Climate Cycle Ride

Team PVPower took part in a great event this past Sunday to support Climate Cycle, an organization that raises money to help Chicagoland students execute sustainability projects.

Team PVPower at Climate Cycle

I’m happy to say that our team raised just under $3,000 for the kids! Awesome stuff, that we at PVPower, are quite passionate about – solar, sustainability and renewable energy. We also lucked out and had a beautifully sunny day to bike 20 miles of Chicago’s beautiful lakeshore.

Looking forward to next year!

Cheaper Solar Power – Introducing Soltastic! Group Buying for Solar Professionals

Soltastic! Cheap Solar Deals

At PVPower we’re excited to announce the launch of our newest product, Soltastic! – group buying for solar installers. Our goal is to aggregate demand, create massive savings and pass those savings on to homeowners and installers so the overall cost of solar comes down.

Similar to popular group buying sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, Soltastic! brings together buyers for a single, ridiculously cheap solar deal. Savings will be up to 70% on solar panels, inverters, racking and accessories. Once enough buyers are in the deal tips and everyone enjoys the savings.

Soltastic! Solar Deals Video from Soltastic Deals on Vimeo.

Manufacturers and suppliers are thrilled to have access to this often-elusive group of independent buyers and the installers love the idea of getting cheap solar panels by working together.

We’re reducing the cost of solar by cutting some fat out of the supply chain and helping solar installers work together to increase the speed of solar adoption in the U.S.

That’s Soltastic!

Soltastic! Solar Deals

Soltastic! Sign Up Page

Lessons Learned from Pitching our Startup

Nick Yecke of PVPower Launches SolarBear

Early last week our company PVPower presented in front of over 200 investors from throughout the country, along with friends and family at the House of Blues in Chicago. ‘Demo Day’ marked the conclusion of the Excelerate Labs 2010 summer start-up incubator program in Chicago. All of the companies knocked it out of the park with their presentations. The amount of preparation, focus and precision by the group was truly a pleasure to see unfold.  The mentorship of Sam, Troy and Brian (Excelerate leads) was crucial to the show being deemed one of the best people have seen. I don’t think venue selection hurt either, you know what I mean if you’ve ever been to the intimate, yet slightly eerie House of Blues Chicago.

I was fortunate to present the PVPower demo/pitch for 10 minutes on stage last Tuesday. A very gracious introduction by Chuck Templeton only helped me as I took the stage. In preparation for and during this great day I learned a few things about how to pitch and position a company to a wide variety of investors and mentors. Here are a few of my personal insights:

1. Be Real – When presenting something that you know intimately, in a high-pressure situation, it isn’t the time to fake it. Be yourself. Use your style, your emotion and your words in describing the business, challenges and solutions. If you don’t do this you’re likely to fail.

2. Have Fun – We had a ton of fun putting this presentation together. Dan (my business partner) and I wore green PVPower shirts, obnoxiously orange Puma’s and one of our co-workers even dressed up in a Polar Bear costume to help launch our new SolarBear web application. SolarBear (the Polar Bear) was in the first balcony and I gave him a shout-out mid-presentation. Bringing a smile to everyone’s face, including mine – now that sure eases the pressure.

3. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. – This seems obvious, but true preparation takes weeks and requires guidance from a variety of people, co-workers and mentors much smarter and experienced than yourself. You don’t need to take all of their suggestions, but do look for trends and listen closely because these people know what they’re doing and likely have done so in the past.

4. Pretty Pictures – Nobody has ever said that there were too few bullets on a PowerPoint slide. People hate words, they like stories, and investors love numbers (as they should). Support the numbers with awesome, striking visuals that make the numbers memorable. This is how the audience will remember key points, and at the end of the day that’s what you’re going for, 2-3 hooks that the audience (in this case investors) remember about you and your company.

5. Simplify – Only talk about the headlines, the key points that are crucial to drive home. Use devises such as music, video and imagery to reinforce your points. We used an awesome video (below) created by our friend Matt over at Vidiseo to explain (in a very simple manner) the problem that our customers face. (video password is “solarbearvideo”)

PVPower SolarBear Intro from Nick Yecke on Vimeo.

More from TechCocktail – Excelerate Labs Demo Day

Full Excelerate Labs Demo Day Photostream over at Flickr

thanks for reading!

PVPower Featured on TechCrunch

Very cool, nice coverage on TechCrunch… the article highlights Excelerate Labs and our Summer 09 classmates.

PVPower Excelerate Labs Article on TechCrunch

Excerpt from the TechCrunch article…

We recently wrote about the launch of a Y Combinator and TechStars-like startup incubator in Chicago, Excelerate Labs.The program’s nine fledgling startups are set to graduate from the inaugural session of the incubator in a few weeks. Here’s a brief look at the startups that will be graduating from the incubator.

