that was recommended for the amphibious vehicle in 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Sunday. See also: Duck Boat tourist vehicle collides with bus in Seattle, leaving at least 4... http://www.theconsider.com/duck-boat-in-seattle-crash-didnt-have-recommended-fix-from-2013-ntsb-says-12117
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'Fear the Walking Dead' episode 5 was the show's best yet

'Fear the Walking Dead' episode 5 was the show's best yet | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Warning: Zombies and spoilers below. The families split up in the last new episode of Fear the Walking Dead have a lot more to worry about by the end of this week’s penultimate episode See also: 7 reasons we’re excited for the new season of ‘Once Upon a... http://www.theconsider.com/fear-the-walking-dead-episode-5-was-the-shows-best-yet-12113
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'Last Man on Earth' goes dark(er) for Season 2 premiere

'Last Man on Earth' goes dark(er) for Season 2 premiere | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Well, that was a colossal bummer. Don’t get me wrong — Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The Last Man on Earth has never been a particularly cheery comedy. The show takes place in a world where an unnamed virus has wiped out the vast majority of the population. Will Forte believes... http://www.theconsider.com/last-man-on-earth-goes-darker-for-season-2-premiere-12109
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6 things I wish I'd known returning to work after maternity leave

6 things I wish I'd known returning to work after maternity leave | TheConsider | Scoop.it
In the half-light of 5 a.m., I kiss my baby’s soft, pink cheek. She should be the one crying her eyes out at this hour. Instead, it’s me who’s sobbing. She doesn’t flinch at my kiss, and she sleeps peacefully while I sneak off, toss my suitcase into the car and head to... http://www.theconsider.com/6-things-i-wish-id-known-returning-to-work-after-maternity-leave-12105
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Miko Grimes, wife of Miami Dolphins' Brent Grimes, arrested outside stadium

Miko Grimes, wife of Miami Dolphins' Brent Grimes, arrested outside stadium | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Miko Grimes, a Miami sports radio host and wife of Dolphins player Brent Grimes, was arrested outside of Miami’s Sun Life Stadium on Sunday prior to the Dolphins’ game against the Buffalo Bills and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest with violence, and battery on a... http://www.theconsider.com/miko-grimes-wife-of-miami-dolphins-brent-grimes-arrested-outside-stadium-12101
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PSA: Never use your lighter at a gas station, even to kill spiders

PSA: Never use your lighter at a gas station, even to kill spiders | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Well, that escalated quickly. A man at a gas station attempted to kill a spider by burning it with a lighter, however, he quickly learned that gasoline is extremely flammable — which is why stations have all those warning signs about lit cigarettes and open flames around. Luckily for... http://www.theconsider.com/psa-never-use-your-lighter-at-a-gas-station-even-to-kill-spiders-12097
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Bryce Harper, Jonathan Papelbon brawl in Nationals' dugout

Bryce Harper, Jonathan Papelbon brawl in Nationals' dugout | TheConsider | Scoop.it
The Washington Nationals’ postseason hopes came to an end yesterday when the New York Mets clinched the National League East division championship. And just one day later, Washington topped a frustrating campaign with a dugout brawl between star outfielder Bryce Harper and closer... http://www.theconsider.com/bryce-harper-jonathan-papelbon-brawl-in-nationals-dugout-12093
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Fiorina, audience unscathed after stage collapses at campaign event

Fiorina, audience unscathed after stage collapses at campaign event | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Surging GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and attendees at a San Antonio event on Sunday afternoon got more excitement than they bargained for when the stage curtain structure collapsed around the candidate. See also: Carly Fiorina soars to second place behind Trump in new poll And... http://www.theconsider.com/fiorina-audience-unscathed-after-stage-collapses-at-campaign-event-12089
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Ashley Judd urges giving women global access to birth control

Ashley Judd urges giving women global access to birth control | TheConsider | Scoop.it
When Teresa’s husband first saw her, he knew he was going to marry her. While marriage may have been part of the plan from the first moment, pregnancy wasn’t But it was unavoidable. Teresa and her husband endured nine unintended pregnancies due to poor access to reproductive health... http://www.theconsider.com/ashley-judd-urges-giving-women-global-access-to-birth-control-12085
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Pope Francis decries chasing 'likes' on social media

Pope Francis decries chasing 'likes' on social media | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Pope Francis has more than 7.4 million Twitter followers on his English-language account, but that doesn’t mean he’s chasing more The pope spoke on Sunday in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania against what he sees as a consumerist culture that is eroding personal relationships. See also:... http://www.theconsider.com/pope-francis-decries-chasing-likes-on-social-media-12081
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7 reasons we're excited for the new season of 'Once Upon a Time'

7 reasons we're excited for the new season of 'Once Upon a Time' | TheConsider | Scoop.it
The Once Upon a Time season 5 premiere is finally here, and having got an early peek at the season premiere and spoken with executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, we can tell you there’s a lot to be pumped for Read below as we break down some of what you have to look... http://www.theconsider.com/7-reasons-were-excited-for-the-new-season-of-once-upon-a-time-12077
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The future of global education relies on better internet access

The future of global education relies on better internet access | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Barbara lives in Uganda. She is a university student who doesn’t have access to Internet. That is, until the biggest tech hub in Uganda opens After its opening, Barbara is able to connect not only to the world wide web, but to her peers. The hub gave her a space to learn and collaborate... http://www.theconsider.com/the-future-of-global-education-relies-on-better-internet-access-12073
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Climate change activist takes aim at the 'most irresponsible companies in the world'

