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Aviv Shalgi is the Co-founder and CEO of Solar Simplified, a community solar platform where homeowners, renters, and businesses signup to purchase discounted solar energy credits from local solar farms. Local solar farms are large sites of solar panel arrays, usually in rural areas, that produce solar electricity to the grid. How community solar works is you purchase solar energy credits through Solar Simplified for less than traditional electricity from the utility. What makes community solar exciting is the credits get applied directly to your electricity bill, reducing your electricity bills to zero or near zero, and the local solar farms get funding to keep adding more solar panels and solar electricity to the power grid – it is a program where everybody profits and the renewable energy infrastructure gets built.
This a huge plus for the massive electricity infrastructure required for electric vehicles. The benefits to signing up for Community Solar programs with Solar Simplified is a no cost enrollment, quick search for solar credits in your area, pay as you go for the credits you receive, and you can cancel the subscription at anytime. Also Solar Simplified will make sure your discount is applied when purchasing solar credits. Community solar is becoming popular because traditional economics make it not practical to add roof top solar panels to apartments, homes, or office buildings. (Check out the State of New York community solar program). With community solar, you never have to add roof top solar. All the solar energy comes from the solar farm. Check Solar Simplified to see if your area has solar credits availability.
Can community solar survive without subsidies from a state?
What happens when subsidies for community solar programs go away? What happens after that? Aviv believes it depends on regulation. He says most of the regulation around renewables, not just solar, is actually on a state by state level. It’s not federal. The technology is advanced enough that the price has declined enough for it to make sense from a business perspective. There is not a lot of maintenance that you have to do once you build a solar power plant. You have to wash the panels and make sure they don’t get too much dust or too much snow that blocks the sunlight. And unless something breaks down, it’s generating energy.
You don’t have to do a lot of operations and maintenance. And so because it’s a very stable asset, the returns will never be sky high. It is not a software startup, that’s going to have hockey stick growth. You know exactly how many panels you’ve installed, you know what their production is going to be. So you can figure out how much revenue you’re going to make every day, every month, every year. And so, the government subsidies are important, not necessarily because of the business model anymore, but more to accelerate the deployment or the growth of this industry. If you want to let it run by itself, it probably can. But it’s going to be very slow. Because the returns are not going to be very high, it’s not going to be as lucrative for a lot of companies to get in.
Aviv helps us understand where the government needs to step in. He says it is not necessarily the subsidies, it’s the regulation. It’s streamlining the process of where can you build a power plant, how big or how small it should be. Who should be able to buy it. The fact that some of the local governments, some of the state governments are also trying to push for this accessibility for this mass market adoption together with Simplified Solar. He think that’s great. But some states are not pushing for that.
And so in those states, Aviv asks do they have an incentive to go B to C versus b2b? Maybe yes, maybe not. It really depends on the regulation. So it’s not just about the money. It’s about showing the process of how do you build this thing? Who do you connect to? What are you allowed to do versus what you’re not allowed to do? And that’s a process that Aviv thinks the world and the US in particular has to go through, that we have to think about for the better of society, not just the better of this business owner versus that business owner.
Interested in finding solar credits in your area? Use Solar Simplified to get started https://www.solarsimplified.com/
And now here’s Aviv Shalgi.
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Community solar helps reduce your electricity bills. You receive solar credits and continue to get electricity from your utility.
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How Community Solar Works and Why You’ll Have it Soon.
Aviv, welcome to the podcast.
Great to be here, Mike, thank you for having me. Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time ever since I got approached with the opportunity because
not only am I really interested in, in solar, which is your your current project, but I’m really interested in how entrepreneurs are built and where they come from. And you,
you know, as everyone heard in the introduction of Eve has been, he’s been around. He’s been, he’s been, you know, everywhere, multiple careers, military,
venture capital, you know, he’s just been everywhere, and that, I just always look really, really forward to talking to people like that, so that I people like him so that I can learn and experience at least a portion of what is going on in their mind to help make me better help improve my thinking. So, and I don’t want to build you up too much of you to
doubt it. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. So I started every one of my shows with a simple question, which is, how did it happen for you?
I think it’s a great question. And we can, we can try to dig into it a little bit. But I think
I got to solar simplified, and I maybe I would start with the end, I get to where I am today.
By trying to surround myself with awesome people.
And kind of after I thought about it for a little bit,
you know, throughout my life kind of trying to look at myself back and what they do, right, it’s it’s a lot of listening, listening and asking the right questions.
And, you know, I’m a tech entrepreneur, even though I hate that word. It’s tackler entrepreneur, the entrepreneur, okay, everybody says that they’re an entrepreneur, it’s really cool to tell people, you’re an entrepreneur.
Unfortunately, I have a good friend who’s also an entrepreneur here in Chicago, and told me that there are also a lot of one entrepreneurs, people who just want to be seen.
So kind of makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable with that word, calling myself then.
But I think kind of throughout my life, I switched careers a few times. You know, I started in the Israeli military,
as an officer, doing all sorts of cool stuff around satellites in space and things of that nature.
And, and at some point, I said, this might not be the right, the right way for me to right path for me, you know, for for the distant future. And this is talking about my 20 year old self, you
know, during that time, and so, I switched careers, I went to engineering, I worked at hardware and circuit design at Intel. And after a few years doing that, I figured that that’s not the thing for me. I mean, I love technology, I’m really passionate about it. I’m not a fan for coding, and all of my developer friends will have to excuse me.
And so I switched careers a few times, I went through consulting and, and a little bit of entrepreneurship, also in the startup scene back in Israel. And some venture capital kind of that led me to where I am today into my last most recent two startups,
it was mostly about trying to listen not to what people are saying, but kind of to the underlying theme behind their words. What can I figure out that people are not saying, but our meaning, or maybe they’re not meaning but it’s in the back of their head.
