In this Solar Women Summer Series interview, Claudia Eyzaguirre, CEO at PVComplete, shares how her team is revolutionizing solar project design by offering software that builds solar projects faster, better and more efficiently. She also shares what it’s like to be the CEO of a young software company, her experience at SfunCube, resources for solar professionals and more.
SOLAR WOMAN: CLAUDIA EYZAGUIRRE
Talk to me about your career path to solar – how’d you get where you are today? Do you have any formal solar training?
The thread woven through my career path to now has been driven by action to mitigate global warming. For many in my generation, global warming has been a defining challenge. I have been working in solar energy for seven years. I moved into solar from environmental conservation work because I wanted to switch from defense to offense. What I love about solar is that we are always proposing a solution and saying “yes, build more”. I have a Bachelors of Science in Conservation and Natural Resources from UC Berkeley. After that I worked briefly in forestry and then I was lucky to fall into a rigorous year-long program for environmental organizing called GreenCorps. From there I worked on conservation issues with Audubon California before moving to Vote Solar.
It was with Vote Solar that I dug into solar and gained expertise in our the technology sector, energy regulation, demand and production. Vote Solar is an incredible organization whose impact far outsizes its footprint. When I joined the solar industry in 2007, the California Solar Initiative was starting up, I have learned along with the industry. I’ve worked electoral campaigns as well and each one is a mini start-up with fundraising, team building, and fast deadlines. Other career highlights have been developing the 2014 California Solar Permitting Guidebook with the Governor’s office of planning and research. That deep dive into permitting and plan sets was a perfect segway into my current project, PVComplete. PVComplete is a solar design platform. PVComplete is solving the softcosts issues around project design and optimization.
What does your day-to-day look like as the CEO of a solar software company?
Being CEO of a young software company means I do any job that needs to get done- outside of software development, thank goodness for my brilliant technical co-founders. My day consists of talking with customers about our project design solution, updating investors, meeting with my attorneys on IP filing, leaning on my advisors for council, communicating customer feedback to my software team and the product roadmap, and working with our web developer on marketing . Hopefully not all of those tasks in a single day.
You work at SfunCube, a co-working space. What’s that experience been like? How have they helped your company grow?
The SfunCube is a fantastic environment for launching a company. The support has been terrific. Running a start-up can have its bewildering moments and I can count on the others founders in the SfunCube for direction in those moments. Emily Kirsch and Danny Kennedy, the SfunCube founders and PVComplete advisors, give wise council and have innumerable introductions. Plus the SfunCube has become a destination for companies and investors looking for solar solutions so rarely a week goes by when I don’t make a new valuable connection.
Any other companies or people who have helped you grow professionally?
I have two great advisors to my company, Adam Burstein of NextPhase Solar (now Enphase) and Jenya Meydbray of PVEvolution Labs (now DNV-GL) who have both founded companies with successful exits. They help me set my navigation for this ship and crew. I also learned so much from my colleagues Adam Browning and Gwen Rose at Vote Solar. I am looking to add a woman advisor to our company, ideally a women who has grown a software company. The data continues to show that companies with women in executive positions are more successful.
How is your software transforming solar project design? Who do you want to see using PVComplete? What need in the industry are you filling?
PVComplete is going to revolutionize solar project design by building solar projects faster, better and more efficiently. We are bringing “kaizen” to solar design.
PVComplete is an automation and optimization design platform. We have built solar design functionality into the AutoCAD environment for project engineering and we are building a web proposal tool for sales. Unlike any other software out there, our platform offers a sales to engineering, end-to-end solution.
PVComplete enables a conversation between sales and engineering teams by creating a common language for project design. Right now, solar projects are design twice. Once in sales and again in engineering, PVComplete replaces that with a single design platform.
Our users are project developers, engineers and, soon, sales persons. Really anyone who touches solar project design. I am especially excited by our global customers who use PVComplete to learn how to design solar projects. With all engineering calcs under the hood, our software accelerates the learning curve of a project designer.
In your opinion, how can the solar industry recruit more women? Where do you see women fitting in within the industry?
Solar is a great industry for women. There are so many roles we can fill. We all just need to hire more women, save space for them at the table since the value of a diverse work place has been proven. I am especially excited to see more younger women get into engineering. My younger sister is an engineer and I think that her early exposure to my career in solar energy influenced her career choice.
Is what you’re doing today relevant to what you wanted to do when you were 5 years old?
I loved pandas when I was five years old. I believe the knowledge that pandas were an endangered species and faced habitat destruction lead me to a career in environmental solutions like solar. Does that count?
What do you need to continue growing as a company? How can the HeatSpring community and solar industry help you?
I am excited to offer training to aspiring solar project designers on the PVComplete design platform through the HeatSpring training community. HeatSpring is a great place to get the word out about our solar design platform. Look for a solar project design with PVComplete class in the coming weeks.
3 tips, blog, books, podcasts or other resources you’d suggest to someone hoping to enter the industry?
I love the data on EIA.gov’s website. To understand solar, you need to understand energy consumption, generation and usage patterns. It’s so cool how much information the US government collects and curates around energy.
GreenTechMedia Solar is a great read as well.
Solar Power International is the conference to get out and meet people in the solar community. We are a welcoming bunch. It’s very cool to see organizations like Women in Solar Energy and Women in Clean Tech and Sustainability holding events that bring women in solar together.
Anything else you’d like to share?
PVComplete has a free 30 day trial of our project design software available at www.pvcomplete.com.
The PVComplete team is always growing and we are looking for very smart, dynamic folks, especially women, to join our team.
PVComplete is up to exciting things, follow us at https://twitter.com/pvcomplete or www.facebook.com/pvcomplete
- Free Course: Solar PV Design, Code, Economics, Sales and Site Visits with Chris Williams, Christopher LaForge, Ryan Mayfield
- HeatSpring Course: Solar PV Installer Bootcamp Training + NABCEP Entry Level Exam Prep with Fred Paris
- Free Tool: 2015 Solar Startup Guide by Chris Williams
- Learn the financial modeling background and perspective often lacking in deal negotiations by taking our Solar Executive MBA Training Course with Keith Cronin and Chris Lord
- Learn more about women in solar via RenewableEnergyWorld.com (the exclusive media sponsor of this summer series)
- Check out the National Women in Solar Initiative webcast series hosted by GRID Alternatives and SunEdison
- Free Course: How to Use Solar Leases to Grow Your Solar Business with Chris Williams
- Study with Ryan Mayfield, Solar PV Technical Editor at SolarPro, by taking Megawatt Design