In recent years, episodes of extreme climate crises and power outages have prompted doomsday preparers to plan off-grid survival scenarios. The mentality has been a boon for EcoFlow, a Shenzhen-based power generation and storage unicorn that raked in $220 million in revenue last year as consumers in the United States sought out its solar-powered portable power plants.
After a remarkable period of growth – with revenue increasing 50x between 2019 and 2021 – the startup, founded in 2017 by a group of veterans of drone giant DJI, discovered a new niche to crack: glamping. Speaking to TechCrunch, its co-founder and CEO Lei “Bruce” Wang envisioned a future where one could be in nature while enjoying a cool breeze emanating from EcoFlow outdoor air conditioning, which will be available in the coming months in the is introduced in the United States.
Glamping lovers can already connect a range of devices such as electric ovens and stoves to portable battery stations, but air conditioning is difficult as most of them use alternating current, which is incompatible with charging batteries and has lower efficiency, explained the founder . The outdoor air conditioner presented by EcoFlow works with direct current instead and can therefore be charged via batteries.
Die-hard nature-loving campers might scoff at the idea of an outdoor air conditioner. I, too, was stunned by the suggestion, but Wang rightly reminded me that when burnout urbanites bother going into the great outdoors, many of them would rather do it in a comfortable and forgiving way.
“Wherever people go, whether at home or on the road, they can do much more with electricity,” said Wang, explaining the rationale for expanding beyond battery manufacturing and into electronic devices. “We now cover the entire loop [of use cases]from power generation to power storage to consumption.”
A green dream
Wang grew up near the Mu Us desert in northwest China, where he saw how the government’s ecological restoration efforts were helping to combat the region’s severe desertification. The childhood experience planted in his mind the goal of pursuing a career in renewable energy, leading him to pursue a Ph.D. in energy storage technologies from the University of Hong Kong and later helped set up DJI’s battery R&D department.
After seeing the turning tide in the energy industry, Wang decided to start his own business in 2017. “Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy is the fundamental way to increase energy use per capital while delivering sustainable growth,” explained the founder.
At the same time, falling raw material costs made it easier to start up a battery. “Between 2010 and 2020, lithium battery and solar panel prices fell tenfold. Such conditions would prompt anyone doing technology research to become a tidal player and take a risk,” Wang recalled.
Recent lithium price spikes and supply chain disruptions have not worried Wang. EcoFlow works with strategic partners to ensure a steady flow of supply, the founder said, and he believes lithium costs will ease over the long term.
The startup has come a long way since its founding days a Kickstarter project. It has Raised over $100 million in funding from notable investors such as Sequoia Capital China and GL Ventures, the early-stage arm of private equity powerhouse Hillhouse Capital. As the category expands, as well as plans to expand into new markets like its backyard China, EcoFlow expects sales of $630 million this year, which would increase its growth by nearly 150x between 2019 and 2022.
Such growth accelerates EcoFlow’s path to an IPO. Last year, EcoFlow hit a $1 billion valuation and announced plans to go public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The company has begun a preliminary “tutoring” period with the city’s securities regulators and is aiming to list its shares on the stock exchange within the next two to three years.
Wang said the Shenzhen-based exchange, designed to encourage technological innovation, will attract investors who “understand the new energy industry,” though he doesn’t rule out the possibility of an overseas listing later. EcoFlow, which operates for profit, declined to disclose whether it will launch another round of funding before its IPO.
Power global customers
Unlike many hardware manufacturers who only venture out of China after testing their products at home, EcoFlow has focused on overseas markets from the start. It 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 the top two revenue drivers for EcoFlow out of the 100+ markets it ships to.
EcoFlow recently began selling its battery products in China, where a growing middle class is demonstrating a growing fascination with luxury camping. The company is also exploring opportunities in emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where it aims to provide “affordable” products to households hit by power shortages, Wang said.
When asked how EcoFlow has managed to gain a foothold in foreign markets, Wang, who takes inspiration from Tesla and Apple, offered the obvious but tough manual: Understand your customers. “We say internally that ‘customers are never wrong. If something goes wrong, it has to be us.”
To put the saying into practice, EcoFlow operates a fairly international office in Shenzhen, a full team on the ground in Japan, a small but growing force in the US and is hiring soon in Europe. EcoFlow employs over 1,000 people worldwide working across an extended value chain, ranging from research and development, which makes up 40% of the workforce, to customer service.
While many Chinese consumer tech startups are finding it increasingly difficult to operate overseas as geopolitical tensions threaten to put them in the crosshairs of foreign authorities, as giants like TikTok and Huawei show, Wang doesn’t see the same hurdle.
“At the end of the day, users pay for a good product, which is why I like working in the business-to-consumer sector,” says the founder. “Additionally, our products help promote environmental sustainability, which is a universal goal that can resonate with consumers around the world.”
After ultracharged growth, battery maker EcoFlow comes for the glampers – TechCrunch Source link After ultracharged growth, battery maker EcoFlow comes for the glampers – TechCrunch