Ecoflow raises $4m from unconventional investors to grow its mobile power business – rocketnews top news stories from around the globe electricity dance moms

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The Shenzhen-based company has taken an interesting route. Founded in 2016, the startup burst on to the scene when it launched its River product in an Indiegogo campaign that pulled in $1 million. Today, River is available in the U.S. where it is sold via Home Depot, Camping World, Amazon, HSN and the EcoFlow website for $699 upwards.

That’s pretty impressive progress for a young company, and CEO and co-founder Eli Harris told TechCrunch in an interview that relationships with key partners are at the core of that. In particular, EcoFlow has raised strategic investment from supply chain partners rather than traditional VC and that is the case again. This new $4 million came courtesy of battery makers Guangzhou Penghui Energy and SCUD Group, industrial design tooling factory ESID, and supply chain-focused firms Delian Capital and Chunjia Assets.

“Our investors are almost entirely vertically integrated with every component in our supply chain,” Harris said. “That gives us access to these top-tier manufacturers that no startups could enjoy and help us get direct access to vendors at large companies.”

Aside from reaching quality components and getting a good price, relationships with these component makers help EcoFlow with its cash flow — always a challenge puzzle piece for hardware startups. Harris explained that the relationships allow his company to delay paying for components rather than having to pay upfront — before product is sold and revenue comes in — which optimizes the books and means the capital can be put to work on R&D, sales and marketing and more.

The River itself is touted as industry-leading portable power. Aside from an aesthetic nice design, the li-ion-based device has a total output of 500 watts, weighs just 11 pounds and features two quick-charge USB ports, two USB type C ports, two standard USB ports, two AC outlets, two DC outlets and one 12V car port.

“We think we are around 18 months ahead of the market in terms of engineering capabilities. Most experienced battery players are going after electronic vehicles and industrial opportunities, while smaller players have issues getting to manufactures, talent and money to build portable energy solutions,” he said.

“Batteries are expensive products but we will see costs come down with the expansion of the EV market, so we’ll be trending in the right direction. But people who understand the tech don’t think it is an expensive product,” Harris explained.

“A lot of the tech we use now will be utilized in future products so that’ll mean lower development costs as we leverage existing IP. We’re also exploring using second life batteries since cells are one of the biggest expenses of the product,” he added.

While tactically-selected investors are a boon for many reasons, Harris admitted that they do require educating of the investor-investee relationship as it is unconventional in their space. But, he said, increasingly large component and manufacturing firms are keen to do startup investments to help get new ideas, open relationships in the U.S. and explore other new areas of focus.