The reason that Kerim Baran is my co-instructor for the Solar Entrepreneurship class – the reason that I always come to him with solar startup questions – is because he did it. He started a business in the solar industry. Sold it to CED Greentech and now he’s an investor and startup advisor.
So my question for Kerim is: What are three solar startups that everybody should know about?
Kerim Baran: That everybody should know about? Well, everybody active in the solar industry and most leaders of solar companies should know about – I’ll talk about some of these companies I’ve actually made small investments in.
I’m an active angel [investor]. I’m no big private equity-type investor. I don’t like that world too much. I like to support entrepreneurs when they need support the most, which is usually in their early stages. So I nurture relationships with them, even at the idea stage and help them hopefully to their first fundraise or second fundraising, perhaps to their first revenue and maybe designing the solution.
That’s kind of like what I love to do. And so some startups that have been in my radar and I’ve made small investments and helped, their founders in the recent years.
Bodhi is one which is led by Scott Nguyen. He’s an amazing guy that worked in Shell, he’s a Harvard physics, PhD, and he’s innovating on a problem that he actually experienced when he was going solar in Texas, putting solar in his home.
The installation process takes two to four months, generally, maybe longer in certain cases and how convoluted it is. So he actually built a CRM extension app is what I call it that runs alongside Salesforce, Zoho or whatever is the platform that is organizing the sales and operations activity for a medium size installer.
Let’s call it or small to medium size installer. And it’s an app that goes in the hand of the homeowner and the installation companies, team ops and sales team to facilitate communication better from the point of contract signing all the way to the end of installation and thereafter. So that’s one company that I really like.
Another company is ChargeNet Stations. They are, essentially building a supercharger network that competes with Tesla. There is not a really strong supercharging network besides Tesla around the country. But actually on highways or close to highways and ChargeNet Stations is one such company with,DC to DC superchargers.
It’s the solar carport battery combination solution that also is targeting the parking lots of quick serve restaurants. So they also have food ordering app APIs to even be able to pre-order your food before you get there or order it while you’re waiting while the car is charging and so forth.
That’s another one that I really like. And I also made a small investment into that company.
Another company that I love and I’ve been helping for a handful of years is CollectiveSun, which is a, a specialty finance company focusing mostly on the nonprofit sector in the US. So, putting solar on the roofs and properties of churches and synagogues and mosques and YMCAs and clubs and all sorts of nonprofits. They have a special tax equity optimization product that saves extra money for the nonprofits. They also have the capability to finance the remaining amount either through their SEC approved crowd funding platform, as well as other financing options.
They’re a very, capable and innovative team that’s working on some exciting stuff and I’m, closely, working with them on some new, exciting products as well.
So those are my top three.