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The energy and climate crises mean businesses and homeowners are now thinking twice about where they get their energy from and how much they are paying for it.
Solivus is on a mission to simplify the decarbonisation of the built environment with lightweight solar so more businesses and homeowners reduce their climate impact, have more energy security and reduce energy bills.
Solivus are pioneers in lightweight solar tech solutions with solar that is 10x lighter than conventional panels.
Now raising on Seedrs, we sat down with founder Jo Parker-Swift to gain insight to her personal journey building Solivus.
We’d love to know about your career before Solivus and where you first found that entrepreneurial spark.
This is my third startup. I founded two businesses before with successful exits and now run a climatetech. With both my previous two businesses, I spotted a problem that needed solving and created a new market which scaled fast in the UK. One was a management training consultancy for a particular niche and one was a software company. Both were totally different but the skills needed to drive a successful business are transferable. I didn’t own any IP with either of those businesses but we did scale fast. The software company conquered 75% of the market. A great team and the right collaborations were the keys to success. It’s the same for Solivus– only this time we’re also working with hardware and IP and the potential is truly global.
What is Solivus and what problem are you solving?
Solivus is on a mission to decarbonise the built environment with lightweight solar so more businesses and homeowners can have greater energy security, reduce energy bills and lower their carbon footprint. New generation lightweight solar that is 10X lighter than conventional solar which solves the problems of weight and aesthetics that conventional solar faces.
We test and learn about new generation solar technologies and we then find new applications, and create new patented products and solutions.
The problem I initially identified was that a lot of people do not wish to put solar panels on their roofs because they don’t look the best. Many homeowners would like something that is ground-mounted, looks cool, is clean technology which uses no rare earth materials and helps them do their bit to help the planet. I was one of these homeowners.
Initially, I wanted to create a kind of solar tree and the Solivus Arc is how this idea has evolved. At the start it was not even about saving money but about energy security. However, given the recent developments with global energy, the Solivus Arc is now good for the planet and pocket.
The idea to target large commercial roofs came about as I was driving over Dartford Bridge one day. I saw loads of commercial buildings with no solar and discovered that the reason was the weight challenge with long-span building structures. There I was working on developing the Solivus Arc working with solar that’s as thin as paper and 10x lighter than conventional solar. Let’s just say it’s difficult for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset to see a market opportunity like this and not act on it.
With the current energy crisis, can you tell us how Solivus is positioning itself for success?
For commercial building owners and homeowners, Solivus solves the problems of energy security, saving money, and decarbonisation and where we can, we bring great design. We are positioning ourselves as the straightforward go-to company for lightweight solar solutions where conventional solar cannot be installed and design-led, ground-mounted solar solutions. We are focused on the UK first and then scaling internationally.
40% of commercial buildings have roofs that cannot use conventional solar panels due to weight or fixing issues. Solivus is helping turn commercial buildings into the solar farms of the future and what a year it’s been! Solivus are now revenue-generating, we have doubled our team again and we have delivered installations in our target markets including Airports, Sports stadiums and Warehouses. Now we need to scale fast to meet demand.
We do as a company try to keep things straightforward for customers. Our customers’ businesses are involved with flight, food or logistics. They are not energy companies. There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to generating clean energy onsite so we keep it straightforward. We are a one-stop shop. Rather than customers needing to go to designers or finance people, or engineering people, we help them through the whole process and remove the overwhelm they might otherwise experience.
Standard practice for us today is to look at their current energy demand in the building first. We then can scale up their solar energy capacity gradually. For example, they may go to an EV fleet later on or look to get battery storage onsite. Increasing their solar capacity as their electricity demands grow will save a fortune in the long-run but no one needs to start with everything right away. We offer a one-stop-shop of engineering design, installation, monitoring and maintenance and finance for our customers and collaborate with other companies to integrate their solar with other technologies such as EV chargers, building energy management systems and batteries. Everyone in this sector is having to learn and evolve fast to collaborate together.
On the product development side, we have our Solivus Arc for homeowners and many businesses are also interested in the Solivus Arc for their head offices. We also have other products in our roadmap to create from lightweight solar technologies.
What motivates you?
The team. They are an amazing bunch. The resilience and determination that they all show is quite extraordinary. I have had the privilege to work with determined people over the years but I have not experienced something like this with so many people pulling their weight and pushing so hard to succeed. I know this is going to sound cheesy but I literally love them. Everyone is thrilled when we have success but also sometimes a bit down if we don’t succeed at something. That is when I need to dig deep. Everyone watches out for each other and arranges to meet and work together on certain days of the week at the offices. We have no time for egos so we leave those at the door. Arrogance is a dangerous trait in my experience. We all respect each other’s role in the business. Everyone is valued and an important part of our success.
Why do you think now is the best time for Solivus to grow and what do you plan to do with the money you raise?
With everything that is going on with the energy crisis, Solivus are seeing a huge demand. We need to recruit a number of people to scale and expand and develop our products and solutions. We also have plans to scale internationally which will involve collaborations and we will need Solivus staff in those locations. We also need to train and invest in the existing team.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I can’t say there is a lot of free time right now but I do love the countryside. Spending time in nature makes me happy and I would love one day to be able to contribute and give back to nature with rewilding projects. A good walk and chat in the countryside, exploring somewhere new with family and friends at the weekends followed by a country pub lunch is my idea of a good day. We also have family in Devon and so we enjoy spending time on or by the sea.
What is your biggest challenge now?
At the moment, our biggest challenge is trying to scale fast enough with a long lead time on sales. Scaling the team to keep up with demand while waiting for larger projects to go through the sales cycle and bring in profit to grow. But we can grow bigger than the profit that will come in. It’s a case of balancing growth with careful cashflow management and investment. Luckily there is a great balance between myself and Director of Finance Nik Karyadis. When I get a bit too ambitious with expansion plans, he reigns me back in to what’s possible and when he gets a bit too cautious, I push forward a bit more – but always just to this side of the impossible.
If you weren’t building Solivus, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d be building another start-up. If I had won the lottery, I would be helping lots of other entrepreneurs build their start-ups. Given the odds of winning the lottery, my idea is that Solivus will give me that opportunity instead.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building Solivus?
I knew from my other companies that it is important to surround yourself with excellent talented people and to appreciate and value those people. Many of the skills and knowledge are transferable from business to business but this is the first business where I have had to raise money and have investors and so I have learned to choose wisely and appreciate the right investors. When the time comes to take on institutional investors which our growth and ambitions will need, I have learned that we must carefully select our strategic investors. Choosing the right strategic investors in the future will be as important as choosing the right people to join the Solivus team.
Solivus is a great opportunity to invest in innovative solar products. Check out the campaign page here.