SmashSolar began last year with two founders and a simple directive: make solar energy easy to buy, easy to install and easy to expand. Now, on the heels of a $500,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, the El Cerrito-based company is looking to private investment to expand its presence in the burgeoning solar sector.
The company’s signature product is the SMASH PowerStation, a platform of interlocking frameless modules the company says allows for installation in the half the time and with the half the parts of traditional installations. Co-founder and CEO Troy Tyler says that the product’s built-in mounting features differentiate it from competitors’ products, which must be manually attached in the field by installers. This reduces soft costs by “reducing installation time, streamlining logistics with less parts to manage and move around and greater crew utilization (greater revenue per worker),” he tells CleanTechIQ.
So far, the company’s efforts have been focused on product development and the company has not yet generated revenue. While the company has two early stage private investors, including a private family partnership and WS Investments (the investment arm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati), it is currently seeking angel investors for a convertible note investment of $500,000 to $750,000 targeted to wrap up in March 2014. Tyler says this is part of a larger strategy in which the company will then seek equity financing of $1.5 million to $2 million scheduled to close in the third or fourth quarter of 2014.
Venture capital funding in the solar space has been on the rise, from $189 million in the second quarter of this year to $207 million in the third quarter, according to Mercom Capital. Likewise, the sector has seen a number of acquisitions, including the purchase of SmashSolar’s key competitor Zep Solar by SolarCity for $158 million on Oct. 9, and Mercury Solar Systems by Real Goods Solar for $18 million in August. The DOE’s Sunshot Initiative, meanwhile, awarded $16 million to 17 solar startups like SmashSolar this year, which are addressing solar’s rising “soft costs” such as the installation and financing of solar panels. The department claims to have leveraged more than $1.7 billion in venture capital and private equity investment through the program.