Climate change activist takes aim at the 'most irresponsible companies in the world' | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Three years ago, environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote an article for Rolling Stone that catapulted the divestment movement into popular conversation. But it was a fairly subtle article, slightly hidden in the magazine’s glossy pages It didn’t even earn a cover photo, McKibben... http://www.theconsider.com/climate-change-activist-takes-aim-at-the-most-irresponsible-companies-in-the-world-12119
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A terrifying sinkhole gobbles up cars and caravan in Australia

A terrifying sinkhole gobbles up cars and caravan in Australia | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Mother Nature is reclaiming her land piece by piece, or so it appears after she swallowed more than 200 metres of beachfront in Queensland on Sunday Fortunately, no one was harmed in the freak event, but a car, caravan, camper trailer and tents have all been lost to the abyss. The sinkhole,... http://www.theconsider.com/a-terrifying-sinkhole-gobbles-up-cars-and-caravan-in-australia-12115
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'Blood and Oil' is basically 'Revenge' meets 'Dallas'

'Blood and Oil' is basically 'Revenge' meets 'Dallas' | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Welcome to oil country, where the scrappy survive, the rich get richer and hot dudes from your old favorite teen shows are all grown up and fight in the mud Is there much else to ABC’s Blood and Oil? Not that you haven’t really seen before. But if the aforementioned is enough for... http://www.theconsider.com/blood-and-oil-is-basically-revenge-meets-dallas-12111
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Report: Aussie startup success Atlassian to go public in the U.S.

Report: Aussie startup success Atlassian to go public in the U.S. | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Continuing its quest for world domination, Australian software developer Atlassian plans to file for an IPO in the U.S., according to a recent report. Based in Sydney and with offices in six countries, the company aims to make a public offering in America by the end of 2015, people familiar... http://www.theconsider.com/report-aussie-startup-success-atlassian-to-go-public-in-the-u-s-12107
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Justin Bieber asks fans to stop treating him like an object

Justin Bieber asks fans to stop treating him like an object | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Justin Bieber is in Australia at the moment, and he is trying to level with his fans on how he’d like to be treated. Pleading with fans via Snapchat, The Biebs asked they stop harassing him for photos if he’s not feeling the vibe. The series of videos, taken while he sits in the... http://www.theconsider.com/justin-bieber-asks-fans-to-stop-treating-him-like-an-object-12103
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Mark Zuckerberg praises Digital India during town hall with Indian Prime Minister

Mark Zuckerberg praises Digital India during town hall with Indian Prime Minister | TheConsider | Scoop.it
MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday for a townhall Q&A with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The event comes on day two of the prime minister’s visit to Silicon Valley, where he has met with investors and CEOs to encourage investment in his... http://www.theconsider.com/mark-zuckerberg-praises-digital-india-during-town-hall-with-indian-prime-minister-12099
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Facebook looks to assert itself as a force for social good

Facebook looks to assert itself as a force for social good | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Throughout much of its 11-year history, Facebook has been used as a tool to raise awareness and donations in times of crisis, whether it be for the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan in 2011 or for this year’s ebola crisis Now, Facebook is looking to play a more active role in... http://www.theconsider.com/facebook-looks-to-assert-itself-as-a-force-for-social-good-12095
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'Downton Abbey' recap: Gone baby gone

'Downton Abbey' recap: Gone baby gone | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Note: This post contains information about the latest episode of Downton Abbey, which has started airing its final season in the UK. American viewers can watch the final season starting Jan. 3 on PBS. Downton‘s final season premiere served to tie up the season 5’s loose ends.... http://www.theconsider.com/downton-abbey-recap-gone-baby-gone-12091
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#2030NOW trends nationwide on the first day of the 2015 Social Good Summit

#2030NOW trends nationwide on the first day of the 2015 Social Good Summit | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Sunday kicked off the first day of the 2015 Social Good Summit with world-class speakers including Ashley Judd, Bill McKibben and Ian Somerhalder taking the stage to discuss everything from global education to AIDS activism. The summit also celebrated Friday’s official adoption of the... http://www.theconsider.com/2030now-trends-nationwide-on-the-first-day-of-the-2015-social-good-summit-12087
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New 'world's to-do list' will ask for accountability for a $3 trillion cleanup of society

New 'world's to-do list' will ask for accountability for a $3 trillion cleanup of society | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Two days after the United Nations formally adopted a set of ambitious goals to tackle the world’s most pressing problems by the year 2030, Amina J. Mohammed’s main concern is getting the word out about them to as many people as possible. As the U.N. Secretary-General’s... http://www.theconsider.com/new-worlds-to-do-list-will-ask-for-accountability-for-a-3-trillion-cleanup-of-society-12083
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Models stop mid-walk to take selfies at Dolce & Gabanna show

Models stop mid-walk to take selfies at Dolce & Gabanna show | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Stomping down the runway — but first, let me take a selfie. Models at the Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2016 runway show gave fans a better view of the collection than people with front row seats at the show itself. See also: The real difference between New York and London fashion While... http://www.theconsider.com/models-stop-mid-walk-to-take-selfies-at-dolce-gabanna-show-12079
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What the city of Paris looks like without cars

What the city of Paris looks like without cars | TheConsider | Scoop.it
Paris, this is your city without cars. On September 27, the city of Paris decided to close most of its major streets in the center of the city in honor of “Une Journée Sans Voiture,” or “A Day Without Cars,” in order to combat pollution. See also: State of the... http://www.theconsider.com/what-the-city-of-paris-looks-like-without-cars-12075
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