December 12, 2011, BROOKLYN, NY BioLite LLC announced today that it has secured $1.8 million in a Series A financing led by the Disruptive Innovation Fund, with additional investment from a member of the Toniic Network and angel investors. BioLite is a New York‐based company that develops, manufactures, and brings to market distributed energy solutions for rural consumers in lower-income countries. The company’s first products are cookstoves that generate electricity from their waste heat in order to power emissions reductions and charge mobile phones.
"We design effective, desirable products that bring save, affordable energy access to off-grid markets around the world," said CEO Jonathan Cedar, who founded BioLite in 2009. Cedar, along with other company leaders, previously worked at Smart Design, the internationally-acclaimed product development consultancy known for designing products like OXO Good Grips and the Flip video camera. At BioLite, the team now works to solve major global challenges using a market-based approach that integrates advanced technology into affordable, effective, user-centered products.
"Today, 3 billion people in places like India and Sub-Saharan Africa are cooking on toxic, smoky fires, walking miles to gather fuel, and lighting their homes with expensive kerosene lamps," Cedar said. Smoke from indoor cooking kills nearly 2 million people every year and is also a major contributor to global warming. A combination of new technology, innovative financing models, and international support such as the UN Foundation-led effort to enable 100 million households to adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020, now suggest that death and disease from indoor cooking could be a thing of the past.
"The BioLite HomeStove provides a unique solution - we've created the world's first improved cookstove to achieve 95% reductions in pollution without reliance on external electricity," Cedar said. Using BioLite's patent-pending technology, the stove converts waste heat to electricity that powers a fan, creating an ultra-efficient fire. Excess electricity can be used to charge mobile phones, LED lights, and other electronics, providing added incentive to purchase and use the product.
Matt Christensen, CEO of Rose Park Advisors and portfolio manager of the Disruptive Innovation Fund, said, "Not only has BioLite developed transformative technology, the use of electricity to incentivize adoption makes BioLite a deeply disruptive concept. In places like India, the world's fastest growing market for mobile phones, there are very low levels of electrification. BioLite is providing access to electricity for off-grid consumers, while they perform the necessary daily task of cooking."
BioLite's business model is as unique as its product offering, says John Levy, a 30-year technology and venture capital veteran, formerly of L Capital Partners, who serves as board chairman for the company. "BioLite has developed a compact, portable version of the HomeStove for US and European recreation markets. The CampStove, available for preorders now and launching for camping season in 2012, will generate near-term revenue as the company's developing world product goes through large-scale pilot testing.
Over the past two years, the BioLite HomeStove has been field-verified through trials in India, Ghana, Uganda and Guatemala. In 2012, BioLite will work with established distribution partners in India, Uganda, and Kenya to conduct large-scale marketing and sales pilots. BioLite is also working in Ghana with Columbia University's School of Public Health to prove the pre-natal health benefits of the product. This program, backed by a $2.5 million grant from the NIH, will be the largest cooking-related health study of its kind.
BioLite has received multiple awards, including the 2011 St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, sponsored by Conoco-Philips; recognition by Business Week as one of "America's Most Promising" social enterprises; the 2010 Vodafone Innovation Prize (jointly with UC Berkeley); and first place in the 2010 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open. Forbes Magazine recently cited BioLite as a "Small Business Making a Big Social Impact," and the company was also selected as a finalist in McKinsey on Society's competition for social innovators. To learn more about BioLite, visit http://biolitestove.com
About The Disruptive Innovation Fund
Rose Park Advisors LLC was founded in 2007 by Harvard Business School's Clayton Christensen, the NY Times bestselling author of The Innovator's Dilemma. and architect of the framework of disruptive innovation. Christensen's co-founders are Matthew Christensen, previously a consultant with Innosight and the Boston Consulting Group, and Whitney Johnson, formerly a double-ranked Institutional Investor equity analyst at Merrill Lynch.
A key finding of founder Clayton Christensen's research is that many of the companies that grow from start-ups to become industry giants are built around innovations that create new markets or reshape existing ones. Just as established companies systematically underestimate how large entrant competitors will become, tools of financial analysis systematically underestimate their growth potential. Because these entrant companies tend to be misunderstood, the market misjudges their impact, presenting an investment opportunity.
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