Solution Overview

Solution Name:

SOLshare

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One-line solution summary:

SOLshare created the world’s first solar P2P energy exchange platform allowing users to earn a direct income from the sun.

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Pitch your solution.

SOLshare created a revolutionary new approach to bring affordable solar electricity to the energy poor in remote, rural off-grid communities of Bangladesh. Building upon the success of an installation base of five million solar home systems, that generate an excess amount of energy worth US$ 1 billion per year that cannot be stored, we are pioneering a micro-energy transition model 3.0, by interconnecting solar home systems into smart peer-to-peer micro-grids, monetizing (excess) solar energy along the value chain with mobile money in real time and empowering rural communities to earn a direct income from the sun. SOLshare is propelling the systemic change of how people use and move electrons around the globe in the spirit of the new energy world fueled by the 5 D's: Decarbonization, Decentralization, Democratization, Disruption & Digitization. SOLshare's solutions could potentially change the face of utilities globally, and leapfrogs rural communities today.

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

According to the World Bank, off-grid solar products currently service over 360 million people globally. However, while this number seems significant, the current reach is estimated to only be 17% of the market potential. Off-grid solar products, particularly solar home systems (“SHS”), serve an important role in the frontier markets by empowering the ‘next billion’, who currently lack electricity or live with unreliable or insufficient electricity service. In so doing, SHS’ complement grid-based power distribution in frontier economies, by serving as a platform for: a) effective energy transition (from fossil fuels to renewables), b) affordable, reliable and scalable rural electricity supply, and c) carbon neutrality.  

Despite Bangladesh being a global market leader in SHS installations with over five million systems serving over 25 million people, widespread energy poverty continues to plague the nation, where nearly 60 million people still lack access to or have unreliable access to electricity, due to inadequate distribution networks. To address this gap, SOLshare created the world’s first peer-to-peer energy exchange network of rural households and microbusinesses with rooftop solar home systems, which enabled a more efficient distribution of electricity across rural communities.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

SOLshare operates in the energy access market for rural off-grid communities. The people we serve are those suffering from energy poverty. Being such an important commodity, we know that energy can make a vast difference in a people’s lives. Our end-users fall into three categories:

1. Consumers - Villagers that do not have a system of their own and are pure off-takers.

2. Prosumers - Villagers with a solar home systems (SHS) that at times need more power, other times less. They can be a net-producer or consumer depending on their usage pattern. 

3. Producers - Villagers that turn out to be solar entrepreneurs who obtain solar generation and storage assets for the purpose of selling.  By providing a market-based solution to participants in the peer-to-peer microgrid, there are financial incentives to make a more efficient use of the energy resources. Targeting the remote population of the river islands of Bangladesh, where many rely on fossil fuels for limited economic and subsistence activities, SOLshare provides affordable access to clean decentralized energy, substituting the traditional local sources of energy (fuelwood, diesel generators, kerosene) and improves the existing energy infrastructure (SHS) through retrofitting with SOLshare's technology.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

  • How can countries ensure that digital authentication mechanisms—which often require smartphones, computers and internet access—are accessible to marginalized and vulnerable populations to facilitate remote access to services and benefits?
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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Mission Billion Challenge Global Prize and your selected dimension.

SOLshare is currently working to increase women entrepreneurs throughout our P2P microgrids. Women make up 70% of Bangladesh's agroprocessing industry and yet nearly 50% of that labor goes unpaid while the other 50% earns half of what a man would earn doing the same job on the assumption that a woman is less efficient. SOLshare is working with partners to create the environment necessary for these women to become entrepreneurs. By providing the productive energy use appliances, financial literacy, technical and business training, market linkages and internet access providing necessary agricultural and educational materials geared towards their needs.

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Where is your solution team headquartered?

Dhaka, Bangladesh
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

  • Scale: An individual or organization working in several locations and that is looking to scale significantly, focusing on increased efficiency.
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Who is the primary delegate for your solution?

Dr. Sebastian Groh, CEO and Co-Founder of SOLshare

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

  • A new technology
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

There is no solution that uniquely does exactly what SOLshare does, which allows our end users to earn a direct income from the sun by selling the excess power on their SHS and allowing them to buy more energy when they need it all within a solar P2P microgrid. Our innovation, the SOLbox, is integrated with mobile money and allows our users to see their energy consumption in the value of currency and decide how they want to use energy.

