In conversation with Sam Manaberi

Founder of TRINE

Sam Manaberi is a Swedish entrepreneur founder of TRINE which is the most perfect example of a for-profit-social-impact venture that pushes every button of our environmentally-conscious generation.

Offering an elegant and sorely needed solution to energy poverty, it has raised serious hybrid funding in the best traditions of the 21st century – directly from crowd investment (€2m) and separately from venture capital (€6m).

Manaberi has a background in solar panels and finance but it is one book that led to a pivotal change in his thinking and ultimately to his moment of personal epiphany which was realising the enormity of the problem.

The book, Impact Investing by Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson, has had a global inspirational effect with its premise, “Transforming how we make money while making a difference”. It convinced Manaberi that his new venture had to include a social aspect.

TRINE addresses both the systemic failure to provide access to energy to some of the poorest populations in the world and the environmental issue of the world needing greener electricity, all the while delivering a profit for investors.

Rather than simply try to sell the product (solar panels), TRINE engages local entrepreneurs through providing the investment needed to power entire communities but also the impetus to change behaviours.

It is hard to fathom that in 2017 one in five people in the world still live without electricity, using highly polluting kerosene and batteries. Given that alternative energy is extremely competitive in terms of costs, that kerosene replicates the damage of secondary smoking, and that the poorest people in the world end up paying 60% of their income to purchase it without even the ability to raise a loan, the Trine model has been a long-overdue market disruption.

What TRINE does is putting together local entrepreneurs in East Africa and investors willing to finance individual projects/solar campaigns. Once a campaign is fully funded, the solar products are sold and distributed by the local entrepreneur, the “Solar Partner”.

Once the Solar Partner manages to repay the loan investors receive their investment plus interest, or could choose to reinvest both in a different campaign.

As with all investments, there are risk factors which TRINE mitigates by doing extensive risk assessment and due diligence, vetting local partners and separately partnering with shield organisations that support the projects. Protection mechanisms are typically government-funded because the impact on communities is both tangible and transformational.

In addition to the obvious, i.e. promoting better health, education, social integration, access to information and security, and driving water purification systems, powering entire communities means, quite simply, a hugely enhanced quality of life.

And as local entrepreneurs come of age and acquire more maturity and focus, TRINE expands across the African continent with a remarkable speed.

Private companies whose investment program targets ethical, green and social impact projects are  the obvious finance providers, but so are individuals (you can invest as little as €25) and organisations.

TRINE was founded a mere 2 years ago (in 2015).

At the time of writing, TRINE targets for 2022 are:

  •  Completing 1,000 solar energy projects.
  • Providing 66 million people with clean electricity.
  • Saving 8 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.