I have been keeping notes on many of the startups in Albuquerque so that I can eventually write up nice articles about them. I thought with SunPort launching their Kickstarter now would be a great time to try to write one up. There is still time to participate in their Kickstarter.
SunPort is a unique solar company focusing on the demand side of solar instead of the supply side using phone apps and their flagship product the SunPort.
Most solar initiatives have focused on generating solar. Installing solar panels is expensive and time consuming. Many people who might want to support green energy and solar usage can’t afford solar panels, might rent and not put them up, might travel and move too often, or might like the idea of solar, but not enough to go through much effort to get it (probably the category I fall in).
SunPort buys the credits generated by solar panels, bundles them as SunJoules, and the allows the user to keep track of their power usage and offset it with the SunJoules. They have cell phone apps that let you do it with your Android or IOS device right now. Their main product is the SunPort. It is being kickstarted now and is a plug you can take anyways to always keep track of use SunJoules for.
Awards and Major Events
SunPort was in the 2014, inaugural class for ABQ ID.
They placed 3rd in the 2014 Tech Fiesta Pitch Contest, watch the pitch.
They went to CES in early 2015 and pitched to get on Shark Tank and were in the final running. I am assuming they didn’t make the cut because I haven’t heard anything, on the other hand they might not be able to talk about it if they did make it on the show.
They then went to SXSW and won the Fallon StarterKit Pitch Contest in March.
With the help of that win, they have launched their Kickstarter.
The Good and the Bad
I think SunPort is doing solar right. In an free market world without mandates and subsidies the way solar would compete is by people voluntarily paying more for it. We don’t live in that world, but it will still have the same effect. Their products give consumers an easy, fairly inexpensive way of showing their support, advertising them support, and actually affecting the market in a small way.
Even more than their product I love them as an Albuquerque company. There is probably only one startup that I would be more confident in staying in Albuquerque. They participate in events, support the community, and have expressed their dedication to staying here. Money, buyouts, investors, etc, can all change that, but based on the things I read I think staying in Albuquerque is a top priority for them.
Finally, their blog is one of my favorites. A primarily reason why I started this blog was that I would hear about events in the city (pitch contests, tech meetings, hack-a-thons), but never hear about the results or what happened. I decided that other people would be interested, so when I go to events I should write about them. The SunPort blog is one of the few I found that also does this. They write about the events they have gone to and participated in.
On the negative side, the SunJoules are incorporeal and so it needs to be really clear where they are coming from. A common complaint is that it feels like snake oil. I can take your PNM bill and then sell you solar credits as a green indulgence, but that isn’t actually doing anything except putting money in my pocket and clearing your conscious.
They have done a good job on explaining the mechanism, but I think they need find some way of being more transparent to the user so they can see when enough SunJoules get retired is backed by a solar credit.
Two things that add to the over all snake oilyness of it:
One, they aren’t clear on the revenue. I think if they describe how they plan to make money it is easy to believe they are selling a real product. I see they plan on licensing the technology later, but it isn’t 100% clear from what is public how they plan to create a profit, are they taking a cut of the SunJoules? Are they passing them along at cost and hoping to make enough through licensing or profit on SunPort sales?
The second is the over the top marketing. I think people are programmed to see lots of expensive marketing as trying to distract the consumer. Lots of money on marketing and something that isn’t 100% clear or simple to explain and I think it turns people off as potentially scammy. A lot of people I have shown it to get turned off by the video immediately I think because of the over the top marketing at the expense of technical explanation. They have one of the highest production value Kickstarter projects I have ever seen, probably a result of the Fallon Pitch Contest win, but I don’t know if that is a good thing.
SunPort is one of my favorite Albuquerque Startups (top 3 for sure). I have loved the community involvements by the company and employees and think they have a good product that has a lot of room to grow. I view them as having the potential to be the first big success story for all the investment in the Albuquerque startup community and a company that will be inspiring and helping other startups in the area.
Paul Droege has several interesting audio interviews on their blog.
One of the better articles I have read about the SunPort.
If you have anything to add or correct, let me know in the comments.
Also I want to do more of these for more companies so if you have any suggestions or feedback for the format, content, etc. let me know.