We spoke to QuickSolar Marketplace CEO and Co-Founder, Alex Landau, about his journey into solar, his experience finding solar leads, the QuickSolar difference for homeowners and installers, and much more!
During my fourth year of school at Tulane’s Architecture program, my studio class was involved with a competition in conjunction with our Business School to create an environmentally and financially sustainable Assisted Living facility.
In the 11th hour of the competition, we were crunching the numbers trying to make it work, and somebody suggested that we “throw solar panels on it.” So that’s what I did, with a little PhotoShop…and was disgusted with how unappealing the panels looked on the roof of our beautiful renderings.
This became the subject of Master Thesis the following year: integrating solar into the built environment using different techniques and next-generation solar technology in alternative ways. The investigation taught me the fundamentals of solar, and also gave me some insight into an exciting industry that, at the time, was going through a resurgence.
After graduation, I applied to a local New Orleans solar company, and was hired as their system CAD designer. As the company grew, so did my responsibilities, which included site evaluations, installation, proposal building, pricing, and meeting with homeowners. Throughout my time there, I designed thousands of PV systems ranging from small residential to large commercial bids for prospective clients.
I relied on AutoCAD, a cumbersome, heavy-duty product made for architects and engineers, to do my design-work, and it was slowing me down as more and more jobs came into the door. I was supervised by part-owner Scott Oman, a NABCEP-PV certified salesperson and electrician, who agreed that there was a fundamental lack of user-friendly sales & design software tools made specifically for the solar contractor.
So, Scott and I began working on the prototype for an easy-to-use, drag & drop design tool that employed Google Maps and solar panel overlays. In 2012, we won the $50,000 grand prize at the Big Idea entrepreneurial competition in New Orleans for our invention, which gave us the boost we needed to make QuickSolar commercially viable.
Tell us about why you developed QuickSolar Marketplace. What makes this software different?
The QuickSolar Marketplace tackles another fundamental challenge that solar contractors face. Although they pay $0.10 for every dollar they make on customer acquisition, they vehemently hate buying leads. I mean they really hate buying leads.
Scott and I witnessed the problem first-hand as solar contractors. We would buy residential leads from various lead-generation companies, and would call homeowner leads that were either unfit for solar, or had already been contacted by 5 or 6 other solar companies. The goal for lead-generation was to monetize the lead as many times as possible, without giving the solar installer any insight into the homeowner’s solar potential before the purchase. There was inadequate qualification being done, and a fundamental lack of transparency for the contractor purchasing the leads.
What we provide is an extra layer of qualification with a turn-key, pre-designed system on the rooftop of every homeowner that expresses interest in going solar. The contractor is able to browse our Marketplace, and preview thumbnail designs for all qualified properties. Contractors only select the projects they want to take on, based on potential system solar output, the customer’s energy bills, and location, among other key data points.
Upon purchasing the prospect, the pre-designed system is transferred directly to their QuickSolar account, so they gain access to a new project and proposal that’s already been completed.
Best of all, these prospects are exclusive, meaning once it’s purchased, it’s automatically taken off the Marketplace. We believe in perpetuating quality relationships between the solar contractors and homeowners we serve, above monetizing the lead however possible.
If I’m a homeowner and I’m interested in going solar, how would I go about publicizing my roof on the Marketplace? What’s the benefit? How do you decide which homes do or do not fit the Marketplace?
In traditional online lead-generation, a homeowner will fill out a short web form to request a free quote from a solar contractor. If you live in a busy solar market, that website should have no problem putting you in touch with multiple solar contractors, sometimes 5 or 6 or even more, to make sure you get a competitive quote.
But do you really want 6 solar companies calling you incessantly to get your business? And how do you decide which one is the best company to choose?
QuickSolar teams you up with the single best solar company for you, based on your unique information, as quickly as possible. Through years of experience and a profound understanding of market conditions, we act as a neutral third-party that can recommend honestly and objectively how you should be taking the next steps in going solar.
