Powerhouse is a solar startup incubator in Oakland. The effort was founded by the industry veterans Emily Kirsch and Danny Kennedy, both of whom have ridden through the many ups and downs of the solar industry over the last decade. Of course, like any good incubator, they needed some swag to share with visiting dignitaries. Given their history in the space, then, it’s no surprise that Emily came up with drink coasters to share, calling them “solar coasters.”
After it became clear that the traditional Silicon Valley model of VC investing hasn’t worked so far for cleantech, a variety of new models have been introduced. Those include Cyclotron Road, which is collaborating closely with university labs; the energy research shop of Otherlab; regionally focused groups like the Energy Excelerator; and industry-focused projects like Powerhouse.
At the helm is Co-Founder and CEO Emily Kirsch, who previously worked with Van Jones and was featured in our roundup of 15 female cleantech pioneers in 2015. Powerhouse is powered by a small yet potent team with Co-Founder Danny Kennedy, COO Charlene Schachter, and Project Manager Andrew Chang.
Powerhouse, which successfully debuted its New Dawn party last summer, held its second annual fête this August. The event was a reflection of the spirit of Powerhouse, the world’s first solar incubator and accelerator.
“Our culture is one where we flip a light switch [but] don’t know where the energy is coming from,” said Emily Kirsch, co-founder and CEO of Powerhouse, who got a sneak peek at the SolPad last month. “With SolPad, not only do consumers have a choice, but they’re empowered to develop their own experience with energy in a way they’ve never been able to do before.”
"The most popular startup focused event was the Growth Company Circle, dubbed "speed dating for solar." This new, innovative special event, sponsored by SunPower, was produced in partnership with Powerhouse (formerly SfunCube), the world's only incubator and accelerator dedicated to solar. The Circle provided 30 entrepreneurs with an opportunity to connect with 30 investors and potential customers."
Powerhouse is still in a sunshine state of mind. The solar startup incubator and accelerator hosted hundreds of guests at their annual New Dawn party in Oakland.
We loved the Powerhouse Pavilion, where emerging companies showed off innovative ideas. Situated among established players like SolarEdge, Shoals and Eaton, Powerhouse intern Marie Washer was excited about the pavilion’s location and constant foot traffic. “We got a premium location, with much thanks to Intersolar,” Washer said.
The Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst program is funding a slew of early stage solar software companies. Powerhouse, a solar-focused accelerator, is incubating still more. And even the VCs have started to put money back into the sector, including Obvious Ventures’ recent $3.5 million funding of Sighten.
Emily Kirsch, Co-Founder CEO of Powerhouse, welcomed everyone to the space, sharing that Powerhouse is home to 20 solar startups and is proud to report four exits in the past 12 months.
The real aim is to create a place that inspires the kinds of ‘creative collisions’ that allow for further innovation to speed adoption of solar energy.
Beyond the bright colors and fun accoutrements, I was struck by the sheer diversity of solar-related activities that these young businesses are targeting.
This is what Powerhouse (formerly SfunCube) is all about – nurturing solar startups so that they can grow and succeed, and make a difference in our industry.
'We are excited to sponsor the Powerhouse (formerly SfunCube) Solar Hackathon because it serves as an excellent venue to share our software and business insights with like-minded people who wish to have a positive impact on our planet,' said Ilén Zazueta-Hall.
Emily Kirsch, co-founder of solar incubator Powerhouse (formerly SfunCube), said that "often the decision to purchase solar panels is made by women, so working with another woman when installing solar is beneficial.”
In just over a year, Powerhouse (formerly SfunCube) has grown from two start-up companies employing 10 people, to a dozen early stage start-ups employing nearly 50.