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Startup Feature: EVOLVsolar

EVOLVsolar is a participating startup in Batch #2 of The Accelerator, helping Albertans realize the benefits of solar energy.

An interview with Michael Daciw, Founder of EVOLVsolar

EVOLVsolar is a group of construction, design and electrical experts trying to help Alberta realize the benefits of solar energy while providing a cost effective and efficient online platform for purchasing solar installations.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your company came to be.

My partner Jeffe Li and I were previously oil and gas management executives. When the downturn hit, we saw the writing on the wall and left our jobs to start something in the renewable energy space.  While we are blessed with an abundance of fossil fuels in this province, we believe that Alberta needs to redefine itself as an energy economy including sources like wind and solar, and we want to be a part of that story.

My background is a bit different than the average entrepreneur.  I’m actually an actuary by trade and worked for a large insurance company for about a decade.  I then traveled for about a year and a half and spent time working with social enterprises before entering oil and gas doing M&A, overseeing HR, and running an entrepreneurship centre for a rapidly growing energy services provider.  Jeffe’s first job out of university was at PACER where he was their fifth employee.  Over the years, PACER grew into a large company with over $300M in annual revenues. Jeffe was active in all aspects of the business, from project management to managing cashflows as controller.  His broad experience really serves us well.

What problem does your company solve?

Most people, given the right opportunity, want to save money and do good at the same time. With the costs of solar coming down over 70% in the last decade due to advances in the technology, solar is available for less than what you are paying for your current power bill over the life of the equipment. That was before February when the government announced its program that now subsidizes 30% of your spend on solar installations. Prices for grid based electricity will continue to rise, but with solar you could lock in the rate of 10 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 25 years.  People need to act within 1-2 years or they won’t receive the subsidy.

How do you solve that problem?

We have a quicker, smoother, cheaper digital quoting process than our competitors. It can be expensive just to get the ball rolling for your project, but we cut costs by doing everything online and starting a project whenever you’re ready.

In terms of doing good, obviously the transition to clean, renewable energy is a positive one for the environment.  We also have a ‘buy one, give one’ philosophy baked into our organization. For every system we sell in Alberta, we give capital to our Meshpower for them to install a solar energy system for a family in Rwanda where I travelled to 5 years ago.  All the work is done by locally trained people, which helps to build their energy economy, and gets families off of burning toxic kerosene in their homes.  Over 1.2 billion people still don’t have electricity, so it’s a pretty big problem they’re trying to solve.

How has your experience been at The Accelerator?

I think with any program, you get out what you put in. I have great mentors, Sean Collins and Carey Houston. Sean is in the renewable energy space and Carey has been running a great sales programs for the startups at The Accelerator. Being around a likeminded network has been great.

Tell us about some of your major accomplishments in 2017.

We’re hoping to hit some milestones in the next few weeks. We have over 200 leads and have already converted a few into sales. We’re on track to do 50 homes in Alberta in our first year of operations and are working on a few larger commercial projects as well.

What's next for EVOLVsolar?

Our focus right now is just bringing in great customers and executing projects flawlessly.  

At any given time we are testing 3 different marketing ideas. We just launched a Facebook campaign last week to generate awareness and we plan to start offering information sessions at the ATB Entrepreneur Centre, so stay tuned for that!

Support EVOLVsolar and other local tech startups at The Accelerator Demo Day: Batch #2

Demo Day will showcase local tech companies in front of accredited investors and celebrate all they have accomplished during the 5-month program at The Accelerator. Early bird tickets on sale for $25 until Friday, August 4 at 11:59pm MST.