Riding Coattails of Our Strengths into Larger MarketsBy Jonah Greenberger | Mon, 08/02/2021 - 12:54
Humanity urgently needs to reverse global warming. The company that I help run (Bright) is setting out to do this. A goal this large is exciting but also often unclear how to achieve. To tackle this, we believe that to go this big, you must start small. Or to use another cliche, to do more, you must do less at first.
Today, Bright is the leader in residential solar in Mexico. We started in a very targeted market — just the top 1 percent of homes across Mexico. We became the market leader last year and once we hit that mark, we asked ourselves, What's the best place to go next that ultimately gets us to the larger goal? To answer this, we started by looking at what we are great at. To win in residential we had to become world class at automating the solar adoption process to make sure no customer gets stuck, lost or forgotten in their quest to get solar. Doing dozens of solar projects a day at times means that we have to be incredible at coordinating third parties, troubleshooting on the fly and making a customer feel heard and attended to. So, we built software that connected solar installers to distributors, to financiers and to end customers. We monitored the entire process of going solar so we could ensure the hundreds of touchpoints a customer feels are seamless. We call this, “the distributed solar operating system.”
We also realized that in doing so, we became great at securing low-cost capital for our customers. This was an advantage built off of our initial advantage in automation— because we were able to make the process of adopting solar seamless, our customers love us and our projects were low risk to investors. As a result, we were able to attract a partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank, which provides the lowest cost capital in the industry. We were then able to pass this benefit onto our customers, even lowering the risk of these projects further, and enabling a virtuous cycle.
So now we had these two very synergistic advantages — high automation and low cost of capital — and we had to figure out what this translates into in terms of a next larger market. The answer, we concluded, was small businesses. Mexico is, in fact, chock full of small businesses — the economy is > 52 percent small businesses (PyMEs) by GDP, >99 percent by number, and, most importantly, they represent >70 percent of formal employment across the country. And these businesses don’t need a football farm of solar; they still want and deserve a small, solar installation that works and is fast. While many businesses may not see those clients as an ideal potential customer because of their size, we do. We started with homeowners who needed even less solar and so moving to this sector actually was only incrementally more. These businesses often have air conditioning, pumps or machinery, which means they consume more electricity than a typical home. And the benefit is that these business owners with us can now take control over our collective future versus waiting for others to clean up their world.
To serve this market, we went to our trusted project financiers and first secured the lowest cost of capital. Because we had lowered the risk in our project profiles via high automation, we also negotiated a key need for our customer: the ability to accommodate folks who rent their buildings versus own. This was a huge win. As you may know, many businesses in Mexico rent their space since they want to use their capital on higher return efforts. Bright now allows these businesses to get solar as long as the owner of the building agrees as well.
Through these efforts, we’re off to the races (hope you’re not tired of my cliches yet) in terms of reversing global warming. We’ll keep executing this strategy of going after larger markets after we’ve built enough strength and eventually get to a point where we have transformed the fundamental infrastructure for how the world produces electricity. Tesla had a US$100,000 USD car first, that only a couple thousand people could afford. They worked their way to a mass market car — about US$30,000 — that millions can now afford. Amazon started with just bookstores and now they have transformed how the world buys and delivers goods. Now, we’re well on our way as well and while no one knows what the future holds, I’ve never been more excited about the potential impact we can have. Stay tuned for more updates along this journey and thanks for following along.