SOLshare is propelling the systemic change of how people use and move electrons around the globe in the spirit of the new energy world fueled by the 5 D's. Our grids have consumed approximately 75 MWh and sold 25 MWh of electricity. However, this is merely scratching the surface, when compared to its $1 billion market opportunity (amount of excess energy only). By connecting all five million households with solar home systems across Bangladesh, with the 25 million people who lack access to electricity, SOLshare can create a series of interconnected microgrids that generate up to 250MW (~1.5% of Bangladesh’s total installed power capacity as of December 2019) and 2,400 MWh of battery storage. More importantly, by setting and controlling the transaction price within this microgrid system, SOLshare would establish a strong competitive advantage against new market entrants. In doing so, the Company’s work generates positive impact on overall literacy rates, female employment and empowerment, rural SME growth, decreased carbon emissions, increased health outcomes and increased GDP per capita.


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Provide evidence that your solution works.

To date, SOLshare’s peer-to-peer energy exchange platform, SOLbazaar, has connected nearly 700 households into 30 micro grids (28 in Bangladesh and 2 in India to date), which have consumed approximately 75 MWh and sold 25 MWh of electricity. However, this is merely scratching the surface, when compared to its $1 billion market opportunity (amount of excess energy only) across the country. By connecting all six million households with solar home systems across Bangladesh, with the 60 million people who lack access/ reliable access to electricity, SOLshare can create a series of interconnected microgrids that generate up to 250MW (~1.5% of Bangladesh’s total installed power capacity as of December 2019) and 2,400 MWh of battery storage. More importantly, by setting and controlling the transaction price within this microgrid system, SOLshare would establish a strong competitive advantage against new market entrants.  

By increasing electricity access to the base of the pyramid, SOLshare acts as a pivotal enabler of the Government of Bangladesh’s (GoB) core strategic objectives, as outlined in its ‘Vision 2021’ plan. In so doing, the Company’s work generates positive impact on overall literacy rates, female employment and empowerment, rural SME growth, decreased carbon emissions, increased health outcomes and increased GDP per capita. 

Having established a product-market fit in Bangladesh, SOLshare is looking to expand to other developing countries with similar market dynamics to those of Bangladesh.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=658S6mGt3cI

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Internet of Things
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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What is your theory of change?

34762_Solshare_Theory%20of%20Change_1440x810.jpg

To date, SOLshare’s peer-to-peer energy exchange platform, SOLbazaar, has connected nearly 700 households into 30 microgrids (28 in Bangladesh and 2 in Assam, India). Over the past year, both the size and scale of SOLshare's impact has increased. Our 30 P2P solar microgrids serve over 3,000 beneficiaries (over 5,000 during Covid due to increase in household size). We have had time to further develop our products (community PPAs for smart national grid connection) as well as refine our business model. Thanks to our Covid response we are now looking to serve over 27,000 people within the communities we work through energy subsidies, medical care packages and productive energy use appliances for women who have lost their jobs in manufacturing sectors like garments.

A deep dive into our end-users shows:

• P2P energy trading provides nearly 700 households, access over to 75 MWh of additional energy, valued at USD 75,923 

• Over 95 microbusiness, including 11 women, experience additional income valued at USD 6,315 through access to reliable energy 

• Selling excess energy of over 25 MWh customers earned additional income worth approximately USD 16,177 (53.44% of those living on $5/day earn an additional income selling excess energy) 

• P2P trading unlocks over 75 MWh reducing 50,000 kgCO2e, valued at approximately USD 6,910 

• Our SROI, calculated by Asia IIX Global at USD 4.85 for every dollar invested.

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How can your solution be incorporated into identification systems?

SOLshare’s energy access trading platform (the SOLbazaar) works together with several IOT devices. The SOLgrid is the P2P microgrid which interconnects households with and without solar home systems (SHS) allowing energy the excess energy to be traded. The point of interconnection within the SOLgrid is the SOLbox and IOT device that is a smart bi-directional meter allowing users to buy energy when they need it and sell it when there is excess energy. Data on energy usage is then sent from the SOLboxes through the Wi-Fi towers set up in each grid to the backend where on the SOLweb we can view each the energy consumption data of each SOLbox. Prior to the grid being set up, each user is registered with the SOLapp, an android application, available on the Google play store which also records the GPS location of each house, allowing the grid to be designed at optimal capacity. The app records the identification of each user and each SOLbox has its own unique identification number. In the case of most households, even if the male member is the registered user, the woman of the household is usually the prime beneficiary as male members spend the least amount of time at home. This has also resulted in the growth of many women-led home-grown businesses. The SOLbox has the means for unique identification of each user.

