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Fairphone takes €7m investment call

Ethical smartphone provider Fairphone has heralded a new chapter in its five-year story by confirming a new €7m funding round, following the appointment of a new chief exec to replace founder Bas van Abel. Can the new injection help the company go head to head with the mega smartphone providers?

fairphoneinject“Change is in your hands”, says Fairphone, the ethical smartphone enterprise. After five years of building its tech for good, it has made its own changes in an effort to take it to the next level and compete with the bigger smartphone providers. Its Android Fairphone 2 retails at €399.

“We’re here and we’re here to stay,” Fairphone tweeted this week, after what has been a time of transition for the Amsterdam-based social enterprise.

In October it confirmed the appointment of Eva Gouwens as its new chief executive, taking over from founder Bas van Abel at the helm. van Abel had grown Fairphone from campaign idea to funded venture; he remains on the board.

The first fruits of that new leadership came this week as Fairphone confirmed news of a €7m funding injection to help it scale. Gouwens promised that the cash would fund “growth, stabilise production, professionalise our organisation and further establish our social impact in the years ahead”.

Existing investors DOEN Participaties and PYMWYMIC are joined by new impact investors including PDENH and Quadia. The total includes €2.5m crowdfunding raised in August via Oneplanetcrowd – and the success of the latter “played a major role in encouraging the new impact investors to invest in Fairphone,” Gouwens said.

Gouwens added that the equity raised in crowdfunding and investment would be combined with a €13m loan led by ABN AMRO and the Dutch Good Growth Fund.

The new injection means that, across five years, the company has raised over $40m across seven funding rounds, including nearly $12m in crowdfunding.

Gouwens said the new funding would help the organisation continue on its mission, “establishing a market for ethical phones, we motivate the entire industry to act more responsibly”.

Last week the firm published its first impact report, setting out how it has been “shaking up the electronics industry”, by connecting responsible materials to its supply chain. It monitors working conditions in factories and works with its suppliers to ensure good working conditions.

The Fairphone unit itself is designed to last longer than most smartphones, with a modular design allowing for improvements without having to trade in and upgrade the whole phone. It has an easy-repair policy and offers good recycling options.

Meanwhile its active community has been driving much of the work to ensure greater impact. “They help us prove there’s demand for fair electronics,” says Fairphone. “We’re changing the electronic industry, one step at a time.”

Watch the YouTube setting out Fairphone’s impact.

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