Debt financing and impact investing with Andreas Lehner (Trine)

In this episode, we speak with Andreas Lehner, co-founder of Trine. We discuss debt finance to provide working capital for companies working in growing markets, the movement towards sustainable investing, and innovative financing mechanisms that help to unlock the retail investment market.

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Show notes and related resources

Trine: company webpage

Podcast summary

Trine is a crowdfunding platform that enables retail and institutional investors to invest in off-grid solar projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. They provide debt financing for energy projects, and have raised over EUR36 million to date. We discuss debt finance to provide working capital for companies working in growing markets, the need for flexible debt financing, the trends towards sustainable and impact investing, and why the global financial investment landscape needs to change.

Show notes:

  • (1:35) Andreas Lehner's background and how he came to start Trine

  • (4:25) Trine: how does it work and what do they do

  • (6:30) Alternatives to debt financing for solar in emerging markets: primarily high-interest inflexible funding from local banks, or philanthropy and donations

  • (8:55) Trine's flexible financing approach, e.g. just-in-time financing, with more efficient deployment of capital

  • (10:30) Offering match funding, co-funding with institutional investors, first-loss and guarantees to investors

  • (15:45) Trine's early days and their plans for their coming years: how impact investing will become the new normal

  • (18:40) Social and environmental impact of Trine's borrowers, in particular for BBOXX in the Solar Home System (SHS) space

  • (21:30) Trine's partners, e.g. BBOXX, Greenlight Planet, Yellow Solar, Kingo, Daystar Power. How their partners work with Trine and the due diligence process (usually 2-3 months from start to finish)

  • (26:30) How it works for retail investors

  • (30:15) Trine's growth: balancing between both sides of the marketplace of borrowers and lenders

  • (32:00) Their customers, repeated customers and investing behaviour

  • (33:40) Geographical focus and countries they've invested in; their interest in the mini-grid sector and West Africa

  • (35:40) Learnings as a founder and a company

  • (39:45) Merging commercial and retail investors; expanding to commercial and institutional funders to increase their impact

  • (43:45) Trine's equity fundraising for themselves as a company

  • (45:20) Trine's longer-term vision and plans

  • (47:00) Andreas' perspective on the sustainable and impact investment landscape; the need for a new way of investing

  • (50:10) The impact of COVID-19 to date (as of May 2020)

  • (53:00) Where Trine's name came from

  • (53:45) Advice to an entrepreneur: focus on your customer; reach out if you want to learn something

  • (56:40) Predictions for the next 5 years: consolidation in the off-grid sector; growth of the mini-grid sector; C&I sector; productive use of energy.