SolarNow founder & CEO resigns to get some fresh air


SolarNow founder and CEO Willem Nolens has stepped down from his company after 8 years in the role at the Kampala-based off-grid solar energy firm which sells, installs and finances solar home and solar business solutions.

Nolens will be replaced by Lars Johannisson (COO) and Daniel Wellington (CFO) who will jointly lead the company going forward. As an advisor, Nolens will now focus on fundraising, investor relations and strategy.

Focus on fundraising, investor relations and strategy

“I am confident that Lars and Daniel will lead this company with the same passion as I have done and look forward to continue as SolarNow’s advisor to further strengthen the foundation we have built over the last eight years. With its strong workforce and client-centric approach, SolarNow is well-positioned to become and remain a firm market leader for customized energy solutions in Africa”, Nolens said in a statement.

With backing from shareholders such as Novastar Ventures and Shell Ventures, SolarNow sells and installs solar energy solutions in Uganda and Western Kenya and has over 600 full-time employees.

Like Kenya’s M-KOPA Solar and Tanzania’s Zola Electric, the company provides a micro-payment facility providing a reliable and affordable alternative to grid electricity.

No leadership vacuum

According to the company’s Chairman, Pieter Walhof, the company has, during the last 12 months, invested heavily in its senior leadership team and this transition will not lead to a leadership vacuum.

“We would like to thank Willem for his commitment and contribution to the company and for providing the space to give the leadership team full ownership. This is an important step in moving from a founder-led environment to a professionally managed and structured company and pave the way to sustainable growth”.

Seven months ago, SolarNow has closed $9m in debt financing from SunFunder, Oikocredit and responsAbility to enable the company to deploy 17,500 new off-grid solar systems to customers in Uganda, along with a range of appliances.

The new investment marks the 5th anniversary of SolarNow’s partnership with Nairobi-based SunFunder, and their debt facility together. With the anniversary, SunFunder’s investments in SolarNow reached around $19m arranged or made directly.

Two years ago, the firm raised a $6 million facility lead by SunFunder with the participation of  responsAbility Investments AG and Oikocredit to expand their pay-as-you-go or solar lease offerings to reach more people living without access to energy.

The firm also raised $2.6 million in equity funding from Novastar Ventures and Acumen to expand its branch network across Uganda. SolarNow had earlier partnered with Eseye to provide connected solar energy to communities in East Africa.