SM: Are you an exchange hub matching contractors with consumers?
DK: It is not as e-marketplace as that sounds. We need to have a more concrete relationship between us and the customer, us and the contractor, and match them appropriately.
SM: In what way?
DK: In that we need to be clear that the contractor we provide for the customer is going to be very good and do a quality job. We are not going to sell the lead to the highest bidder. We want to have a relationship with the customer. We are selling this incredible technology which takes fuel free from the sun and creates cold beer and warm showers for the next 25 years. It sits on the customer’s roof and they own it as an asset. It adds value to their home.
It will need maintenance. The installation phase is tricky. We want to have a good conversation with the customer going through that to ensure confidence in our brand long term. It is a fairly deep relationship to be mediated by the Internet, but at the same time the Internet allows that these days.
SM: Let’s assume I have decided to install solar panels on my roof and I go to Sungevity.com and fill out an application form. What happens on your end?
DK: There are two platforms involved, the customer portal and the contractor platform. On the customer side you simply go to our website and put your address in, and a map emerges with your home. We ask you to confirm which roof is yours because sometimes the geo-coding in the map services is not entirely accurate.
SM: Is that through Google Earth?
DK: It is through Microsoft Virtual Earth. Once you confirm your home, we ask some basic questions which differ based on geography to account for such things as utility providers. We ask for the number of kilowatt hours based on the last bill to get an idea of the load your home consumes.
Within 24 hours you will get an email from us with a password-protected link back to our website which brings you to a private space. You can then look at your solar options. We are the first in the industry to provide an almost immediate turnaround as well as a schmorgosboard of options. You can have a big system or a little system depending on the size of the roof.
SM: Does it detail your cost right up front?
DK: All of that is drilled down and presented very cleanly. We give you a picture of the home showing where the panels would be placed on the roof to help you see the aesthetic impact the panels would have on your home. We also show you the 25-year impact installing the panels will have on the home, right down to the bottom line, which is return on investment. The industry to date has failed to explain that properly. It is an incredible economic asset which makes money for customers over 25 years. The ROI we are getting in California and San Francisco with government rebates these days are crazy, with 30%-50% rebates on $10,000 or less.
An American in 2009 can’t do better than investing in a solar system. You are not trusting a bank or the stock market. As a matter of ROI, it is a solid thing to do with your money.