And, and I usually really like to stick to the, either the, the, for the order jobs examples, you know, with Ford went to ask people, you know, what they wanted, way back when it was a faster horse, it wasn’t a car. And, and Jobs had a similar phrase. And, and if he asked people, you know, back then when it was simple phones, they wanted, I don’t know, a fast or simple phone or something. They didn’t want a smartphone, because it just didn’t know that it exists. Right. Exactly. So those are kind of the things that I’m looking for when I’m starting a new a new adventure.
So let me let me ask a thank you for that. Let me ask you a few questions. First of all, your friend who’s sort of talk to you about this entrepreneur, entrepreneur, which I don’t think I’ve heard the entrepreneur thing before. That’s kind of cool. What what
did he mean or what do you mean? Now when you say, Oh, I don’t I don’t? I’m not comfortable using the word entrepreneur. It sounds like maybe there’s it’s
overused or it’s, I don’t know, what are you? What? What was he? Are you thinking about that? A little bit a little bit.
It’s, it’s now the there’s a joke. In Israel and also in in a lot of other countries in Europe in the Middle East, that nobody’s unemployed, everybody’s want everybody’s entrepreneurs.
And, and I feel also here in the US,
a lot of people want to be seen as entrepreneurs, because they think it’s cool.
You know, if you’re really successful, it’s really cool. But most people are not really successful. Most people are not Bezos, or Ilan, or, you know, jobs or somebody like that.
And it’s really, really hard. And kind of winning the title without doing the work is something that,
you know, at least from what I’ve been hearing, you know, around, it seems like that’s, that’s a bet that some people are trying to take,
which I mean, good for them. I’m not definitely not here to judge anybody, but it just makes me a little bit uncomfortable using that word. Okay. Yeah. So, I mean, basically, if I’m, if I’m reading in between the lines, you entrepreneurs, build something.
when they build something, typically,
size may not matter, but it’s, it’s something that’s built
with people and with process and with
production, productivity, or mean, or whatever, it’s got all these components to it. Am I reading into that the right way? Yeah, yeah, I think it’s also, you know, it’s, it’s the, it’s kind of like a roller coaster, you have a lot of struggles, you have a lot of ups and downs. And it’s hard. It’s really, really hard, doesn’t matter if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you know, you don’t have any employees, you don’t have any vendors, you know, I know a bunch of content creators,
you know, YouTube, and you know, podcasts and things of that nature. It’s still a struggle, you kind of can’t get to the success without falling a little bit along the way.
So, it’s, it’s, I don’t know, it’s
what I think of entrepreneurs, I just think of like, they’re really very successful people that everybody knows. And I’m definitely not there yet. So I’m just struggling with the definition. Well, one of the great things about calling yourself an entrepreneur is that, along with that, you can also attach any title that you want to your present position. So you see a lot of people that are CEOs of their
companies and I, so I, I started a company, it got to about 45 million or so in sales before I sold it. And I never felt comfortable calling myself a CEO, because I thought CEOs run big company, right? It is, it’s to say you’re a CEO, in my mind at the time, and maybe still was like, I’m not that I wouldn’t. But I’m not that I’m right. I’m a scrappy, you know, business person, maybe an entrepreneur as well. But I’m not, you’re not going to put me in, you know, at
the top of Apple or Google and expect that I’m going to see Oh, my way around the organization. It’s probably yes.
Yes, I feel the same way. Okay. So you said something really interesting, about listening and asking the right questions. And then you said,
you know, trying to get into underlying themes. And it got that got my attention, because that is certainly
not easy, right? Being an entrepreneur, but I wanted to get into how you have learned to, I guess, attack that or
maybe attacks too strong of a word, but how have you learnt how have you learned to sort of nuance that because when people say, Oh, you have to ask the right questions, I often say okay, well, how do you know what the right questions are? Because I could think my questions are the right questions. And you can think your questions are the right questions, and maybe one of us is right, and maybe one of us, maybe I don’t know. So I just wanted to see how you think about it. Yeah. I don’t think there are right questions. Like if somebody comes
To me, you know, one of my employees or friends or, you know, anybody from, you know, from the startup community that I’m trying to kind of help and volunteer and advice for? I don’t think there are stupid questions. People say, excuse me, I have a silly question. There’s no such thing.
It’s, it’s not the question itself, as much as it is the process of asking that question, listening to the answer, and then responding to what the answer was. So instead of saying, Okay, I have these 10 questions, I need to go through them. And you kind of shoot your way to the target. Yeah, just like, here’s one, here’s two, here’s three, here’s four. How about, start with the one that’s most interesting for you, or the broadest one, you know, how did happen? And listen to the response, try to dive in or dig in from there to where you think is most interesting? Or where you know, where you you’re looking for some sort of an answer.
And for me, you know, kind of when you grow up as a kid, you’re, you know, you learn to ask a question, get an answer, that’s it. And that’s the education system all around the world, because it has, you know, volume problems, you’re not the only person there asking the questions.
But I think as a grew up, I kind of learned, I don’t know if that’s in high school or the military, but I kind of learned that you shouldn’t accept the answer as is you need to understand where it’s coming from, you know, and again, I I spent my time in the intelligence community in Israel, you can’t just accept the answer that you were given.
Because, you know, the biggest thing about gathering intelligence and kind of protecting, you know,
protecting your, your, your military, your friends, you know, the country, etc, is about understanding if somebody is making a mistake.
And making sure you’re getting the right Intel, for us the wrong intolerance. So you have to kind of dig in a little bit. Nothing a very annoying way, obviously, but trying to understand what’s behind the answer that you’re, you’ve been given.
