Chicago clean-energy startup Sigora International is the latest local company is get backed by the Clean Energy Trust, a Chicago-based organization that invests in clean-tech companies throughout the Midwest.
The CET invested $200,000 into Sigora at the end of May at its Co-Invest Cleantech event. Sigora, which recently relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to Chicago, provides utility-management systems for energy providers in developing countries where there are large communities with no access to electricity.
The startup, founded in 2016 by Andy Bindea, was one of three other new companies joining the CET’s investment portfolio this year. The organization also invested $270,000 in Minnesota-based 75F, $150,000 in Milwaukee-based Wellntel and $100,000 in Knoxville-based Mobius.
Frank Bergh, the vice president of grid engineering at Sigora, said the recent CET investment is part of a larger Series A round the startup is currently raising.
“We’re excited to be building a Chicago base for continued research and development into clean tech and to be part of what Clean Energy Trust is doing in building a larger ecosystem and widening the tent for companies like ours to get a foothold in the Midwest,” said Bergh, who has mentored other startups in CET’s portfolio, including NovoMoto in Madison, Wisc.
Sigora currently deploys its technology to Haiti, where the company has about 50 employees, but has plans to expand their services to Zambia later this year, said Bergh, whose job it is to manage the design and implementation of micro-utility companies that Sigora manages around the world. In addition to Zambia, Bergh said he has been in touch with about 25 customers across 15 different countries in sub-Sahran Africa and the Caribbean that are interested in Sigora’s services.
“The incredible gains that have been made by clean energy in the U.S. and globally are really constrained by infrastructure in developing countries and frontier markets, where infrastructure has not evolved to the point where we can even keep the lights on for 24 hours at a time,” Bergh said. “In Haiti, people have power for usually less than eight hours a day, even in the capital city.”
Since launching, Sigora has established 4,000 electrical units, serving 20,000 people. They’ve built smart meters, web-managed software and simple payment solutions for emerging markets that reduce revenue losses and deter energy theft.
“What’s needed to make clean energy more accessible is the payment platform and controls platform to allow for sustainable revenue collection in micro-utility business models,” Bergh said. “We’ve got the clean energy figured out and we’ve got the electrical infrastructure figured out. It’s just a matter of making this accessible to entrepreneurs and communities in frontier markets.”