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Describe how 'user friendly' your solution is to incorporate into a digital identification system.

SOLshare’s system already incorporates a unique identification system allowing SOLshare to see on our backend the energy consumption patterns of each user. It is a simple system that identifies each user prior to the grid being set up. Our field engineers are able to enter the data using the app. What makes the SOLbox very easy to use is that the display shows the value of energy in Bangladeshi Taka. This makes it simpler for the user to understand exactly when they need to top up as the boxes are also integrated with mobile money. A user can do this from their own mobile money account or through mobile money exchange vendor, either the local area manager or the designated shops in the area which provide mobile money exchange. 

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Explain how your solution is interoperable with existing technologies and open standards.

Being an energy exchange platform, our system provides clean, affordable access to energy which otherwise be unavailable to user without SHSs as these households and microbusinesses do not have their own system as they were unable to financially afford one. It is very compatible with existing technologies. SOLshare aims to provide its end users with access to services that they would normally find in urban areas, ultimately decreasing rural to urban migration. This is why we created the SOLbox NG so that our end users are not limited in terms of productive energy use appliances they are using. The SOLbox NG specifically developed so that our users are able to use both AC and DC appliances on their SOLbox. This include LED TVs, fridges, sewing machines, egg incubators, water pumps, rices hullers, flour millers and so much more. We are also integrated billable Wi-Fi and EV charging into our platforms. 

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How does your solution account for low connectivity environments and for users with low literacy and numeracy levels?

A few things to note, Our SOLbox is equipped to store data as we work in remote rural areas that are off grid. The way it works is at times of low or no connectivity the SOLbox itself can store the data and then transmit when there is a better signal or connectivity. The capacity is approximately up to 16 days for which data can be stored on the boxes. Most of our end-users understand money and this is why the display on the SOLbox, instead of showing the energy use in Watts shows the user the value of energy they have remaining in BDT, Bangladeshi currency. End users are given training on how to use the box, in general the process is very simple. Energy is shown in currency and the box has 3 modes. One allowing the user to buy energy, one to sell energy and the third option is to put the box on auto mode in which the box automatically detects when the box is full and allows energy to be sold and when more power is required, it is able to buy more energy when needed.

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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Informal Sector Workers
  • Rural Settings
  • Low/No Connectivity Settings
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Bangladesh
  • India
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Bangladesh
  • India
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

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SOLshare currently has 30 P2P solar microgrids normally serving over 3,000 beneficiaries, now due to Covid the number of household members has increased allowing us to serve over 5,000 beneficiaries. Under the DEG Covid-19 Response fund we are now looking to serve over 27,000 people within the communities we work through energy subsidies, medical care packages, increasing energy access and energy for productive energy use and productive energy use appliances for women who have lost their jobs in manufacturing sectors like garments. Over the next 2 years SOLshare is looking to scale rapidly with the target of reaching 2.5 million. 

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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Our focus is not to just provide energy access. We want rural communities to have access to more services like those available in urban areas ultimately leading to rural empowerment and economic development as well as decreasing rural to urban migration. That is why we are constantly in the process of improving and expanding our technology. Future measures that will be included within our grids: 

  • Billable Wi-Fi 
  • EV charging pit stops
  • A community PPA allowing us to implement the PCC
  • Increased productive energy use through SOLbox NG (Next Generation) which will allow our users more power to use with AC or DC appliances.

Ultimately we hope to that our users will be able to have the life they want and use energy the way they want with the appliances and services they wish to have.