And I think that, you know, even throughout my life, both in engineering and getting consulting, and obviously now in, in, in kind of startup scene,
a lot of people will, all of us don’t have time,
all of us are running towards something or somewhere, and we’re busy. And people don’t have time to dive deep into conversation. So you’re going to get a very superficial answer if you’re going to ask a question. And,
but that might not be good enough, it might not be what you’re looking for. So you have to kind of have this dialogue, and continuously ask. So what do you mean by that? What is not what the answer is? But what’s the feeling behind it? What’s the motivation behind it? What’s the thinking about? Whatever the question or the topic might be around?
Kind of again, going back to the to the iPhone versus simple phone example.
You know, it’s not that you want necessarily a smarter phone or a faster phone, you want a more convenient phone? You want something that, like, if you would, you told somebody give me your dream phone, not something that you think like the next iteration? Well, what is it that you would want to do? Oh, I would want to get rid of my PDA, you know, and not carry two devices, I would want to carry one. Oh, if I’m already getting rid of a few devices, can I get rid of my laptop to just carry this? Like, if you have a serious dialogue where you’re trying to kind of look, in retrospect, or introspect or something like that into what’s the underlying theme.
After enough conversations, maybe you would have gotten to the smartphones that we have today.
But as a superficial answer, in five seconds, you wouldn’t have gotten there because nobody’s thinking about it. Nobody’s thinking of the next leap. People are and myself included, you know, we think about the next step, not the next, you know, 10,000 miles. Sure, sure. So So as I was listening to you, I was thinking, Okay, so it’s maybe it’s not about being the person that asked the best questions. Maybe it’s about following the answers.
If you follow the answers, that something that maybe a lot of people don’t do, they ask a question, they get an answer, and they move on, as you said. Question. It’s
Did I move on? And maybe what I heard what I, what I think I heard from you is follow the answers which I, which is a good, it’s a great answer. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, yeah. And I can’t I can’t tell you that I’m a master of this. Don’t get me wrong. Yeah, I think it’s a skill that all of us need to practice and learn.
But I can give you an example.
Solar simplified, was
not something that I thought about myself.
I don’t come from the energy industry, especially not the one in the US, I did have a few energy projects way back when when I worked in consulting,
kind of management, strategic consulting. That was 10 years ago, I’m definitely not connected to the industry. But after my previous startup, which was in the real estate tech industry, not an energy by any means. After that one got acquired, I was, you know, COVID started, I was networking, a lot of those networking apps and gadgets started popping up.
And, you know, I was doing that, because I wanted to pass the time and get to know new people, and you know, all of us were locked in at the beginning, etc. And
I accidentally got connected through all of these apps to a bunch of people from the solar industry. And, you know, usually you present yourself and the other person presents themselves, and then you get to chit chat.
And I think after the fourth or fifth phone call that I had,
I kind of said to myself, I think I heard this one, okay, like the person was voicing some sort of a concern or struggle, they’ve been going through that day, and said,
Gosh, I swear to God, I heard this already. Like, who told me this? And I started kind of going back, and all my calls and try to find the emails that I had with with these people said, Oh, you know, I got connected to four or five different people in the solar industry. How about I go back to the first one? And, and figure if that was the person who told me that? And he wasn’t, but he said, He’s also struggling with with this type of problem. Oh, okay. Let me go to the second person. And I basically just reached out to all of that, you know, all of that group. And they all said, yeah, that’s, that’s, that is a concern, that is struggle that we’re having.
And like a lightbulbs come up, okay, five different people from, you know, the same industry said they’re all struggling ground something, well, maybe there’s a problem here that I can try to solve. Okay, let’s start researching, start talking to more people try to figure out if I can solve it, you know, if the skill set that I have.
That’s kind of what led us to starting solar simplified.
So it’s just a lot about listening and trying to figure out how do you connect the dots? So let’s stay on that track. Because again, that was a good way of following the path of answers, you know, backtrack to find people, but how did you? Let’s stay on that, then? How did you get connected with your co founder, solar simplified and actually take it from, you know, I’m listening to these different conversations, and I hear either the same pain point or some type of problem that’s not being solved? How do we
I, that was also in an accidental introduction.
I was introduced to a person in my alma mater,
just because we’re both alumni of the University of Chicago.
And, again, it was mostly from the networking portion. It wasn’t from, you know, thank you of entrepreneurship or business or something like that, who later on introduced me, to one of my partners in the company, and also to one of our investors as well.
More in the sense of, it’s Chicago, it’s COVID, everybody’s networking, everybody needs to figure out what to do with all of their spare time.
I know these folks, you know, at least that’s what he told me.
You know, I know this few folks. And he also introduced me to a bunch of other folks that nothing came out of, I mean, they’re great people. And I got to know a few more people here in the Chicago scene. But
you know, one of my partners, or I’d say both of my partners, they don’t come from the startup scene.
They come from the energy space, they don’t even come from solar just come from traditional energy, and things of that nature. But one of them, I know has a lot of experience around coding and could tackle that because as I said in the beginning, I’m not a fan of your anger. Even though I would if I have to do it. I will
No, just not my, my passion.
And they, they kind of came from the energy industry. But we all had to figure out, are we the right match for each other? And is this the right thing that we want to tackle? You don’t miss a group? And then kind of putting on top? Okay, this is the problem that I found in solar, does it make sense to all of us work on this together? You know, how does each person think about it? You know, finding co founder is very, very hard.
And from, you know, my very small experience, I only had three.
And in the first one, I was the one joining I wasn’t the one co founding. So I would say to where I found my co founders. It’s, it’s a lot about personal chemistry. It’s it’s almost like dating.
