4 lessons from a successful solar start-up

4 lessons from a successful solar start-up

Jan Slaghekke

The Bright Minds Challenge team interviewed Jan Slaghekke, Chief Global Officer at Sungevity, the world’s most energised network of people who power their lives with sunshine. We wanted to get an insight into what it takes to create a successful renewable energy start-up.

[BM] What inspired you to join the Sungevity team?

[JS] I joined Sungevity’s roof top revolution for 2 reasons:

  • The Potential of Solar: I saw the potential that Solar has to transform the world's energy system, bringing clean, decentralised local power to peoples homes and businesses. Sungevity’s approach made it simple to do and could lead to massive scale.
  • The People working in the company:  I was attracted to their mission driven spirit, all dedicated to bringing Solar to the masses - and all wanting to make a difference.

[BM] The Bright Minds Challenge is looking for people who’ve hit on something big and that demonstrate the drive and determination to see their solution through to success. What advice can you share with potential Bright Minds who are trying to scale up their own solutions?

[JS] The best piece of advice that I can offer to aspiring Bright Minds is to hire the right people - focus on aligning them around the direction of your company, then get out of their way. There are four lessons that I’d like to share from my own experience at a solar energy start-up:

4 lessons from a successful solar start-up
  1. Identify your strategy and values: Focus on outlining a cohesive strategy so the organization is clear on the direction you want to take. Underpin it with clearly agreed values that help maintain your culture and inform your hiring decisions.
  2. Bring in specialist talent: Bring in Talent for key specialist functions that you need to help you scale - but ensure the individuals fit your values and culture - if they don’t get rid of them early on  (fail early/ fail cheap). This is the scariest step when you grow. Initially you do everything yourself, but at some point you need to grow and take the step to professionalize and hire a HR manager, CFO etc. This brings overheads.
  3. Get the details right: Delegate and let them build the systems and processes to scale. But don’t forget to focus on the details and get them right. 1 degree off course may not seem like a lot when you start. Just like when you are aiming for the moon, 1 degree off course at lift off, when you are going at 1,000 km per hour, may mean missing your target (the moon) by 10,000 km when you get there. The same goes for when you are scaling rapidly.
  4. Keep aiming for your north star: You have to be a strong believer and keep the end game in mind. You will have successes and failures – probably more failures than you anticipated or are prepared for. Mindset is critical, just get up and keep going. You will get there. As long as you hold on to your north star...

Do you have a solution to advance the world’s shift towards 100% renewable energy? Enter the Bright Minds Challenge for the chance to get $100k worth of money-can’t-buy support from a team of experts chosen just for your project.

Images used with permission and supplied by Sungevity.

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