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

  • Environmental: A lot of SOLshare's work is in char areas (river islands) which are off-grid remote communities that are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. 
  • Financial: Being a platform provider and technology pioneer (the world’s very first solar peer-to-peer microgrid) requires significant investments with severely delayed returns. SOLshare has been paving the way and research for solar P2P grids which automatically leads to first mover disadvantages.
  • Technical: Unless SOLshare can keep up with ever advancing and developing technology our products will become redundant. It is imperative that we keep improving.      
  • Legal/Political: SOLshare currently operates in an unregulated sandbox which is easy now but could become very difficult if the situation changes.  Cultural: As the technology is new and unknown, cultural acceptance is difficult for most communities.
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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

  • Environmental: Because of our decentralized system, our grids near the coast were not affected during the super-cyclone Amphan, unlike the national grid which was interrupted.
  • Financial: Our view is fixed on our path to profitability at 750 grids installed with USD 15 average trade volume per connection.
  • Technical: We are constantly in the process of updating and upgrading our technology stack, and have started outsourcing individual parts in the product development cycle. This is enabled by constant data collection and analysis in our backend as well as by being as close as possible to our final beneficiaries. 
  • Legal/Political: We have already developed a proof of concept where grid integration is a possibility called the point of common coupling, that would allow these microgrids to integrate with the national grid and even feed energy back in. This could do wonders with the right policies in place and truly make every household within the country electrified.  Cultural: SOLshare has been able to overcome this by working with B2B partners that have field presence and experience making community engagement easier and ensuring local stakeholders are involved and aware of what the technology does and is capable of.
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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

  • For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
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How many people work on your solution team?

Total number of people working at SOLshare at this moment is 67.

Full time: 62

Part time: 5

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How long have you been working on your solution?

6

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our teams include R&D, Hardware and Firmware which is all a part of designing and testing our tech. Production is what turns the vision into reality. The data team manages the backend with the constant inflow of data from the grids while data analytics turns the info into visualizations. The product team ensures Q&A protocols and timelines are met. Field and Operations ensures everything is implemented properly as well as support and maintenance while also having a customer service hotline.     

  • Our RnD is in-house and we are constantly in the process of developing and improving our product to provide the best possible service to our customers. Yet, we are mature enough to realize that for the last 10-15% of product maturity, we had to seek out support from very experienced product developers and designers as an outsourcing/ strategic collaboration activity. Collaborating with the best around the globe, as well as SOLshare as a brand by now, has led to turned SOLshare into a an extremely sought after workplace in the city. This, in turn, allowed us to continuously improve our team.
  • With three PhDs in electrical engineering, IoT and development economics in our extended founding team we have a very strong foundation of all our work. 
  • SOLshare has attracted the interest and trust of a subset of the world's largest energy utilities (joint under the Free Electrons program which SOLshare won), counting two of them as their investors and Board members.


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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

SOLshare offers its P2P smart microgrid platform in a B2B business model to solar home system distributors, among others. The SOLgrid platform consists of software and hardware products, offered in a simple service/sales model. The distributors act as the local grid operators for each of the installed microgrids and provide grid related products and maintenance services towards the end-user. Partners with whom we have worked with in the past and present:

Grameen Shakti (GS): The partnership of SOLshare and GS won the UNDESA ‘Powering the Future We Want Award’ USD 1million grant. This partnership has 20 microgrids installed at the moment serving over 2,500 beneficiaries.

Chars Development Research Center (CDRC), Rural Development Academy (RDA): is a rural development center particularly dedicated to improving the livelihoods of the poor and extreme poor char dwellers. CDRC operates under the administrative umbrella of RDA. It is uniquely competent in areas of poverty reduction, livelihood improvement and food security, empowering women and green technology. CDRC's work and experience in Char areas made them an excellent partner for SOLshare to work with. SOLshare recently won the P4G Startup Grant in partnership with CDRC-RDA.

Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF): With BGEF SOLshare installed its first B2B grids funded by GIZ. UBOMUS (Upokulio Biddutayan O Mohila Unnayan Samity) & Pacific Solar: are organizations that SOLshare worked with early on to implement seven P2P solar microgrids. These were SOLshare’s first B2C grids installed with funding from IDCOL with Pacific Solar and UBOMUS being our implementing partner.

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

SOLshare offers its P2P smart microgrid platform in a B2B business model to solar home system distributors, among others. The SOLgrid platform consists of software and hardware products, offered in a simple service/sales model. The distributors act as the local grid operators for each of the installed microgrids and provide grid related products and maintenance services towards the end-user.

