Could the glass on the skyscraper your working in serve as a solar power source? What about the cell phone you carry in your hand? Or the windshield in your car?
“Anywhere there is a piece of glass, there are applications for our technology,” explains chief marketing officer Josh Bennett, one of six students and recent grads from WWU leading the company.
Nova Solar originally planned to manufacture the glass itself, but the company recently switched gears to focus exclusively on the core polymer that works with photovoltaic cells to turn light into electric current. The team recently won the Northwest Innovation Challenge and placed in the University of Washington environmental challenge, with a focus now on obtaining grant money to help fuel the idea.
Nova Solar uses a special quantum dot polymer that absorbs harmful UVB light and refracts it laterally along the window’s glass. When the light reaches the edges of the glass it is met by Photovoltaic cells that collect it, with special micro converters then turning it into electricity.
“Our goal is to see our solar window installed. Everywhere. And for our solar window to become the new standard in skyscraper design and construction,” explains CEO Blake Bishop, the 24-year-old CEO who recently completed his MBA at WWU.
Here’s more from Bishop for our latest Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We have married the solar cell and the humble window to integrate solar systems into modern skyscrapers.”
Inspiration hit us when: “When we have worked late into the night and we are running out of gas. We put our heads together and the ideas just start coming.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “So far it’s been all bootstraps. Big bootstraps, little bootstraps, lots of strapping, and lots of boots. The money we are working with now is all coming from business and environmental innovation competitions. But we are open to investment.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We are all on the same page; communicate honestly and openly, without taking offense. The ability to take criticism for what it is and be open to change is critical. We believe in change based on sound reason not ego.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Bringing on an amazing industrial designer and an electrical engineer who, in my mind is like Gandalf the Grey. Though he bears no resemblance to his magical archetype, our engineer makes electrical magic that just bewilders and excites the rest of the team. We can’t help but just laugh in amazement when he shows us his diagrams and makes things…go. We are pretty sure our designer hasn’t slept. Ever. She will show us beautiful work. Then take it away and mince at the details. We don’t see the difference specifically sometimes, but somehow, whatever she did has made it inexplicably more elegant that it was.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We’ve not gotten our product in front of enough customers for evaluation. We are working on that.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Half the team prefers Jobs the other prefers Gates. Not surprisingly, the ones who prefer Gates are more interested in the technical aspects of the project, the utility, the functionality. Again, not surprisingly, the Jobs half of the team want it to be simple, beautiful, and seamless. We make no sacrifices, form for function, or function for form. Every aspect of our product is under the microscope.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Our world domination strategy starts now; it’s the same thing we do every night Pinky…Our plan is to take over the world one skyscraper at a time. And turn each into and entirely autonomous, locally powered, planet saving photovoltaic system.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We are hungry. We are a team of tigers waiting to pounce on the world. We are totally unafraid to innovate, unafraid to try the impossible. In fact we aim to defeat the impossible. We want to take the impossible and crush it into dust.”
We are truly unique because: “Our team functions like Navy Seals. We work very well as a team. Yet we are trained and highly motivated independent operators who can complete our objectives solo. We come together when needed for collaboration, then split up to tackle our individual mission objectives. I have never worked with a team that functions so well in any combination members or entirely autonomously.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Building the prototype. Now that we have it down we can begin to refine the process and build it bigger, better, and more beautiful than before.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Dig in. If you believe in the project, dig in. But don’t be so rigid that you are unwilling to pivot. I have worked with three startups and a dozen other small businesses and the biggest hurdle is the fear of changing direction. We love our startups, as entrepreneurs we are close to the project, we try to nurture it, and often treat it like a delicate flower. But in reality we need to think like artists who freely strip away clay on smear on another glob of blue acrylic. Sometimes the project dictates what comes next, whether to add or to strip away. And as creators we must be free to do it.”