Last Wednesday, solar crowdfunding platform SunFunder was awarded $25,000 by Facebook and the Cleantech Group as winners of the Cleantech Goes Social competition.
The competition, which challenged companies to “leverage Facebook’s billion person network to accelerate cleantech and increase engagement in sustainability” was awarded at the Cleantech Forum 2013 in San Francisco by Bill Weihl, manager of energy efficiency and sustainability at Facebook.
SunFunder, which crowdfunds off-grid solar projects in developing countries, only launched in 2012 and managed to beat out other finalists wattTime and yerdle Instant Share.
“Solar is inherently social,” said Sheeraz Haji, CEO of Cleantech Group, who partnered with Facebook to run the Cleantech Goes Social competition. “When people install solar on their homes they want to tell their friends and neighbours. SunFunder understands this and has developed a thoughtful strategy for leveraging the Facebook platform to finance solar projects in emerging markets. The opportunity to integrate the SunFunder crowdfunding model into Facebook’s social graph could be a game changer.”
The features of SunFunder include:
- SunFunder dashboard: Shows progress on metrics like dollars invested, number of projects, energy saved, and number of people helped. Users can see the impact their networks of friends are making, and ask others to invest with them.
- Easy payments: Funders in any country can use Facebook payments to invest in projects like solar powered lights.
- Custom stories: A unique video is auto-generated about every funding activity which funders can share with their friends.
- Matching and gifting: Funders can create a matching fund to incentivize their friends to invest. They can also send friends gift cards to introduce them to SunFunder.
- Connect: Project pages are integrated with Facebook plugins to connect funders with each other and help them recruit friends. SunFunder users can also subscribe to receive updates from other investors, solar partners, entrepreneurs, and the ends users themselves.
SunFunder founder Ryan Levinson said: “Similar to how cell phones have leapfrogged the landline system all around the world, solar energy can leapfrog the grid for over 2.5 billion people who lack full access to electricity. This partnership with Facebook is a great opportunity to leverage a billion people on Facebook to help finance this solar energy revolution and bring clean and affordable energy to people who need it the most. ”
SunFunder was planning on moving ahead with its plans regardless of the outcome of the contest, but now that it has won the $25,000 and now has access to professional guidance from Cleantech Group and Facebook, it has a real chance to build a platform that eclipses its original goals.
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