After nearly a fortnight tight-lipped on the source of its new £60m funding, UK green energy startup bulb has finally confirmed the identities of its new investors – insisting that the four-year old impact venture is expanding and definitely not “up for sale”. Julian Blake reports.
Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner – a backer of tech titans Facebook, Twitter and Airbnb – has been named as the mystery lead investor in a £60m funding round for green energy startup bulb – as the company insisted that it was “only just starting” its mission to “make the UK one of the greenest countries on the planet”.
News of the £60m funding was revealed on DigitalAgenda earlier this month – following Companies House filings by parent company Simple Energy.
Bulb – set up by ex-Bain consultant Hayden Wood and Barclays energy trader Amit Gudka (pictured) – is now the UK’s biggest renewable energy supplier, taking on the ‘big six’ incumbents in less than four years.
Bulb’s exponential growth has been facilitated by good chunks of impact investment. A series A round in June last year, supported by impact investment bank ClearlySo, saw it raise £5.7m from angels and institutional backers. Then in September it secured £1.43m in investment from Deliveroo and babylon backers JamJar.
On the back of that support, bulb has grown from supplying 15,000 homes a year ago to 670,000 today. The company expects to grow its 200-strong workforce by 25% in the coming year – and it is understood to be eyeing a new city of London corporate HQ.
Where last year’s series A gave bulb a valuation of £60m, the new investment values the company at £315m, according to data intelligence provider Beauhurst. Others put the valuation as high as £500m. Beauhurst’s investment analysis suggests that bulb could be on course to become the UK’s first $1bn-valued ‘green unicorn’.
Interestingly, all of DST Global’s recent UK investments – Deliveroo, Revolut and Funding Circle – have been unicorns.
In a blog statement confirming the news on Sunday, chief executive Wood said: “This investment will help us achieve our mission of bringing renewable energy at affordable prices to as many people as possible.
“We’re delighted to welcome them into the Bulb community to help us accelerate our growth, invest in new technology and deliver outstanding service to our members,” Wood added.
Despite investor interest and customer growth, bulb is still loss making, with company accounts showing a £142,000 loss to March 2017.
A Telegraph report last week suggested that bulb was up for sale, either through acquisition or market listing.
In his statement, Wood strongly rejected “press speculation from some misinformed quarters that we are ‘cashing in’ or ‘up for sale’. Rest assured, this is not the case,” he said. “We are committed to our mission and will not be distracted.”
In a follow-up tweet, Wood said he was “happy to confirm there’s no possibility we’ll be selling Bulb. It’s not for sale. We’re only just starting on our mission to make the UK one of the greenest countries on the planet. Why would we stop now? We are only just getting going!”
Happy to confirm there’s no possibility we’ll be selling Bulb. It’s not for sale. We’re only just starting on our mission to make the UK one of the greenest countries on the planet. Why would we stop now? We are only just getting going!
— Hayden Wood (@haydenwd) August 19, 2018
The Telegraph quoted senior industry figures assessing the investment as a “complicated and heavily structured deal” that promises the new investors a right to 100% of the first £60m of its dividends and the equivalent of 12.8% of the company in the event of a sale. The investment would improve bulb’s loss-making balance sheet.
On calls for crowdfunding, bulb responded by saying there are “no current plans to go down this avenue”.
In 2017, Bulb won DigitalAgenda’s Impact Award for climate.