I heard a podcast the other day
with with a venture capitalist from from lightspeed, who said that there was a recent study, and I might butcher his his quote, obviously, but there was a recent study in the valley
co founding a startup on average, lasts longer than marriage in the valley, like in California.
Because, apparently, which is sad, apparently, a lot of people are getting divorced there.
But it’s, you know, and he said, Well, it’s, it’s even harder to compare that to marriage, because apparently, marriage and color marriages in California don’t last as long as, as co founding startups,
you have to have some personal chemistry with your partners, you have to make sure that you’re kind of on the same vibe. And it’s really hard to know, you know, you you, you do a little bit of dating, you meet them a couple of times if you don’t know them already. And we try to talk about what each person’s passionate about what each person’s experiencing,
trying to figure out what they’re saying versus what they’re not saying. And kind of learn, because it’s really speed dating, it’s not like you’re dating them for many, many years.
You know, and you’re trying to gauge if these are the people that you would want to get into a new venture with.
It’s like speed dating with an intelligence angle to it. Right. Right. Right. It’s speeding without falling in love, which is I think, yeah, harder. Yeah. Even harder, because you don’t have those emotions. And you don’t have, you know, maybe for your, your, your spouse or your partner, you’re gonna let go of a few tackles here and there, because you have those, you know, those emotions, with your partners, those are business partners. You know, if you get into a tackle, you don’t have, you know, a defense mechanism of some sort that could help you get through it as easily as you do. Maybe if you’re if your spouse.
So it’s definitely hard. Definitely hard. I definitely had a few offers in the past that they chose to let go. Why? I mean, I can tell you that those weren’t necessarily good or bad decisions, but just didn’t feel right.
Yeah. And here, it felt right. Okay, how do you know, I didn’t, it’s a gut feeling. It’s a gut feeling at the end of the day, you you can never know. And I’m usually very cautious about falling into the analysis paralysis trap.
At some point, you have to call it quits and say, This is the information that I have,
I will never get to 100% information, like that’s just not possible. So I believe that I have 90% or 95% of the information. And if I don’t believe that I have, I’m going to try to pursue that. But I need to get to a certain point where I say, okay, I’ve invested X amount of time. Now the decision needs to be Am I going for it or not? You know, am I am I launching the new startup with these folks? Or or not? Am I am I going for a different industry or not? I mean, gosh, do I even take the next job? You know, or not? It’s it’s, it’s it’s those types of decisions because you never know, right? Even if you’re, if you’re not an entrepreneur, if even if you’re just a person who’s looking for a job and you’re listening to this,
and, you know, a lot of a lot of folks will tell you, oh, you have to interview the employer as well. Or you know, for entrepreneurs you have to interview your investors
That’s never ending. I mean, sure, you can ask a few questions, you can have a meeting or two. But you can’t keep going forever because they have, you know, other things to do as well. And you have other things to do.
So at some point, you have to call it quits and say, Okay, this is the amount of information that I have. Is it good enough to go for it or not? Am I taking that leap of faith or not?
And you kind of have to trust your gut feeling a little bit and hope that your gut is right. Yeah. It’s a good point, though, about
not just the gut, but analysis paralysis as well. I mean, if you wait for 100% of any decision, you’re likely going to be waiting for a long time, whether it’s a co founder, whether it’s a spouse, or whether it’s, you know, what, what I should have for lunch today, you know, if you wait for 100%,
you’re not going to get very far in life. And I think, in fact, that’s what people that’s what keeps a lot of people from getting where they want to go, because they are always at the point where they think they only have half of the information they need, let’s say, when when really,
even if you only have half, that’s all you’re getting. So are you going to go forward or not?
But yeah, it really scares people to people want certainty in life. That’s kind of how we’re built right? regularly. And that’s what makes maybe people like you different is that
you realize that certainty would be great, but it’s also something I could chase forever and never, never, never find. I’ll never get there. And so I’ll be stuck. always waiting, always waiting. Right? Which is fine. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, at the end of the day, it’s, it’s as long as it’s a conscious decision, that you’re telling yourself, I’m okay, not moving forward. Until I feel certain. That’s okay. I mean, you’re, you’re understanding that you might be missing things along the way. Because you’re looking for that certainty, that’s totally fine.
I have a lot of friends who are, you know, not entrepreneurs, they’re great friends, and I and I love all of them. And, and it’s okay, you know, they know that it’s not for them, that this roller coaster, they want something stable, whether they work at a corporate job, or you know, academics, or anything like that,
that is totally fine, as long as you make a conscious decision about yourself.
Okay, so if you’ve taught us, let’s take this, let’s hop on this roller coaster analogy that you that you’ve used a couple of times, because
solar has traditionally been, I think, something that people would would consider to be a roller coaster, right? You know, Solyndra
kind of always comes to mind is, you know, this
trash transformational solar company that turned out to be, you know, not very transformational for whatever reasons. And so solar has sort of always
it sort of has this history of being, it’s great. But how do we actually do it? How do I do it? How do we do it in a way that, you know, works well competes? Well, with the other options, you know, maybe gets away from being needing to be government subsidized, and all those things. So you’ve chosen to get on that roller coaster? immediate? And probably because you think it’s the right time, you know, that the roller coaster is on its way up that steep incline, as opposed to, you know, headed out of control down
the other side, but I think most people listening probably don’t, they’re probably not that
mean, they know what solar is, but they’re probably not that up to speed on what’s happening in solar and listening to someone who’s co founded a solar startup. I think they’d want to know like, what’s
up obviously, have a have a bullish outlook on the future, what’s changed and what can people expect? And what is solar simplified actually doing? What problem? Is it solving?
