SM: What is the financing strategy that was utilized to build this company?
DK: We did a faint angel round with a couple of institutional investors. We raised $2.7 million in 2007, mostly from friends and family, including Cate Blanchett and her husband. My partner’s family is out of New York and is invested in different ways. We also had two institutions, a German company named Solon that I knew, as well as a fund that the chair of Solon has.
We have taken some convertible notes since then. Total we have raised about $4 million. We do intend to raise more capital for expansion reasons, but we are not going to go to the market right now.
SM: I am assuming you can carry on without another round of funding?
DK: We can’t go as fast and hard as we would like to. We are talking to some partners and some potential strategic investors. One thing we do not want to do is get caught in the shakedown of the solar market. The fact is that there has been way too much investment upstream. What we do want to do is have representation globally and strategic partners. We are trying to raise some funds this year.
SM: How much would you like to raise this year?
DK: If we went out to institutional investors we would go for $10 million. We will likely take some chunk below that and fill the gaps with partners. I should note that we have been beating our projections. Last year we beat them by a couple hundred thousand dollars.
SM: You have validated one piece of your business model, which is to get customers to request installations on your site. The backend still needs to be validated because you have been using your own subsidiary.
DK: I agree. We don’t have enough to brag about yet. We are launching it April 22, and we are confident we will be successful.
SM: I think you are in this at a good time, especially with this administration. You have a good chance to validate both of those models because the timing is working.
DK: It is very exciting for me personally as well. One of the highlights of my career shift was when I went to China to do some supply chain verification. I went to a factory: 500 megawatts, sand in one end and modules out the other. It was still in construction at the time. I had been doing some work with Greenpeace in China, and this factory was the thing that we had written about 10 years before, in 1997.
I feel that same enthusiasm about the debate that is going on right now in the United States. It is so much better than during the past decade of denial and stupidity. There is such a business opportunity here. The wealth and job creation we are going to go through in this decade is incredible.
SM: I don’t think it is a big issue if China does the manufacturing. These things are going to get installed, which will create jobs that are not outsourced. It will allow the service industry to scale.
DK: They are great careers with great rewards. Using middle-class consumers to drive demand for scaling production in volume terms to be consumed there, that is the real meaning of technology transfer. That is what is actually how we can displace grid-based electricity.
I don’t think solar is the only silver bullet. It will probably be 20%-25% of the grid. I think that is doable by the 2030s, and it will be done by 2050 for sure.
SM: In America only? I don’t see India getting there.
DK: I think it will be globally. It depends on how fast India’s new grid connection happens. In the US and Europe you can do it. That is just market force.
SM: If I have this cash machine sitting on my roof, that is really exciting.
DK: That is what it is like in Europe. Anywhere south of Rome you are making a good amount of money. We are talking to a fairly new network of installers around Italy. Their concern is to get something to help them sell it faster because it sells itself.
SM: I wish you all the luck in the world to scale your business. This has been a great story.