24 May SEAF Portfolio Company Suncolombia featured in Forbes
SEAF’s SunColombia featured at Forbes
Original Article can be found here.
May 19, 2023
Suncolombia has developed projects to bring basic services to communities using solar energy. Its co-founder and CEO Juan Diego Gómez told Forbes how they arrived at this model of real impact.
There is a company in Colombia that installs solar panels, but its business is not solar panels; is to impact communities not only with solar energy, but also by bringing other essential services such as internet connectivity, water and education. Solar panels are the excuse for everything else.
This is how it had been conceived from the beginning by Juan Diego Gómez, who after working on renewable energy projects in Europe and the Middle East, knew that he wanted to return to Colombia to create something like that, an ecosystem.
“Everyone can sell solar panels,” Gómez mentions in an interview with Forbes. “One of our focuses is how to generate transformations with solar energy, as a livelihood to do more things in the most remote places in Colombia.”
Suncolombia co-founded it with Mauricio Hoyos , the serial entrepreneur and investor. Its three verticals include a construction company –which is the one that carries out modular constructions with solar energy–, a utility company with more than 30,000 users with prepaid solar energy and a hardware and software company that has three hydroturbine patents.
All of this is the basis for different types of projects that lead to things like the most remote microgrid in Colombia, which brings prepaid solar energy to 600 users in Nazareth, a township in the municipality of Uribia that borders the La Guajira desert.
In Santa Cruz del Islote, the most densely populated island in the world, in Bolívar, they installed seven micro-grids with solar energy service, in Providencia they built a library that operates with solar energy and in Miriti Paraná, a non-municipalized area of Amazonas, They installed one of the modular schools that provide energy service to the entire community.
They have built more than 300 pop-up schools –the model that they have brought to Panama– and this has become a works-for-tax mechanism. Companies such as Grupo de Energía de Bogotá, Ecopetrol, Terpel and EPM have brought these service hubs to remote communities by contracting Suncolombia, which also operates projects built by the Nation.
This is how it went from being a company with operating income of 50,000 dollars in 2012, to one of 15 million dollars in 2022. Now that it has received capital injections from Seaf Colombia, Seaf Caribe, Alive Ventures and the Bancolombia Foundation, it seeks to expand this model to Central America and the Caribbean.
“We were born with a mechanism of social appropriation in which all the projects have been sustainable” , explains Gómez.
In cases such as educational infrastructure, they follow three years and from then on the community remains operating, while to monitor the provision of the energy service, they have an Internet of Things mechanism that allows them to do it remotely. “We have always had that vocation for impact”, complements Gómez.
Bringing essential services to communities will open the door for them to take the next step: bring financial inclusion.
All this journey has been worthy of recognition such as nominations for two consecutive years for the best in the world among companies certified as B Company (or B Corp, in English), classifications by the UN as one of the companies that contribute the most to the Sustainable Development Goals and are in the process of becoming certified as the first SDG company in the world, with SDG Impact Standards.
“The question is always what else we can bring to the communities ,” Gómez highlights. “Our impact is on those who can now sell more fish because they can refrigerate it, on those who did not study before and now do so, even with tablets, on parents who are coming to study with their children, all of this is the basis for developing new products. It is something that is in the DNA of our entire team.”