Overland Park-based Zenernet is soaking in renewed interest in solar, powering its push to become an industry player on the national stage, said JP Gerken.
“The growth potential [for solar] is endless,” said Gerken, founder of solar power service provider Zenernet. “I think we’ve barely scratched the surface on what the potential is with residential solar, both from the national perspective and commercial. [But] a lot of these larger business are having a hard time scaling and are just not flexible or capable enough to grow nationally — That’s where we come in.”
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The startup has accelerated quickly since receiving its first dollar in April 2018, he said, noting an expectation of achieving $4 million in revenue by the end of 2019.
“We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that we’ve got the right processes in place to be able to scale, and if we get the right investment, we believe that within 24 months we could potentially get the business to $10 million in revenue,” he added.
Zenernet being headquartered in the Kansas City metro was a choice rooted in history, said Gerken, noting a former role as the vice president of sales at California-based Sungevity.
“This was the perfect place to build the business,” he said. “We’ve got people who worked with [Sungevity] in the past that are working with us today. That, to me, is really amazing and that’s why we’re here is because we know that this is a great place with a lot of talent.”
Establishing Zenernet in Kansas City and operating through a horizontal integration model is expected to address the industry’s decade of struggle with customer acquisition, said Gerken, who directs the startup from his home in Arizona.
“The appetite for renewable energy lessened [back in 2015,] and it forced a new way of thinking about how to take solar to the mainstream,” he said.
“[Kansas City’s positioning] also allows us to communicate with customers on both coasts from a time zone perspective,” he added. “It’s perfect for [starting] in the East Coast then we follow the sun to start talking to customers in Missouri and Illinois, then we go over to the West with California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Idaho.”
Lack of access and education on the subject get in the way of consumers making the environmentally-conscious decision to go solar, Gerken said, noting only one percent of Missouri homeowners use solar power.
“People aren’t really informed on how electricity generation works and how their utility bill works. What people don’t realize is that they’re basically in a perpetual contract that they never signed,” he said. “That’s the status quo that’s never challenged.”
“Solar is just so foreign to people,” he added.
Decisions that are more routine-oriented — like buying a new car every few years — reflect a process already firmly established the American consumer, said Gerken.
“With solar, that doesn’t exist,” he said. “We just need to make sure we help customers connect the dots and get the understanding of the value proposition, the financial benefits, and the environmental benefits, and to be able to do that in a way that helps people transition from the current utility structure to renewable energy — We’re really an educational consultative organization, in that way.”
The hurdle of gaining awareness is overshadowed by the greater potential that exists in the industry of the future, he added.
“The market is just huge,” Gerken said. “ … The amount of customers we can interact with by 2025 — it’s substantial. We just need to get the word out more and get education out to consumers to be able to go from the early adopters stage to the mainstream.”