Back in October 2015, I was part of Village Capital’s first ever hardware accelerator cohort for Africa.
In partnership with Kenya’s first maker space — Gearbox and with the support of the Lemelson Foundation, 12 hardware businesses from across Africa that are working on solutions to some of the more pressing challenges in the continent, got an opportunity receive coaching, mentorship, financial masterclasses and peer review to help set them on solid growth trajectories.
This is where I met PayGo Energy, a provider of metered pay-as-you-go liquefied petroleum gas for the mass market.
I remember their first prototype that delivered the proof of concept beautifully on demo day and now fresh from a $1.43 million equity and debt seed round and pilot among prospective urban households they are ready to take on the larger market.
Others have in the past taken a swipe at the opportunity with for example mobile LPG dispensers that allow for partial cylinder refills but PayGo Energy’s custom valve and attendant business and distribution model is a different take on it.
Innovation is obvious after the fact, and I am curious as to why this very opportunity was lost on incumbents.
The digital meter with an embedded machine-to-machine SIM measures and transmits consumption in real-time to the PayGo cloud where based on analysis and projections, just in time dispatch can be done when running low, with delivery routes optimised since the location of each unit is also known.
Of note is that supply can also be shut off if the micropayments are not made, the patent-pending tamper proof valve design delivering on this benefit.
Plugging into the multibillion shilling ‘kadogo’ economy that other fast moving consumer goods companies have leveraged for years, is a smart move by PayGo Energy.
Even a moderately successful rollout could see them play in the top five by volume not to mention the benefits to the environment and better heath overall for their customers.
As Peter Ngunyi - vice president of BRCK where they got early support on their backend puts it - “elegantly disruptive”. I agree.