by Matthew Lu
Two weeks ago, BASES was pleased to host Samuel Adeyemo, COO of renewable energy startup Aurora Solar, for our third annual startup lunch. We were eager to learn more about how Aurora has evolved from a solar installation company to a software startup pioneering the design and implementation of solar power projects.
According to their profile posted on the Stanford TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, Aurora is a Palo Alto-based startup that is building the operating system of the solar industry. Their product is a cloud-based application that algorithmically generates 3D models of buildings, performs sophisticated solar engineering design, and generates beautiful proposals and visualizations for customers.
By allowing solar installers to do all this without ever leaving their office, Aurora aims to slash the cost of solar installations and make solar power widely available to anyone. Their software is used to design over 50,000 solar projects a month.
The lunch involved a relatively smaller crowd of around nine students. However, the lower headcount turned out to be a blessing as each attendee showed tremendous curiosity and interest in both renewable energy and Aurora’s mission. I could sense Samuel was invigorated by the energy of the group, and he shared a range of engaging anecdotes and nuggets of wisdom. He began by laying out his company’s aspiration to become the software most synonymous with the solar industry. I was instantly captivated by his vision and scope. He proceed to trace, in colorful detail, his own journey founding the company, beginning with their non-profit solar installation project in East Africa to their current decision to focus on integrating machine learning and artificial intelligence into a software solution.
One attendee asked why, at the outset, Aurora did not choose to focus more on the technology and manufacturing aspects of the solar industry. Samuel responded that advancing solar hardware, while complex and exciting, would never be a profitable business model due to the dominance of China in the hardware space. He broke down the reasons why such a pursuit would not help Aurora achieve maximum impact in the renewables space. This is one example of the insight Samuel gave us over the course of our hour-long startup lunch.
On the whole, we all learned a lot about the budding solar industry. We came away with a strong sense of the determined resilience it takes to mold a passion project into a thriving startup. If renewable energy is a space that interests you, I highly recommend you look into interning for Aurora Solar, either through their internship program or through the TomKat Center.