March 12, 2024

SolarMente becomes first Spanish startup being backed by Leo DiCaprio

The investment deal is ‘big’ and was struck after four months of negotiations, says CEO Wouter Draijier

Leonardo DiCaprio has chosen green energy startup SolarMente as his first investment in Spain. 

Wouter Draijier, a Dutch engineer settled in Barcelona, founded SolarMente together with Victor Gardrinier, a Canadian software developer in 2020. The pair approached DiCaprio as part of an effort to attract support from high-profile people who could help them build public trust in solar energy tech in Spain, which they feel is lower than in northern Europe.

While the company is not disclosing the exact amount, the investment deal is “big”, Draijier tells Sifted.

“It’s been a rollercoaster for us,” Draijier says. “DiCaprio is one of the most active climate activists with a massive network. We really wanted to work with him.”


Building solar in Spain

The Barcelona-based company offers a subscription model for solar energy, which helps customers spread the cost of the initial investment of panel installation, which it says is the biggest barrier to entry. The service costs €40 a month for a 20-year subscription and customers can also store and sell their renewable energy, as well as buy battery systems, EV charging stations and heat pumps from SolarMente.

“We’ve found it easier to find financing abroad, things move faster and they’ve understood the model that we are building very well,” Draijier says. “But we’ve found out the importance of knowing people [in Spain]. The boca a boca [word-of-mouth] is extremely important.”

SolarMente raised €1.8m in seed funding after taking part in the US accelerator Y Combinator, and a further €50m in debt and equity last April as part of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to scale its solar panel subscription service for homes. The round was entirely from energy-focused Barcelona private equity firm GNE Finance and was mostly debt.

DiCaprio has invested in a wide range of startups, including Beyond Meat, a US plant-based meat substitute company valued at over $10bn, the American cultivated seafood startup Wildtype, and Guatemala’s solar energy firm Kingo Energy.

In Europe, the Oscar-winning actor has backed Swiss circular watch company ID Genève, Bristol-based microplastic tech startup Matter, Swedish EV firm Polestar, and Dutch cultured meat company Mosa Meat — but SolarMente is his first Spanish investment.

Growing the business

Solar energy startups have struggled in Spain recently due to a combination of regulatory changes and subsidies that kept the cost of other energy sources artificially low.

Draijier says the sector’s growth in the Iberian country relies on “stable politics, high or increasing [oil and gas] energy prices and grants,” adding that 2023 was a tough year for all founders in the industry.

SolarMente has continued to grow and is signing around 100 solar energy subscriptions per month, he says. About 60% of its sales come from solar panels, with an additional 30% coming from batteries. The remaining 10% is from EV chargers and heat pump, which have been added to the company’s offer only six months ago, Draijier adds.

Of those clients buying solar panels from SolarMente, 60% upgraded to batteries after installation. Seven out of 10 new clients come from referrals. 

Last autumn, the company began its expansion throughout Spain, opening new offices in Madrid, Valencia, Alicante and Málaga. Each location benefits from many hours of sunlight and high population density. 


“The goal is to have 90% coverage in Spain, excluding the Canary Islands,” but including the Balearic Islands, Draijier says.

The startup has also “tested the waters” with some installations in Portugal, Italy and France, but will probably wait for a further 18 months before expanding internationally.

“The trigger will be to find the 100% product-market fit and in my language that means when one client brings at least one other client that you can close within 10 days of the intro, and then automate that fully, and then you have something you can sell also in other countries,” Draijier says.

Cristina Gallardo

Cristina Gallardo is a senior reporter at Sifted based in Madrid and Barcelona. She covers Europe's tech sovereignty, deeptech and Iberia. Follow her on X and LinkedIn