This profile is part of the main prize of the Pitch Battle at TNW Valencia 2023 won by Crowmie. Want your company to get featured as well? You’ve only got a few days to join the startup contest at TNW Conference in Amsterdam on June 15 & 16!
Valencia’s hottest green-fintech startup is on a mission to break down the high barriers to investment in the energy sector and make it easy for everyone to fund renewable projects.
Crowmie, which launched February last year, is jumping into the micro-investing space by allowing anyone with as little as €100 to spend the chance to invest directly into renewable energy projects in Spain, and see monthly returns.
Tech-wise, Crowmie has built a platform to create digital security tokens (STO, Security Token Offerings) for the total amount of each project they want to finance. This automated process means all investment transactions are registered in the blockchain.
The 12-person startup, led by founders Fernando Dávila (26), Pablo Valverde (29) and Joshua Cleveland (29) won the Pitch Battle at TNW Valencia in March this year.
“The jury was impressed with the team’s vision and goal of making it easier to invest in renewable energy,” said Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-founder of TNW and jury member of the Pitch Battle. “This is such an amazing opportunity that people like you and I can now finally get active in. This is one of those startups that you hope become very successful, not just for the team, or the investors but for the whole world.”
Crowmie (the name is a mashup of “crowd” and “homie”) has received €300,000 in pre-seed funding so far and is going after a €1.5 million seed round this year. The company will deploy the funds towards marketing, tech, opening up the investment platform to people in the US and building a presence in Mexico and Colombia.
Tokenised investment inspiration
CEO Dávila, who studied astro-engineering in Valencia before becoming a founder, told TNW that innovation in property tech was one of their main inspirations.
“The idea came about because we saw an incredible trend in the tokenisation world, especially in the real estate sector,” Dávila said, citing RealT in the US and Reental in Spain as two pioneering companies in real-estate tokenised investments.
The trio thought that the same model of fractional, tokenised investment could totally work in the renewable energy sector too — and no one was doing it in Spain.
“Right now only those with high amounts of capital can invest in the renewable energy vertical, and we want to do it with tokenisation, because impact investment is growing now and will grow much more in the future,” Dávila added.
“We are really digitising a completely traditional sector like investment, using blockchain technology that allows us to open the doors to anyone from anywhere in the world, making it easy to invest in renewable energies, which until now was completely impossible.”
Spain is a promising base for green-energy initiatives. Just over 42% of the country’s electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2022, and it wants to increase this share to 74% by 2030.
According to a Reuters report from December 2022, Spain has the largest solar pipeline in Europe, with so many solar projects in planning that the government is struggling to get all the permits issued.
Getting up and running on the Crowmie app is simple, according to Dávila. Once someone signs up and completes the legal verification steps, they just need to select which of the Crowmie energy projects they want to invest in, and how much.
They then receive a minted token for that monetary value giving them economic rights to the project. They can resell their tokens with one click any time.
Crucially, Crowmie’s business model is not purely about facilitating investment and financing the projects, as they actually own the installations and plants themselves. Once they’ve built an energy plant, typically for a large company or factory, they sell the energy from it to the customer, and distribute the money to all investors.
Two solar plants are up and running so far, with, Dávila says, a total of 66 investors from multiple countries on board, with an average investment ticket of €2,000.
¡𝗗𝗬𝗔 ya está en producción! ☀️
𝗔𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗹 será el primer mes que dará rentabilidad…
¿Estáis 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗼𝘀? 🌱 pic.twitter.com/tyBfV0cxNk
— Crowmie (@crowmie_es) April 10, 2023
Crowmie’s photovoltaic plant supplying the TYPSA factory in Zaragoza was financed with €114,000 and started operating in February this year. Investors started getting dividends from the first month of operations and it is expected to deliver a return of 7.5% per year for five years for investors, and save 1,365 tonnes of CO₂ per year.
The startup also makes money by taking 5% of the value of tokens that they mint on the platform (giving them 5% of the economic rights of any one project) and a 2% processing fee.
Chickens and eggs
“Our biggest challenge is to balance the projects and the investors – it is chicken and egg,” said Dávila. “You have to balance the volume of investors on the platform, and the volume of projects that you have, in order to finance that project fast, really timing when the projects are coming, then creating FOMO among those investors that they are going to miss this opportunity.”
“We have three kinds of investors,” he added. “On one side, we have professional investors, who invest between €10,000 and €50,000. Then there are retail investors, who go in for about €2,000 a ticket. The third level is those who put in between €100 and €2,000.”
Compliance and due diligence across finance, technical and legal before they sign contracts with clients for the energy projects is the expensive part of doing business for Crowmie, and needs to be outsourced.
For now, the founders are cutting their teeth on projects in Spain, but they’re already looking at expanding into Mexico and Colombia, where their partners have other energy projects. These 25 partners, Dávila said, have already created a pipeline of 40 potential projects for Crowmie to the value of €20 million.
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