Startup of the Day: Ukrainian-founded solartech WeDoSolar
WeDoSolar provides vertical solar power panels that are made to be easily fixed on balconies with weatherproof straps by non-tech-savvy users. The startup was launched in February 2022 by Ukrainian-born serial entrepreneur Karolina Attspodina and Qian Qin, a hardware engineer, and a former managing director of BSH Digital Ventures GmbH. By the end of the first month alone, WeDoSolar had received 1,500 orders, and the demand for its products hasn’t slowed.
In the Startup of the Day column, Karolina Attspodina, co-founder and CEO at WeDoSolar, shares details about the startup’s idea, its product, first results and future plans.
The Startup of the Day column on AIN.Capital is dedicated to tech projects from all sectors that originated from the CEE countries. If you would like to introduce your project, please fill in the questionnaire.
Tell us about your startup. How does it work?
We produce what’s called “smart solar sight protection” panels for balcony installation. It’s a set of eight solar panels that weigh only about 1 kg apiece. The panels are easy to install, even for people who aren’t tech-savvy, and can also double as a privacy screen for the balcony. Our goal is to provide accessible options for renewable energy to renters rather than just apartment owners.
With our solar panel setup, citizens can save money on electricity bills, reduce their CO2 footprint and lower their dependence on grid energy. Additionally, we’ve also developed a smart mobile app that tracks how much energy your balcony set is generating and the amount of CO2 you’re saving in real-time.
How did you come up with the startup’s idea? What was the reason/motivation behind it?
The idea of creating a socially impactful business first came up in 2017. I was at a tech conference in Berlin, and I met Lubomila Jordanova, CEO and cofounder of Plan A and cofounder of Greentech Alliance. She gave a speech sharing her concerns about the desperate state of our planet, which set the wheels in motion.
As a consultant, I had worked with many high-tech green startups, and two of my solar sector clients demonstrated to me what a major impact solar technology can have on our environmental footprint. It’s easy, accessible, and, if widely adopted, can eliminate a huge amount of pressure on our grid.
Based on my calculations, I realized that every balcony and garage roof could cover 20% of EU household electricity consumption if they installed solar panels of at least 640Wp. This would not only increase energy independence, but reduce the EU’s total emissions by 4%.
It was then that the idea of WeDoSolar was born.
How long did it take you to reach MVP? What difficulties did you encounter?
The first thing I did was conduct thorough market research. The market was dominated by industrial solar solutions, but no innovative consumer products were available, especially for renters.
Several of my friends in the venture capital world, as well as solar tech entrepreneurs I worked with, endorsed my idea. They were all extremely impressed with this solution and asked for a sample for themselves.
I then met Qian Qin, a serial entrepreneur and ex-Managing Director of BSH Digital Ventures GmbH, who became WeDoSolar’s co-founder. We collaborated with German engineers and spent a few months putting the first prototype together. We made sure to minimize the complexity so that it was consumer-friendly and could be installed safely and quickly by even a non-tech-savvy user. Before we settled on our final design, we also tested a wide variety of solar panels to determine which would work best for the dual purpose of creating a privacy screen.
When exactly did you launch your product? Or when the launch is planned?
We registered the company in September 2021. Within six months, we finalized and launched our operations in February 2022, shortly before the Ukraine conflict escalated.
From the very beginning, we saw a huge demand from customers. By the end of the first month, we had received 1,500 orders!
Interestingly, even though we hadn’t made a global announcement, we also received order requests from several countries outside Germany. The demand still hasn’t slowed. In fact, I still receive anywhere from 800-1,000 chatbot conversation requests every month!
Tell us about the stratup’s business model. How do you monetize your product?
WeDoSolar’s all-in-one balcony solar set of eight panels is available for direct purchase for €1299. In addition, electric vehicle owners can get a free rental model in exchange for their CO2 certificates. All they need to do is register their vehicle documents on our website.
We also offer employee benefit programs to large corporations in which employers get carbon credits for their companies while employees use the balcony solar solution for free, resulting in lower electricity bills.
What are your target markets and consumers?
Even though we launched in Germany, we aim to serve citizens across all European countries and to expand globally in the future.
Overall, our target audience is people around the globe who are aware of the dreadful consequences of our current levels of consumption that are responsible for global warming and are looking for ways to reduce their dependency on grid energy.
If the startup has already launched the product, what are the results: metrics, income, or any clear indicators that can be evaluated.
It’s hard to believe, but within a month of launch, we already had 1,500 orders from German customers! We’ve also gotten import requests from France, Italy, Spain, Croatia and Poland. Most surprisingly, we even have consumers in the U.S. and Canada interested in our product!
Currently, our sales are almost equally distributed between direct purchase and rentals to e-vehicle owners. In fact, the number of e-vehicles is growing rapidly: In Germany alone, there are 500,000 electric cars owned and about 40,000 sold on a monthly basis. This means that there is huge potential for expanding our free-of-charge offer to this growing market.
What about your team? How many people are working in the startup? If you’re looking for new employees, indicate whom exactly.
My cofounder and I are looking for “the perfect unicorn” team members: those with the ideal skillset who are also passionate about our mission and making an impact on the world. I regularly receive requests from enthusiastic candidates who are eager to work with us. I’m so proud and excited to see that there are so many great talents who share our values!
As soon as we close our seed round, we plan to expand our operations, sales and marketing departments, so we will be looking for new team members then.
Have you already raised any investments? Provide us with more details on each funding round: the amount, investors, the purpose of the investment.
Until now, we have been funded by a series of business angels from various industries like the energy sector, real estate and e-commerce. We also have fantastic financing partners on board that cover hardware costs, and we’re currently raising our seed round. The new investments will enable us to grow our operations and our team to support the scaling demand. For now, these are our top priorities.
What’s next? Tell us about your future plans.
Expansion into international markets is one of our goals for 2023. Moreover, we aim to become the largest distributed solar farm in Europe and expand the offer of solartech products for vertical self-installation. At the end of the day, our mission is not to see solar as a commodity but an easy-to-use product available to everyone.
Our goal is also to educate European citizens and people across the globe about the importance of shifting to renewable energy sources. The fight against global issues cannot be won without recognizing them all together.