+1 386-243-9402 MON – FRI : 09:00 AM – 05:00 PM

Can Carbon Neutral and Electricity Be Compatible? by John R. Patrick

On this past Sunday, I listened to Fareed Zakaria interview Ajay Banga, the new President of the World Bank and formerly head of Mastercard. Being asked about world hunger, poverty, disease, and debt problems around the world, Mr. Banga said the most important thing needed is electricity. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, there are an estimated 120 million families without access to reliable electricity.

Over the past couple of years, my blog posts have focused on the greenhouse effect, greenhouse gases which are the biggest contributors, a discussion about carbon dioxide, how to calculate your carbon footprint, and how to offset the footprint to become carbon neutral. I cited non-profits you can donate to which are engaged in activities to reverse the trend of increasing greenhouse gases.

There are also for-profit opportunities related to reducing footprints. One which I discovered at Wefunder and invested in is called NovoMoto. The startup provides a brighter life for off-grid customers in Sub-Saharan Africa communities with reliable, clean, and affordable electricity. NovoMoto customers get brighter and longer lasting lighting for themselves and their children along with the ability to charge their phones at their convenience. All this for less than the cost of today’s solutions. The company installs complete solar power packages with a rent-to-own approach starting at $10 per month.  The packages range from kits with three LED lamps and phone charging to kits with TVs and more.

NovoMoto was founded by two students as a spinout of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Aaron Olson has a PhD from the Fusion Technology Institute and is a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow. Mehrdad Arjmand has a PhD from the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center in the field of semiconductor thin films.

Olson was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a clinic with no electricity. All his Mom had in her room was a dimly lit kerosene lamp. He says, “I was fortunate to grow up in the US, but my family – like 15 million others in the DRC – has dealt with a lack of electricity.” Olson and Arjmand believe NovoMoto has the potential to change life for millions with its clean electricity products.

The market opportunity is huge. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, there are an estimated 120 million families without access to reliable electricity. They spend over $25 billion annually ($18/home per month) on unreliable grid alternatives which use kerosene, candles, and disposable battery flashlights.

NovoMoto has focused initially on a dozen communities outside of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The DRC and Madison, Wisconsin have one thing in common, they both consume 1.3 gigawatts of electrical power. The difference is Madison has a population of 700,000 and Congo has 95 million. The company plans to go after the Kinshasa market, which has a population of more than 17 million.

Like all startups, the NovoMoto team and its partners were directly affected by the Coronavirus.  However, the company had a positive impact. Many customers say their NovoMoto kits are helping them stay connected, allowing them to more easily adapt to work restrictions and social distancing. The new TV kits are helping them stay up to date with their government’s policies, closures, openings, and guidelines. A NovoMoto customer service team provided support to their customers while respecting DRC guidelines.

NovoMoto has electrified more than 2,000 households and generated more than $1M cumulative revenue by the end of 2022. The financial performance of NovoMoto has been quite impressive. NovoMoto’s goal for growth in 2023 and beyond is tightly connected with fundraising. The founders have set a goal to electrify another 2,000-5,000 households in DRC with double digit revenue growth after raising its Seed Round funding. If you want to learn more about NovoMoto, take a look at their homepage.


In early 2020, I made an investment in NovoMoto. I liked the founders and their vision. The company raised $236,750 from eight investors on the Wefunder crowd funding platform. Based on the great progress they have made and a discussion with one of the founders, I invested again earlier this year. If you are interested in seeing the investor pitch deck with details on how Novomoto is doing, send an email to co-founder Mehrdad Arjmand at [email protected].

Note: My father gave me the following investment advice many years ago, “Don’t give any, and don’t take any.” Wise man. I am not recommending buying or selling any of the stocks, startups, crypto, or indexes I write about, but occasionally I will share information about startup investments I have made.