If we don’t have a contractor lined up for you that meets your specific requirements, we allow the open market to determine the best fit. That’s where the QuickSolar Marketplace kicks in. Solar installers are able to decide for themselves if they think that your property meets their own set of standards and conditions, by first previewing a satellite image of your home and a preliminary design. They only choose the prospects that they believe they can serve, so as a homeowner, you know that you’re getting somebody who is going to treat you well.
This is a dangerous game. These calculators consider only regional averages when determining necessary production, without any regard to your actual site conditions. What if you only have the roof space for 10 panels, not 40? What if you have a giant tree hanging over your home? What if you don’t have any viable roof space at all?
Solar is complicated. Every home is different, just like every homeowner is different. Propagating regional averages, and telling individuals that this is their “magic” number, creates a lot of misleading information. The homeowner now has an unrealistic expectation on what to expect when going solar, further diminishing the contractor’s ability to deliver quality information once they’ve made first contact.
Upon a preliminary evaluation of your property using our QuickSolar software, if we determine that your home is not a good fit for solar, we will let you know why. Not everybody can go solar, and that’s okay…as long as you understand the reasons why. We still may be able to save you money by offering alternative solutions to reduce your energy bill.
What is the benefit of using QuickSolar technology for installers?
Since entering the market in early 2015, QuickSolar has been the fastest proposal generation tool available; in just 5 minutes, solar professionals can move through our software from project conception, through panel layout, to proposal generation. QuickSolar is robust enough to be billed as a residential and small-scale commercial design tool, and easy enough to use as a sales tool with very little learning curve.
As solar contractors, when homeowners would ask us simple questions like “how many solar panels can I fit on my roof, and how much will they save me,” our response would be “I don’t know. Let me get back to you.”
Now, installers can provide fast, accurate responses without any lag. Solar salespeople use QuickSolar at the kitchen table with their customers, to engage them in the design process, and create beautiful, professional proposals. It’s also used back at the office to create preliminary designs before an appointment, or on the phone with a customer, or at a trade show to get a quick estimate.
This is light-years beyond the old days of telling the homeowner, “I’ll get back to you.”
What’s your favorite feature of the service?
The QuickSolar Marketplace represents the next step forward in becoming a completely integrated sales solution for solar professionals. For the first time ever, we’re giving them the tools to acquire new customers, design a system, and close deals, all in one place. To me, this is very exciting.
For years, the solar industry has been struggling to find ways to reduce soft costs, which still make up 64% of the total cost of the system. High costs of customer acquisition and design, along with an antiquated sales cycle, are all a big part of that. And at the end of the day, these costs get passed down to the homeowner, which hinder our industry’s ability to compete against traditional forms of energy.
We aim to help fix that with one powerful solution.
What has been the biggest challenge getting QuickSolar Marketplace up and running?
From a technological standpoint, it really hasn’t been challenging at all. Our infrastructure is already streamlined, and our design tool is lightning fast; the engine is already built.
The key now is getting the word out, and letting solar contractors know that buying leads doesn’t have to suck anymore!
Where do you see QuickSolar Marketplace in 5 years?
We’ve mastered the ability to provide installers with the tools to get fast estimates to their prospects, but we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of the direct-to-consumer marketplace.
There’s a world of people that are hungry for the power to choose how they generate their own energy. We believe that this is a fundamental choice, and with falling costs of solar energy and the innovative financing vehicles available to them, solar power should no longer be seen as a luxury item. In many cases, solar is actually cheaper than traditional forms of energy, and people need to know this.
QuickSolar is going to shatter an antiquated sales cycle between the solar installer and the homeowner by pushing the limits of what technology can achieve. The solar industry has fallen behind in this regard; the “Internet of Things” has brought people real-time information across many platforms in many other industries to help them make more informed decisions. By building upon what we’ve already created with more forward-thinking technology, we’re going to empower people to answer the fundamental question: “how can I generate my own clean, renewable energy?”
Want to explore the QuickSolar Marketplace for free? Enroll in Alex’s free course and demo the product now!