PVPower: The startup simplifies the installation of solar power projects by developing a productivity tools for solar installers. The web-based application allows any contractor or installer to source solar panels, learn the best practices for installation and more.

Read full TechCrunch Article on Excelerate Labs.

Karma Police

My post on project from yesterday… cool project they have going on. Check it out….

Karma Police.

And I’m not thinking Radiohead here, more importantly life and USA soccer. To be perfectly clear I’m about as far from a soccer fan as you’ll find. Sure, I’ll watch a World Cup match or two if it’s convenient, but it has just never had the same place in my sporting ‘heart’ as football, hockey, basketball or baseball.

I digress. Karma Police showed up in a BIG BIG way for the US soccer team today. As I’m sure you’ve seen by now, Landon Donovan scored one of the biggest goals in US soccer history today with just 3 minutes and 15 seconds left in the match. And my take? Luck? Talent? Sheer will? No, team USA had it coming, this goal was inevitable.

Full, original post can be found at the3six5

Rebooting Chicago’s Tech Scene w. PVPower

Very cool feature in the Sunday June 20th Chicago Tribune, focusing on the Chicago tech scene, specifically investments in local companies and the growth that is currently occurring. Our company, PVPower, was featured in the piece as part of the Excelerate Labs program. We even have a nice screenshot of our site at the top of the article, next to some other great Chicago companies. Full image below and here.

Chicago Tribune - Rebooting Chicago's Tech Scene

Excelerate Labs – The First 3 Weeks… Already?

I can’t believe that we’re in the third full week of Excelerate Labs, man time flies. Our company, PVPower, has been luckily selected as a participant in the inaugural class of the Excelerate Labs start-up incubator program in Chicago. So far it’s been an incredible experience.

Excelerate Labs

The incubator is being run by Sam Yagan of OKCupid and SparkNotes fame and Brian Luerssen of Hyde Park Angels, among others. There is a lot of leadership and support being provided by Troy Henikoff of Northwestern University, SurePayroll and OneWed, Sandbox Industries and Kapil Chaudhary of i2AFund. So far all of our colleagues in the program have been nothing but impressed by their organization, tynacity and connections. The third piece I mention is the key, connections. I’ve been blown away by the quality of people who have given their time and energy to this program. To coach our up-and-coming businesses, provide council, resources and advice – many of these things you couldn’t even buy, especially from people of this caliber.

I’m looking forward to the next 2.5 months of Excelerate Labs, it can only mean great things for PVPower and our future. Working with the folks we continue to meet and developing relationships is a lifelong value that I couldn’t be more thankful for.

If you’re a business leader, entrepreneur, investor, technologist, or simply a wise old (wo)man please drop Sam and Brian a note and let them know you’d like to participate, I’m sure at least one of the companies could benefit from your experience.

Excelerate Labs…

The 6 Foundations of Digital Creative

I love this presentation. A colleague of mine (thanks Jordan) found this and shared it with the team. Every creative and media shop should have these six, what I’d prefer to call principals, in their back pocket when moving into an assignment and should always strive to one-up previous efforts. Obviously being squarely on strategy and accomplishing objectives is key, however these principals will get customers and potential customers there much quicker. And you’ll have some great work to show for it!

A bit of a cheat sheet, here are the 6 Foundations discussed within the presentation:

Ideas Should Be…

1. Interactive
2. Customizable
3. Contextual
4. Entertaining
5. Playable
6. Useful

This was originally presented at the AdAge 2010 Digital conference by Ashley Ringrose who runs BannerBlog. There are great examples, of yes banner ads, within the presentation – many of which are clickable. This ad from Nike has to be my favorite. The combo of unexpected entertainment and product exploration is great. Not an easy nut to crack.

Take note, gain inspiration and use these foundations as a guide to great digital ad work.

Google Docs, Major Upgrade (Or So They Say)

Today Google released details on an upgraded Google Docs platform and I’m hoping this means that three key shortcomings have been improved with this release. I’ve always had trouble with three things, hindering me from using Google Docs for everything, everyday:

1) Importing DOC and XLS files into Google Docs and retaining their formatting

2) Exporting these documents and retaining their formatting

3) Editing complex spreadsheets within Google Docs

The overview video below sheds some light on these shortcomings and seems to show hope. I haven’t fully tested Docs against these features yet, but my hopes are high. The idea of using a single, central place for all my documents, spreadsheets and presentations is fantastic and real time collaboration is a benefit you never knew you needed until you try it.

Today I use Google Docs for some simple spreadsheets, shared across a group and for collaboration on documents as they’re being created – these features are invaluable. If only Google Docs were more fluid with MS Office that would really accelerate the adoption of the platform.

Now if Google would just let me use a single login for all my Google accounts – gmail and business – it would truly be a one-stop-shop.