VivoPower International PLC is a solar-power company, founded by Arowana in August 2014 and now headquartered in London. In less than three years, VivoPower has been scaled up to become a profitable global enterprise listed on the NASDAQ. For the year ended 31 March 2017, VivoPower delivered revenues of US$32m and an EBITDA of US$18.9m and its future growth outlook is strong.
Initially, Arowana’s strategy was to focus VivoPower on Australia and Asia, but we quickly realised that there were limited opportunities of sufficient scale in these markets at the time. As a result, we pivoted VivoPower’s strategy to look at opportunities in the world’s largest market – the United States – and, on a selective basis, elsewhere in the world.
After establishing VivoPower, key members of the Arowana team spent six months on the ground in the United States in 2015, immersing themselves in the solar industry. As a result, VivoPower was able to secure initial solar projects in North Carolina totalling 90 megawatts (MW). Arowana also identified that there was a larger pool of experienced solar professionals in the United States and the United Kingdom and went on to build a global team, shifting headquarters to London. Today, VivoPower has offices and personnel in London, New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Sydney, Brisbane, Singapore and Manila. It has since completed the build and transfer of 90MW of solar projects in North Carolina, while continuing to hold residual ownership and providing the operations and maintenance of those solar plants.
VivoPower has also aggregated a portfolio of solar assets in Australia, where the market today has become buoyant, forming an alliance with ReNu Energy to work on solar projects in that country. In the United States, the company has a pipeline exceeding 1.8 gigawatts of solar projects.
The entrepreneurs among us will appreciate that no business is without its challenges, and the most significant thus far have manifested at the most inopportune times during the scaling-up journey of VivoPower. These included the demise of the largest solar company in the world, SunEdison, in April 2016 (which turned solar from a hot sector on the NASDAQ into an unpopular sector making capital raising difficult), Brexit in June 2016 (which created significant foreign currency market volatility), the last-minute withdrawal of a solar contractor in July 2016 (which threatened the build of the NC-31 solar plant), Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 (which impacted the programme for financial close and build of the NC-47 solar plant), and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in November 2016 (which made various stakeholders nervous about renewable-energy policy and future opportunities).
These challenges have been overcome and have spurred significant achievements, including assembling a highly experienced global team across four continents (the United States, the United Kingdom/Europe, Asia, Australia), redomiciling headquarters from Australia to London to reflect the strategic shift of VivoPower’s operations globally, consummating 90MW of cross-border solar project BTO (build, transfer, operate) transactions involving United States projects and Australian owners, exceeding profit guidance, building a scalable enterprise platform (across human resources, accounting, finance and governance) and listing on the NASDAQ stock market.
The Arowana team continues to work closely with the VivoPower team, providing our experience and expertise especially during difficult growing-pains inflection points, where systems, people and processes get stretched and break. We maintain a resilient long-term commitment to help VivoPower to continue to scale up.