Company: Solar Universe
The first thing that struck me about Solar Universe is the background of the team: the President and CEO Joseph Bono is a former owner and franchisee of a Quiznos franchise, as well as a software and consulting firm. Joe Miller headed consumer sales and marketing for TiVo TIVO -1%.
Joe confirmed that this DNA was part of what makes them different. “We’ve been in business for about five years and we are taking a franchise approach to the solar industry. One of the things we thought when investigating the business is that most companies are regional in perspective and there are only a handful of really big players. For most customers, there is no national brand. As a consequence, we found an industry ripe for marketing, sophisticated online tools, and aggregation of deal flow.”
“We are seeing an inflexion point with solar now approaching grid parity. People previously interested in solar were green enthusiasts, but now as the price point moves towards grid parity, we move from solar enthusiast to people trying to make money and insulate themselves from rising energy costs.”
“We can bring in things that can be done well at a big company scale, combined with local entrepreneurs – which is why the franchise model was hatched. Micro climates create big differences, so does local permitting and packaging, so local knowledge is necessary.”
The company is growing rapidly, doubling in size year over year, and capital-efficient. To date, they have required only one institutional round of funding from Rockport Capital. Miller indicates they are in the top 5 in CA CA -1.27% as far as solar installations, with the number of offices across the United States expected to total 53 by year’s end. The franchises must use one of three approved panel manufacturers and two inverters. This expedites processing and purchasing at scale. As soon as contracts are signed, the kitted racks, panels, inverters and other hardware are shipped to the franchise office. This centralized approach reduces the need for franchises to keep inventory or warehouse staff, while bringing installation times to less than 45 days.