Sure. So maybe, let’s start with with your first question. The industry.
Yeah, two questions. I yeah. Let’s start with the bigger picture first. Yeah. I think for the last few decades, that solar has been a very like buzzword. And very hyped, most of us have been talking about mainly rooftop solar.
And if you look around, and and, you know, a few nonprofits in the industry ran ran sort of
And in the last couple of years,
about 80% of Americans, and it kind of goes out also to the rest of the world too. But But let’s stick to the statistics here. But 80% of Americans can’t put solar panels on their roof, because they are renters. So they don’t own the roof, so they can’t put anything on it. Because the roof is too old, because they don’t have the money to afford to put panels on the roof. Because they live in a shaded area, there’s not a lot of sun, or maybe there’s a lot of trees, obviously, you’re not going to cut down the trees in order to have sunlight that’s kind of beats the point.
And there’s a lot of other reasons why the majority of us can’t participate in kind of in that path forward. And in my view, when I was kind of looking at this industry as a whole, I was asking myself way, well, why isn’t anybody trying to solve it for the 80%? Why is everybody focusing on the 20%?
You know, I would want let’s say, as a renter, I would want to have the ability to get solar energy to my house. Is that something that’s doable?
And I think, you know, I joined this industry, or we started solar simplified right now. Yes, because I’m bearish, but also because they think that we need to have those discussions, you know, with other industry partners, with the regulators and the politicians,
in order to kind of shift that paradigm, from talking about rooftop solar, into larger scale, solving the 80% problem, and not just the 20% problem. And that might lead me to to what we do in solar simplified.
Because it’s a nice segue.
We come in and basically Connect everybody, everybody has an electricity bill to a solar power plant in their area.
And by doing that, first of all, there’s no installation needed on their property. So they could be a renter, and it could be a small business owner that owns a shop, or it could be somebody who lives in a high rise, and, you know, is 20 floors under the roof. So installing something wouldn’t be relevant for them.
Basically, anybody and everybody.
And on the flip side, by going to solar power plants, we’re getting economies of scale, and the power plant gets economies of scale, because procurement, when you buy, let’s say, 10, or 20, or 50,000 panels, is cheaper than when you buy five panels,
the labor costs and the permits, and all of those other costs are now being split, to more and more households and more and more panels.
So it’s a lot more cost effective, it has internal efficiencies, you can get to better production of solar energy through that. The problem is these solar power plants, if they would go and do it themselves, they don’t have anybody to buy that energy from them. So what they’ve been traditionally doing is going to the large corporations, fortune 500, fortune 1000 companies.
But then, first of all, all of us, you know, as people, as consumers, all of us get blocked from that industry. So we’re here to provide everybody access to it. But more than that, to the developer. And we call developers, the folks, the companies who are building these power plants, that’s kind of the industry jargon. But those folks who are building these solar power plants, they’re kind of stuck, because they can only go to the again, fortune 1000 companies, and who’s stronger in that negotiation.
A fortune 1000 company who can go to as many of these developers as many of these power plants as they want, versus you, as the company will just build one or two or five of these and are looking to find, you know, somebody to buy that energy from you. The corporation is usually the one with the power. And so, you know, you’re being squeezed out that the revenue is not going is not coming and you’re putting a lot of your eggs in one basket. So the risk is also very high. Let me ask a clarifying question. So So am I hearing you right where the power plant the solar power plant developer, is basically it historically, has been looking for sort of a client to do
Take all the power that they’re generating is an example. And in that relationship, the client
who could buy from any solar power plant, let’s say has, you know, leverage, is that correct? Exactly. Okay. And so what you’re doing is you’re basically providing a distribution network to the solar power plant
developers. So that they’re basically operating like a utility would, where they build a plant, and then they serve, you know that they serve anybody who needs to plug something in, let’s say, right, right, my on the right track there, perfect, perfect. But unlike I would say, unlike utility, that wins
all of its customers, because they’re a monopoly, they’re a local monopoly, you have to you have to compete, you have to persuade customers that this is the right thing to do. But the interesting thing is, the cost of solar energy has been going down tremendously over the last decade,
because of wider manufacturing of the solar panels
around the world, you know, the technology has advanced things of that nature. And so now, if you want to connect to solar energy, it doesn’t actually cost you more, it costs you less. And that’s something that most customers are not aware, because they didn’t, they never had access to this industry. So they didn’t even know that the thing that makes me most passionate about what we do, is it nobody pays for this, the customer saves money, did power plant makes more money, and we get our cut for facilitating all of this. And nobody actually has to pay the pie is just growing. Because of this market anomaly where the previous customers of this industry, the corporation’s had all of the leverage, and they would squeeze out, you know, the margins for everybody. And we never had access to it. And you and I, we can’t call our utility today and try to negotiate our price. This is that, you know, cell phone plan where you can switch, right, some some states, you have, you know, deregulation where you can maybe switch supplier, that’s, um, let’s say a third to a half of somebody to Bill, but you can switch everything. And I think what what we do is generate you that savings, without having to go through all of that switching process, we work with your utility hand in hand, because I’m not going to put wires from the power plant to everybody’s homes, I’m going to use the wires that the local utility has put.
But the outcome is that you’re going to save money on your belt, you’re going to see our product as a coupon or a gift card, if you will.
That is shown as a negative amount, it will never, it’s not not necessarily a fight over, I’m going to charge you less. I’m just going to save you money. And the way I’m able to save you money is through this anomaly in the market that we’re trying to utilize and get everybody access to. So is there presently, in this whole equation? Is there a desert continue to be government subsidies? Or are these solar power plants sort of privately funded without? I’m just whenever I hear like, oh, there’s the subsidy that’s attached to it. And that’s what makes it attractive. Right. Getting a little concerned because I think Okay, with that goes away, then what happens? That happens? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Great question. I would say the answer is, it depends.
