In recent years, episodes of extreme climate crises and power outages have forced those preparing for doomsday to plan off-grid survival scenarios. That mentality has been a boon for EcoFlow, a Shenzhen-based unicorn power generation and storage company that made $220 million last year as US consumers clamored for its portable solar-powered power plants.
Amid a remarkable phase of growth — revenue grew 50x between 2019 and 2021 — the startup, founded by a group of veterans from drone giant DJI in 2017, has discovered a new niche: glamping. Speaking to TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Lei “Bruce” Wang predicted the future of being outdoors while enjoying the cool breezes from the EcoFlow outdoor air conditioner, which will be launched in the US in the coming months.
Glamping enthusiasts can already plug a range of appliances, such as electric ovens and stoves, into portable battery stations, but air conditioners are tricky because most use AC, which is incompatible with battery charging and has lower efficiency, the founder explained. . The outdoor air conditioning unit that EcoFlow represents uses direct current instead and can thus be charged by batteries.
Avid nature lovers may scoff at the idea of outdoor air conditioning. I, too, was baffled by this suggestion, but Wang rightly reminded me that if burnt-out townspeople tried to go out into the countryside, many of them would prefer to do so in a convenient and indulgent way.
“Wherever people go, whether they are at home or away from home, they can achieve so much more with electricity,” Wang explained why he is moving beyond battery production into electronics. “Now we cover the whole cycle [of use cases]from electricity generation, energy storage to energy consumption”.
dream of gardening
Wang grew up around the Mu Us desert in northwest China, where he saw how the government’s environmental remediation efforts helped combat severe desertification in the area. Childhood experiences planted in his mind the goal of pursuing a career in renewable energy, which led him to earn his Ph.D. in energy storage technology at the University of Hong Kong, and later helped set up DJI’s battery research and development department.
Seeing that the situation in the energy industry was changing, Wang decided to start his own company in 2017. “Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is the main way to increase energy consumption per capital while maintaining sustainable growth,” the founder said.
At the same time, lower raw material costs have made it easier to start batteries. “From 2010 to 2020, prices for lithium batteries and solar panels have dropped 10 times. Such conditions would encourage anyone involved in technological research to become a wave player, to take risks,” Wang recalls.
Recent lithium price spikes and supply chain disruptions didn’t bother Wang. According to the founder, EcoFlow is working with strategic partners to ensure a steady flow of supply, and he believes lithium costs will eventually come down in the long term.
The startup has come a long way since its inception as project on Kickstarter. He has raised over $100 million in funding from high-profile investors including Sequoia Capital China and GL Ventures, an early arm of the large private equity firm Hillhouse Capital. With category expansion as well as plans to expand into new markets such as China’s backyard, EcoFlow expects to generate $630 million in revenue this year, boosting its growth between 2019 and 2022 by nearly 150 times.
This growth accelerates EcoFlow’s path to an initial public offering. EcoFlow hit a $1 billion valuation last year and announced plans to list on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company has entered a preliminary “mentoring” period with the city’s exchange regulators and intends to float its shares over the next two to three years.
Wang said the Shenzhen-based exchange, which was designed to encourage technological innovation, will attract investors who “understand the new energy industry,” although he does not rule out overseas listings in the future. Operating at a profit, EcoFlow declined to say whether it would raise another round of funding ahead of the IPO.
Customer Support Worldwide
Unlike many equipment manufacturers who leave China only after they have tested their products at home, EcoFlow entered overseas markets from the very beginning. He first went to Japan, a country prone to natural disasters and whose consumers are known to be tech-savvy. Today, Japan and the US are two of EcoFlow’s biggest revenue generators, out of the more than 100 markets it supplies.
EcoFlow recently began selling its batteries in China, where a growing middle class is showing a growing craze for luxury camping. The company is also exploring opportunities in emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where it wants to provide households hit by power shortages with “affordable” products, Wang said.
When asked how EcoFlow managed to gain a foothold in overseas markets, Wang, who draws inspiration from Tesla and Apple, offered an obvious but difficult scenario: understand your customers. “We say internally that “customers are never wrong. If anything goes wrong, it has to be us.”
To make that adage come true, EcoFlow operates a fairly international office in Shenzhen, a full on-site team in Japan, a small but growing force in the US, and is soon recruiting in Europe. Globally, EcoFlow has more than 1,000 employees working in the extended value chain, from research and development, which accounts for 40% of its workforce, to after-sales service.
While many Chinese consumer tech start-ups are finding it increasingly difficult to operate overseas as geopolitical tensions threaten to put them in the crosshairs of foreign authorities, as evidenced by giants like TikTok and Huawei, Wang does not see the same hurdle.
“At the end of the day, users will pay for a good product, which is why I like working in the business-to-consumer space,” the founder confidently said. “In addition, our products help promote environmental sustainability, which is a universal goal that can resonate with consumers around the world.”
Credit: techcrunch.com /