SOLshare counts on three different revenue streams: 

1. Hardware: sales revenue + margin on the SOLbox (smart meter device) and communications technology (IoT device); 

2. Software as a service towards our B2B customers for remote grid management; 

3. The trading fee of every kWh of energy traded among the end-users.

The long term emphasis is on the trading fee which acts similar to an AirBnB-like model.

We receive our revenues from our B2B customers (revenue flow 1) + 2)), as well as directly from the beneficiaries (revenue flow 3) which is split 50:50 with our B2B partners in order to keep the partnership fully aligned. SOLshare follows a B2B model with partners that have strong field presence and knowledge of remote locations with existing solar home systems (SHS). Our customers have installed more than 60% of the current installation base of nearly 6 million SHS. Our end-users fall into three categories; consumers, prosumers and producers.

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?

  • Organizations (B2B)
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What is your path to financial sustainability?

Over the past two years the quarterly volume of electricity purchased per customer has grown 400%. The number energy active households has doubled while the average energy value purchased by customers has increased by 250%.  

Our financial projections predict a revenue growth with a 7-yr CAGR of 83% based on two of our revenue streams. Our SOLbazaar (energy trading platform) will drive 42% of growth through increased trade volume and 38% through increased SOLbox sales. This is based on steady prosumer growth and retention and a strong increase in energy trading volume from increased number of grid connections, base electricity price reduction and modest trading fee increase. The SOLclock will drive 22% of growth through an increase in B2B customers and sales unit growth, which in turn is driven by product mix diversification (e.g. the different electrical appliances that SOLclock can be installed into, such as TVs, refrigerators, and air conditioners). The increase in sustainable revenue sources, like the SOLbazaar and SOLclock, will reduce the current reliance on project-based income to subsidize R&D.

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If you have raised funds for your solution or are generating revenue, please provide details.

Total amount of Funds raised till date: USD 5.16 million

Series A + Safe note: USD 2.76 million (in equity)

Grants, Funds & Prizes: USD 2.4 million (DEG, GIZ, Unilever, Siemens, GSMA, Microsoft, TEPCO, DENA, P4G, ADB etc.) 

Revenues 2019: USD 805,150 (revenue streams + prizes)

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If you seek to raise funds for your solution, please provide details.

US$ 2.75m funding required to reach EBITDA profitability

US$ 1.06m funding secured

US$ 895k through SAFE

US$ 165k through Grants US$ 1.69m remaining funding requirement (to be reached by the end of 2020)

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What are your estimated expenses for 2020?

Based on our financial projections and past expenses our operational expenses for 2020 will be between 1.2 and 1.7 million USD.

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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to the Mission Billion Challenge Global Prize?

This is excellent opportunity for SOLshare to become a part of the SOLVE community and grow our network of peers. SOLshare has thrived on collaborating with other organizations. Through our innovative work we have already achieved many accolades and awards and each time we have had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other like-minded interesting and innovative organizations. SOLVE provides another opportunity as well as a responsibility. If SOLshare is selected we will have the finances necessary to begin the road to reach our 5 year goals and embark at full speed on our journey accelerate innovation for a better environment in Bangladesh. 

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business model
  • Solution technology
  • Product/service distribution
  • Funding and revenue model
  • Talent recruitment
  • Legal or regulatory matters
  • Marketing, media, and exposure
  • Other
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Please explain in more detail here.

SOLshare has collaborated with many organizations and hopes to collaborate with many new partners in the future. We prefer to have a symbiotic relationship with our partners in which both parties benefit from the collaboration. This is why we have a keen interest in partners who have deep knowledge of the sector and understanding of the technology and the market. We always appreciate mentorship and advice. Partners who bring with them new ideas and ways in which we can expand our work or technology. Or even find new ways in which to implement our technology with the partner's technology. At the end of the day what is most important to us are our end-users and having partners who understand that fact and want to help us continue improving lives is what we are really looking for.

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

SOLshare is always looking to collaborate with other organizations. 

  • Organizations interested in financing our work and expand our microgrids 
  • Organizations interested in helping further develop our technology & solution -especially our IT backbone
  • Organizations interested in doing collaborations such as research and technology where SOLshare plays the technology implementer
  • Organizations with new ideas for implementation of our solution
  • Organization interested in implementing our solution in new areas
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Solution Team

  • Ms. Salma Islam Project Manager, ME SOLshare Ltd.
 
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