Most of the regulation around renewables in general, not just solar, is actually on a state by state level. It’s not federal.
The federal government
does have some support around renewables in general.
But, yes, you do have companies who do this without that government support as well.
Because, as I said, the technology is advanced enough and the price has declined enough for it to make sense from a business perspective.
The problem is, we’re talking about very, very long term assets. We’re talking about something especially in solar. There’s not a lot of maintenance that you have to do once you build a solar power plant.
You know, you have to wash the panels and make sure they don’t get too much dust or too much snow, or something like that, that blocks the sunlight. And unless something breaks down, it’s generating energy, you don’t really have to do a lot of operations and maintenance and stuff like that, again, apart from cleaning and making sure things are working.
And so because it’s a very stable asset, the returns will never be sky high, you know, it’s not a software startup, that’s going to have hockey stick growth, you know exactly how many panels you’ve installed, you know what their production is going to be. So you can figure out how much revenue you’re going to make every day, every month, every year.
And so, I think that the government subsidies are important, not necessarily because of the business model anymore. But more to accelerate the deployment or the growth of this industry, if you want to let it run by itself, it probably can. But it’s going to be very slow. Because the returns are not going to be very high, it’s not going to be as lucrative for a lot of companies to get in.
I would say even more than that, I think where the government needs to step in is not necessarily the subsidies, it’s the regulation. It’s streamlining the process of where can you build a power plant? how big or how small it should be? How should you know who could buy it, the fact that some of the local governments, some of the state governments are also trying to push for this accessibility for this mass market adoption together with us? I think that’s great.
But some states are not pushing for that. And so in those,
if a business owner comes in, you know, one of those companies that want to build a solar power plant, do they have an incentive to go B to C versus b2b? Maybe yes, maybe not. It really depends on the regulation. So it’s not just about the money. It’s about showing the process of how do you build this thing? Who do you connect to? What are you allowed to do versus what you’re not allowed to do?
And that’s a process that I think, you know, the world and the US in particular, like we have to go through either things that we have to think about, for, you know, for the better of society, not just the better of this business owner versus that business owner.
You know, if we want to drive renewable forward,
I think not just because we care about the green also, because we care about savings, you know, if the cost is going down, versus you know, fossil fuels or other types of renewables.
This is something that we need to pursue. As a society, we all want to save money at the end of the day, why pay more if you can pay less?
And I would also say, you know, the third thing from from the government standpoint, and I wouldn’t quote a specific instance, but we’ve had a few instances of blackouts in the last few years, in several states more than a few rolling out in California, for example. Right, right, we had that we had Texas, we had a couple of other states as well.
It’s also, you know, the regulation here will also need to come from a point of diversification.
If you have more types of energy generation, you’re a little bit more stable, because you’re splitting your eggs on multiple baskets versus putting them on a small amount of baskets.
I think the path that we’re trying to take with solar, going to small scale to mid scale solar power plants, not the huge, huge solar power plants. If you bundle up, if you aggregate a lot of small to medium sized, if one goes down, the others are still there.
So it’s not just a diversification in terms of, you know, the type of energy that’s being generated. It’s also the fact that it’s dispersed, you know, throughout the state.
And it’s not that big in size. That kind of brings the risk down to it’s it’s you know, a lot of people are talking about micro grids and stuff of stuff like that.
This is another step in my mind of making us a little bit more stable. If one goes down the others can potentially pick up the slack.
If you have a huge power plant of any sorts, solar, wind, fossil fuels, etc. If one goes down, you’re in a big problem.
So that’s kind of the third angle that that that we’re
Trying to drive for, you know, when we’re having conversations with, you know, regulators and politicians, and, you know, the folks that that determine what the what path is going to Are we going to be led to? Right? Okay. But how in that example? So you’ve got to you’ve got a distributed power generation.
network? And but what about the distribution? Because I’m not quite sure on that, doesn’t it? Doesn’t the distribution go into the wired infrastructure? And okay, so you still have that as sort of a common.
That’s like the common highway delivery highway, right or? Right, right. I would say, unfortunately, at least as far as I know, nobody was able to invent or figure out a way to make that a viable business. That delivery, the transmission of energy from point A to point B. And so I believe, and and maybe I’m wrong, maybe another startup will come along, and and figure out something that works from a business perspective.
But I think it’s the same thing with cable, it’s the same thing with cellular towers, etc. The infrastructure is usually not, by itself, not a good business model, which leads to government subsidies or government contracts, and you put it once
you know, the utility, pulls up the wires once to your house. And that’s it, and they get paid by the government just for doing that just for enabling us to have water in our homes, electricity in our homes, you know, etc, gas, etc.
So those things, yes, it’s a bottleneck. But as long as we work together with the utilities instead of against the utilities, I think that we can reach a place where everybody’s happy, because they get paid for providing us a service, you know, they can take a small fee.
And, you know, everybody can see that fee, you know, on their monthly bill, you pay a little bit for the energy, a little bit for transmission or the delivery. And then you have all sorts of fees and taxes and things, things like that. Yeah. Okay. So one step at a time, you know, one step at a time you diversify the production network
first, so that you’re reducing co2, and you’re doing all these things, and reducing cost and other things that are important. And then we wait for transmission options, because if we’re still all tied to the same transmission network, we’re probably still at risk.
If that’s, we are we are I think you’re compromised or whatever. Yes.
I think the good thing is about transmission, just to make sure all of our listeners are not panicking right now. Oh, sorry, I don’t damage the majority of the states, I think almost all states in this country are interconnected to other states. So unless you’re specific, you know that the copper wire or the metal wire that’s connected to your house, unless that broke, because I don’t know what tree fell over it or something happened.
