Exclusive: Enpal wins Volksbank as a partner - and dreams of cars

Mario Kohle's solar start-up has prominent investors, is flirting with an IPO and wants to raise money via crowdinvesting. Now the company can inspire a Volksbank - and then there is this car idea.

Mario Kohle is enthusiastic these days. "Sustainability is fucking awesome," he bellows into his laptop's microphone, pushing all the energy in his voice into the internet connection. He would have every reason to be distracted, tense and wary. Things had certainly been chaotic over the past few weeks when it came to the future of Enpal.

First, Manager Magazin reported that co-investor and start-up wunderkind Alexander Samwer wanted to take Enpal public as early as 2021 and spared no comparison. Even of the German Tesla spoke Samwer probably, which is invested through his fund Picus Capital

. Then the denial of coal and his team: yes, an IPO is possible, but no, there is no concrete decision yet.

Enpal needs capital by necessity, and much more of it than conventional start-ups. On the one hand, the ordinary business operations must be financed, which happens via classic venture capital. On the other hand, it needs money for the business model itself: Enpal earns this money by renting out solar plants. The users pay off a piece of it every month and at some point they will own the entire system. However, Enpal has to pre-finance the photovoltaic systems, which is done with the help of banks. ING, among others, is already on board and now, according to Startbase information, the start-up has once again been able to win Berliner Volksbank as a refinancer. Ten million euros it wants to give, after it had already provided 20 million euros until the end of 2020.

Solar panels from Enpal. (Photo: Enpal)

The only thing greater than Mario Kohle's enthusiasm is presumably his own vision. From the currently more than 10,000 rented solar plants should quickly become more, alone 750 by the additional ten million euros of the Volksbank. But Kohle has long been thinking of more than just solar modules, as he explains to Startbase: "We also want to go into the field of electric cars, that's simply part of it," says the serial founder, who drives an e-car himself. "A car compared to a Tesla today is like going from horse to car in 1900," he says.

While the man, whose company has been described by Samwer as a "Tesla without production," doesn't want to build the electric cars himself, Kohle can apparently see himself renting them out. "The combination makes sense because people can save cash. Having your own power plant on the roof and using it to fuel your own electric car: that could be awesome." According to this vision, Enpal could become less of a landlord of solar panels and more of a platform for renewable energy.

"We also want to go into the electric car space"

Mario Kohle, Enpal founder

It would fit Mario Kohle, who, by his own account, had his "Greta Thunberg moment" in 2015. At that time, he tells today, he realized that humanity is running into a big disaster if something does not change soon. In the meantime, he has fully arrived in the modern lifestyle: E-car in the garage, veggie burger as a standard order.

While the price of energy from coal or oil remained relatively constant at the time, that of renewable energy kept falling over the years, with the number of solar installations on single-family homes only increasing by six figures a year. "That was way too slow," Kohle says. The problem he saw was in their marketing: solar panels for single-family homes were hard to pitch. "It's just not as compelling as buying a car," he says.

Is visibly more relaxed by now: Mario Kohle. (Photo: Enpal)

The founder, who previously set up "Käuferportal" (today: Aroundhome), a brokerage platform for products in and around the home, and sold it to ProSiebenSat.1, founded Enpal in 2017 and wants to do things differently, more digitally, more simply. Instead of a fancy executive office, there are Ikea tables at the beginning and the question: can this go well? Especially in the beginning, he was afraid that he lacked the corrective, someone to say he was talking rubbish, and even otherwise he is open with his concerns. The fear that all this will fail, Mario Kohle has it all the time. "That's a good thing, too. It keeps you from making unnecessary mistakes," he says.

In the meantime, Kohle is visibly more relaxed, which is probably due in no small part to the great support he has from well-known investors with whom he can play mental ping-pong. Alexander Samwer belongs to it today, Lukasz Gadowski, the Zalando bosses Robert Genz, David Schneider, Rubin Ritter and through an investment vehicle also Leonardo DiCaprio.

In the future, he wants to take Enpal to other countries, plus the potential IPO, the car plans and almost incidentally, the company is currently raising what it claims is the largest crowdinvesting campaign for solar panels in Europe. A landing page already exists

on which the company advertises "attractive conditions", more is to come in the next few days. Coal seems indefatigable: "We can, of course, cling to a past that was never awesome because there was less wealth, less leisure, less equality. But we can also just design something awesome," he says. Then he has to move on.

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