After super-fast growth, battery maker EcoFlow appears on glamper – TechCrunch

In recent years, extreme climate crises and power outages have prompted apocalyptic front-runners to plan for situations that exist off the grid. This mentality has benefited EcoFlow, a unicorn electricity generation and storage company based in Shenzhen, which hit $220 million in revenue last year as US consumers demanded the stations. Solar powered mobile generator.

After a period of remarkable growth – revenue increased 50x from 2019 to 2021 – the startup, founded by a group of veterans from the drone giant DJI in 2017 , discovered a new niche: glamping. In a call with TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Lei “Bruce” Wang envisioned a future of being in nature while enjoying the cool breeze from EcoFlow’s outdoor air conditioners. , will launch in the US in the coming months.

Light lovers have been able to plug a wide range of appliances, like ovens and electric stoves, into portable battery stations, but air conditioners are complicated because most of them use alternating current, not compatible with battery charging and have lower efficiency, the founders explained. The outdoor air conditioning unit that EcoFlow revealed uses direct current instead and can therefore be charged with a battery.

Hard-working nature-loving campers might scoff at the idea of ​​an outdoor air conditioner. I was bewildered by the suggestion, too, but Wang rightly reminded me that if exhausted urbanites make an effort to immerse themselves in nature, many of them will do it comfortably. and enjoy.

Wang explains the rationale for expanding beyond batteries and into electronic devices. “Now we cover the whole loop [of use cases]from power generation, electricity storage, to power consumption. ”

A green dream

EcoFlow Co-Founder and CEO Lei “Bruce” Wang

Wang grew up in the vicinity of the Mu Us desert in northwest China, where he saw how the government’s ecological restoration efforts helped combat severe desertification in the region. Childhood experiences instilled in him the goal of pursuing a career in renewable energy, helping him complete his Ph. in energy storage technology at the University of Hong Kong and later helped establish DJI’s battery R&D department.

Realizing the wave in the energy industry is changing, Wang decided to start his own company in 2017. “Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is the fundamental way to increase energy consumption in the world. per dollar of capital while achieving sustainable growth,” affirmed the founder.

At the same time, the reduced cost of raw materials makes starting the battery easier. “From 2010 to 2020, the price of lithium batteries and solar panels has decreased 10 times. Such conditions would push anyone conducting technology research to be a top player, seizing the opportunity,” recalls Wang.

Wang isn’t worried about Lithium’s price spikes and supply chain disruptions recently. EcoFlow works with strategic partners to ensure a steady supply flow, the founder said, and he believes lithium costs will eventually drop in the long run.

The startup has come a long way since its founding days like a Kickstarter project. It has raised over $100 million in funding from notable investors including Sequoia Capital China and GL Ventures, the early-stage arm of private equity group Hillhouse Capital. With its portfolio expansion, as well as its plans to push into new markets such as its backyard, China, EcoFlow is expected to generate $630 million in revenue this year, which will make growth from 2019 to 2022 is nearly 150 times.

Such growth is accelerating EcoFlow’s path to an initial public offering. Last year, EcoFlow reached a valuation of $1 billion and announced plans to list shares on the Shenzhen stock exchange. The company has entered a preliminary “partnership” phase with the city’s exchange regulators and is aiming to float its shares within the next two to three years.

Wang said the Shenzhen-based exchange, which is designed to encourage technological innovation, will attract investors “who understand the new energy industry well”, although he did not rule out the possibility of a listing. listed abroad. Operating profitably, EcoFlow declined to disclose whether it will raise another round of funding ahead of its IPO.

Global customer support

Unlike many hardware manufacturers who only ventured out of China after proving their product at home, EcoFlow pursued overseas markets from the start. It’s coming to Japan for the first time, a country prone to natural disasters and known to be tech-savvy consumers. Today, Japan and the US are the two biggest revenue generators for EcoFlow among the 100 markets it ships to.

EcoFlow recently started selling its battery products in China, where a growing middle class has demonstrated a growing fascination with luxury camping. The company is also looking for opportunities in emerging markets across Asia, Africa and Latin America, where it wants to provide “affordable” products to households experiencing electricity shortages. speak.

When asked how EcoFlow managed to build a foothold in foreign markets, Wang, who has always sought inspiration from Tesla and Apple, offered a clear but difficult book: understand the customer. yours. “We say internally that ‘the customer is never wrong. If anything goes wrong, it has to be us.”

To put this adage into practice, EcoFlow operates a fairly international office in Shenzhen, a team based in Japan, a small but growing force in the US, and upcoming hires in Europe. Globally, EcoFlow has more than 1,000 employees working across an expanding value chain, spanning from R&D, which accounts for 40% of employees, to after-sales service.

While many Chinese consumer technology startups are increasingly finding it difficult to operate overseas as geopolitical tensions threaten to place them in the arms of foreign regulators, as illustrated by giants like TikTok and Huawei, Wang doesn’t face the same hurdles.

“At the end of the day, users will pay for a good product, which is why I love being in the business-to-consumer space,” the founder says confidently. “Moreover, our products are helping to promote environmental sustainability, which is a shared goal that can resonate with consumers globally.”

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