Sungevity brings residential solar overseas

Sungevity, a venture-backed residential solar service provider, is heading overseas. The company announced Thursday that it’s made an equity investment in Dutch startup Zonline, and will license its software and provide engineering services the company.
The deal shows that Sungevity’s focus on software development is paying off. The company, founded in 2007, has built its business around its own suite of software for everything from marketing and designing solar energy systems to managing permits and installations. Oakland, Calif.-based Sungevity has long touted its software as a means to deliver efficient services to customers and seen software licensing as part of its business model.
The investment and business agreement with the Dutch company will expand Sungevity’s reach beyond the U.S. Amsterdam-based Zonline will not only use Sungevity’s software but also rely on Sungevity’s staff in Oakland to design solar systems and provide price quotes.  Zonline also will use Sungevity’s branding and marketing strategies to promote its service and build customer relationships, said Danny Kenney, founder and president of Sungevity. For example, you will find similar design elements on Sungevity’s and Zonline’s websites.
Zonline plans to inaugurate its solar service on Nov. 25 and will announce a bank that will finance home solar installations, Kennedy said. Homeowners won’t have to pay the upfront cost of installing the equipment. Instead, they will pay for solar with the same rate they pay for conventional power, and they get lock down that rate for 20 years, Kennedy said. The deal will be a hedge against rising electricity prices in a country that already has the second highest energy price in Europe and offers no solar subsidies.
Sungevity and Zonline came to work together because Sungevity’s CEO, Andrew Birch, used to work with Zonline’s CEO, Roebyem Anders, at BP Solar. Kennedy declined to disclose the amount of equity investment in Zonline, except that Sungevity holds a minority stake.
Although software licensing was a big part of the agreement with Zonline, it doesn’t mean Sungevity wants to license to whoever can pay for it. Kennedy said the type of agreement his company has in place with Zonline could spread to other parts of the world, but he doesn’t expect it to happen within the U.S., where Sungevity has been building its own brand, sales and a network of installers. The company moved from west coast to the east coast over the past year and signed up Lowe’s to market its service at Lowe’s stores.
“We want to be a lifestyle brand that owns the customer relationship. That’s where the value is,” Kennedy said.
Photo courtesy of Sungevity