Most likely, if one state gets hit, if Illinois gets hit, we’re connected to a bunch of other states in the Midwest, okay. And they’re also connected to other states, etc. So we have pretty big networks, just in case something like that happens.
But yes, the more diversification we have, the more energy sources we have that are local, you know, the lower the risk is going to be.
So when you think about the future, and I know you’re just, you know, kind of getting started with this, but I guess I guess before I go to the future, where, where can people work with solar simplified now presently.
So we launched originally, last year, last summer in the state of New York, in upstate New York, and we kind of go in through the state of New York into New York City as time passes, so if they if somebody lives in the state of New York, obviously, we’re already operating. We’re have about 1000 households that are connected to us.
getting their energy getting their savings paying their bill, and everybody’s happy. We launched in New Jersey just a couple of weeks ago in Central New Jersey, think about like the Greater Philadelphia area, but on the New Jersey side.
And we’re already working on expanding into multiple other states, Illinois, Maine,
Maryland, Virginia, Vermont, like and the list goes on and on.
So the goal is to get everywhere, then. Yes, yes, the goal is definitely to get everywhere.
But, again, since we’re facilitating the connection to a power plant, well, that’s powerful and needs to be there. Yes. And that’s not something that I can flip a switch and create, somebody needs to find the land, get the permits, built the power plant. And we try to partner with those companies, we were not trying to build our own power plants.
But that also takes, you know, time to find those power plants and kind of facilitate that connection.
So it kind of expansion throughout the entire country, it takes a little bit of time.
Also, because of the regulation, as we mentioned, every state has a little bit of different regulation, we want to make sure we’re following you know, it’s to the tee.
So we are looking to expand obviously, throughout the state, but that the country, but it has to be on a state by state level. So when I think about this on a macro level, and keep in mind, I have no idea how, you know, solar actually gets to how a power plant works, or anything like that. But when I just think about it on a macro level. And I didn’t think this way for a long time. But recently, I started to get it that solar energy and wind, let’s say are the only two energy sources.
They’re not the only two, but they’re the biggest two energy sources that are free. They’re provided by nature, natural gas, coal, oil, all all has extraction costs, there’s no extraction cost to sun.
But say, the so you think right off right off the bat, at least in areas where the sun shines a lot and shines hot, there would be a huge advantage, right? Because the sources is free.
And so then it comes down to how you convert the source and every source needs to be converted, as we’ve been talking about every source needs to be converted, so that can be used has to be turned into electricity. You know, let’s say it’s because that’s what we use. Right?
So given that it says, and they’re probably parts of the parts of the world already, and maybe isn’t maybe in Israel, I don’t know. But there probably are parts of the world already already where solar energy is less expensive. Now without a government subsidy than
than any other type of widely used power. And when I think about wind, it’s very mechanical. So even though the sources, free nature, these windmills, it says they’re so mechanical and so expensive, and so maintenance driven, and all these things that make them cool to watch. But, you know, you think about data, no footprint, mechanical, everything, it’s kind of turned you off a little bit, but the sun is free. So how do you think so? So am I right? There are places in the world right now, where solar is
competitive or less expensive than anything else? Without a subsidy or no?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know, I haven’t looked at each and every country around the world. But you’re definitely right in your assumption that, you know, the more sun there is, the more energy is going to be produced. It’s not necessarily true when it comes to temperature. Higher temperatures actually take away a little bit of the efficiencies of solar panels, for example. So it’s interesting, one of the solar power plants we’re working with in upstate New York,
they had a snow storm, I think it was back in late December, early January, in over there in that area. And all of the ground
had, you know, massive layers of snow. Luckily, the panels because of the shape and you know, the angle didn’t get a lot of snows they were still kind of producing energy.
After that snow storm, you know, head left into snow state on the ground. And the interesting thing was this just a side anecdote,
because of the cool temperature with the sunlight, the production of energy actually went up.
So it’s it’s a little bit of a conundrum. I don’t know if anybody actually researched it to the point of saying, well, these are the best places in the world to put solar panels.
I do know that you know they’re working on things in Africa and Australia. And and there’s a lot of projects in the you know, the Israeli desert and in the Middle East.
But because the the temperature goes up very hot in summer days and spring, it actually hurts a little bit of you know, of the energy production.
But I think that, you know, to your earlier point, there’s a lot of different types of renewable energy sources
That that the point of renewable is that it’s there, you know, streams are flowing. If you put a small, you know, small generator inside that stream just harnesses the power of the water flowing through.
You’ve just generated a little bit of electricity. Sure, well, if you’re going to build, you know, one of the streams, you know, dams, let’s say, like the Hoover Dam, there’s a lot of repercussions
to those types of actions. So I think
every different type of renewable energy source,
there are cons to it, you know, there’s, there’s nothing that’s perfect. You know, money doesn’t grow on trees, unfortunately, and you can’t get energy for free.
It just doesn’t exist.
So, you know, in solar, everybody’s talking about the panel’s think the good thing about the panels is that we have 20 3040 years to figure that one out until the time when the panels are not going to be producing enough energy. And we’ll have to figure out how do we recycle them, versus other types of energy, where the disadvantages might be today, and not necessarily 20 3040 years.
So it’s definitely, in my mind, a great, you know, great venue to go through. I think,
again, kind of piggybacking on to my previous point from a couple of minutes ago, I think we have to diversify, I think we need to have waned, and we need to have solar and wind to have hydro. And in places where you can do geothermal, you know, you dig into the ground. And because the ground is very hot, a few miles under not, you know, not digging a foot or two, but a few miles underground. If the ground there is very hard, maybe you can harness that heat in order to spin a turbine or something like that, and generate,
you know, renewable energy.
