EcoFlow is one of China’s most recent unicorn companies. It is a Shenzhen/San Francisco-based tech hardware firm founded by Wang Lei, who graduated from the Master of Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation (METI) program at CKGSB. Currently valued at over USD $1 billion, it is leading the market in China’s energy storage sector.
In this new alumni series, we track down CKGSB’s most influential graduates, many of whom have gone on to lead unicorn companies – privately held companies valued at $1 billion USD or more. According to CB Insights – a global platform which provides authoritative and up-to-date information on the world’s billion-dollar private companies – China has created a total of 217 unicorn companies between 2017 to 2021. Thirty-nine (or 18%) of these companies are run by CKGSB alumni, including 35 companies where CKGSB alumni are founders or co-founders, and 4 companies where they serve as the chairman, CEO or president.
As China’s leading business school, it’s not surprising that CKGSB has been able to produce so many business leaders playing a pivotal role in China’s economic development. More than 18,000 successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders and executives of multinational corporations have chosen to study at CKGSB for the original China insights, world-class faculty and peer-to-peer learning with China’s movers-and-shakers. More than half of CKGSB’s alumni are at the CEO or Chairman level and, collectively, lead one-fourth of China’s most valuable brands.
After graduating from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in mechanical engineering, Wang Lei immediately enrolled at the university to study a PhD in new-energy battery technology. Four years later, Wang Lei joined the market leader in drone technology, DJI, where he established the battery R&D department. He led this team to break new ground in battery technology, doubling drone battery life in his three years working there.
However, Wang wanted to revolutionize the energy storage consumer market and provide more sustainable ways to power appliances. So, in 2016, he founded EcoFlow, focusing on mobile energy storage.
EcoFlow’s Products: The RIVER and the DELTA
Ecoflow’s first product was the RIVER, a portable power station which is priced at USD $513. It is a portable charger with a 600-watt output and a 388-watt-hour capacity. The RIVER was funded through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where he raised USD $1 million. It was not long before consumers realized its product value – within half a year of its release, the RIVER was listed as the top product on the outdoor power supply category of Tmall (Alibaba’s B2C e-commerce platform).
After three years of research and development, Ecoflow released its more up-market energy storage carrier, the DELTA, priced at USD $1,760. Due to the success of crowdfunding, Wang Lei used the same strategy, but this time on Kickstarter, selling USD $2.8 million in 48 days. It became the platform’s most successful technology product launch.
The DELTA series was extremely innovative in paving the way for sustainable energy storage. It is equipped with its lithium-ion battery generator and its added function of solar charging, which can be paired with its EcoFlow Panels. The DELTA PRO was listed in TIME magazine’s list of ‘The Best Inventions of 2021’, where the writer Don Steinberg wrote that “multiple units can be networked together to power a whole house for days”. The DELTA has also attracted many big investors – In June 2021, EcoFlow secured over USD $100 million in venture capital from Sequoia Capital, Hillhouse Ventures, and CICC.
Wang has highlighted the similarities between consumers’ changing perception of electric vehicles in the automobile industry and the mobile energy storage industry, which he believes is close to entering the mass market.
The rise in popularity for mobile energy storage devices has gathered momentum since the pandemic. As a leisure pursuit, camping has gained widespread popularity, particularly among young people in China. This has fueled the market for mobile charging devices.
Furthermore, with an increase in power outages as a result of more extreme weather, mobile energy storage has become even more indispensable. EcoFlow’s product have also provided an alternative to traditional gas generators, which come with high maintenance costs, noise, and emissions.
Wang Lei’s Environmental Mission
Wang has a strong interest in climate change and developing new energy solutions. He is adamant that lithium-ion batteries will gradually replace the internal combustion engine in energy storage technology.
Wang stated that his initial inspiration to create a more sustainable environment came from his experience in his childhood, living on the borders of the Mu Us desert in northern China, where “sandstorms were very common, and “afforestation” was the word you hear the most.” This sense of awareness for the environment and climate change has continued in his work with EcoFlow.
In February 2020 at the height of the pandemic in China, despite the company being in financial difficulty at the time, he donated 1,004 mobile energy storage units to a make-shift hospital in Wuhan. Also in July 2021, in response to the flood crisis in Zhengzhou, Wang Lei donated portable energy supplies to hospitals to help solve local power shortages.