And, yes, have a little bit of natural gas to and have, you know, maybe coal, coal or oil as backups not running all day long. But as backups should a blackout happen, or should something happen, we have to kind of diversify. We can’t put all of our eggs in one basket or a small number of baskets, because then we’re risking those, you know,
those six sigma, those unfortunate events that nobody thought are going to happen. But when they do happen, you know, we don’t want to get hit, you know, the black swans of the world. Exactly. Yeah. So well, thanks for that education. By the way, that was really great. So before we go, I don’t, I haven’t had a chance to have someone like you on who, you know, grew up in Israel was in the IDF.
And I’m, I’m just a little curious about what that world is, like, you had mentioned that you got to work on some really cool intelligence and other types of projects while you were there, while you were in the service. And I’m just, I just want to get sort of a, an understanding of what it felt like to, to grow up where you did and be there. And then why, you know, what, why did you end up here? You know, you’re in,
you know, here here and starting a business here when when Israel has a very robust startup entrepreneur culture of its own.
Yes, that’s, it’s very true. I can, I can start from the end. I’m here because I came here to get my MBA in the University of Chicago.
And, and I love Chicago, and I ended up staying, and my wife is currently doing her master’s. So she’s in school.
And so we’re here because we stumbled on it. definitely wasn’t intentional to, to pick Chicago of all places, even though we love this city. It’s an awesome city to live in.
I think, going back to your first question about growing up in Israel,
it’s definitely a very interesting place to go to grow in. And you know, I love it. My family’s there. My friends are there. It’s kind of like my culture. And I’m sure I’m like, we’re gonna go back. When? I don’t know exactly. Probably, if you ask our parents, you know, yesterday, but but, you know, we will definitely go back.
I think it’s, at least from the entrepreneurial perspective.
It’s the it’s a very interesting and very entrepreneurial country to grow at, because it’s a country that started not too long ago.
With a lot of folks that don’t be
Like it’s in the area, and and weren’t trying, at least, you know, back in the 40s and 50s, and 60s, you know, a lot of countries were trying to eliminate us or get us to go away.
And it kind of brings up this sense of, first of all sense of camaraderie, but also sense of entrepreneurship. Because you have to figure out how to get out of this tobacco, and how to be able to live your life with your neighbors, hopefully in peace, or at least not in war.
And it’s a tiny country, half of it is desert. So how do you grow food? How do you figure out how to kind of get, get get away with the wasteland that used to be there.
And I think that’s, it’s I don’t know, if it’s an environmental thing are a cultural thing. But it gets instilled in you, as you know, as a child in, you know, elementary school and in high school, that you kind of have to figure things out, you see people figuring things out. And obviously, today, you know, it’s so much more advanced, you know, first, I think it’s a first world country or first or second.
And, you know, there’s, there’s corporations and high tech and low tech and a lot of other things. So I think today, it’s a lot more stable, obviously, you don’t have to reinvent yourself as much as we had to in the past. But it’s still there.
And I think one of the good things about the military is that it takes you out of the comfort zone,
it takes you out of your comfort zone, it forces you to do something for the greater good. That’s not just in your best interest.
And it also forces you to learn collaboration and teamwork. Nobody works alone in the military, not just in the idea that the American military and other types of places of service, you know, worldwide.
And learning to work with people convince other people that you know, what you say, or what you think is the right way to go. Learning how to argue, is something that’s extremely important.
But then, really doing something for not just for yourself, but for the greater good.
Is, is definitely something that is in my mind, also, you know, extremely, you know, inspirational. But it’s, it’s also very helpful. I mean, if you think about it, most entrepreneurs,
yes, they do it because they want to be successful. But if they could have been, they could have taken much easier paths in being successful, like entrepreneurship, statistically speaking, is a bad bet. It’s not the right way to go, if you think I’m going to be an entrepreneur, I’m going to make a lot of money.
And easy and fast.
probably not going to happen.
Unfortunately, that’s just the statistics.
And, you know, I applaud every small business owner and every entrepreneur out there because they’ve taken the harder path to create something, not just for themselves, but for their employees and for their customers and for their vendors and for, you know, the local government because they’re paying very high taxes usually, you know, as they get started,
they’re doing something that is it could be great for themselves, but it’s even if they fail, they’ve contributed to society. So that’s something that that I personally applaud and kudos to everybody who’s trying to do that.
All right, well, I appreciate you going down that road with me here at the end that was that was really good. I I I wrote a lot of notes on what you said thank you for that appreciate you sharing. So I’ve Eve solar simplified comm is the company’s website. How do people connect with you what’s what’s your preference.
So if it’s anything related to solar, simplified solar, simplify comm put in the contact us or if you’re a customer and you’re interested, fill in your name, start the signup flow. And we will reach out to back to you if you’re not in our area, or we’ll save your details for when we get to that area. Even if I didn’t mention your state, I would
encourage you to start signing up. We won’t take you through the entire signup flow if we’re not in your state, but it helps us figure out where people are interested in where we should go next.
On a personal level, if you’re an entrepreneur or startup person or a business person, you want to connect with me
Ask questions or ask for advice or just share your story. Usually LinkedIn is the best way to go. I also put my my email over there so people can reach out.
And I’m, you know, happy to be a resource to anybody who’s looking for for a different perspective.
1:05:19 Well, thanks so much for coming on the How to happen podcast. I’ve even really appreciate everything you shared with us and and i and i, I’m impressed by what you’re doing at solar simplified. It’s a good idea, a really good idea. Thank you very much, Mike, and thanks for having me.