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HiQ Solar, Palo Alto

BACKGROUND
HiQ Solar, Inc. is dedicated to innovation in the area of solar power and renewable energy.

Founded in 2009, the company draws on decades of industry experience in high-tech, with a veteran team from the precision communications test and measurement field. With a successful track record of bringing leading-edge products to market, we use a systematic approach to reliability and user-focused design.

By taking a patented new approach, the HiQ Solar Mini Inverter provides the capabilities of a micro inverter at the cost of a central inverter, with reliability and features beyond both.

The core idea is to provide harvest and monitoring per solar panel using one Balancer for four panels, each getting individual management. By managing each panel individually but sharing the inversion process among 16 panels, the customer gets the best of micro inverter features at a much lower cost.

CHALLENGES
We were referred to the SBDC by the Small Business Administration in San Francisco. We had contacted them after reading an article in the San Jose Mercury News about a startup in Santa Cruz that had been helped by the SBA and the Norcal SBDC. Silicon Valley SBDC Business Services Coordinator, Gail Buettgenback, was helpful in giving us an overview of the services, and getting us set up with SBDC Business Advisor, Karioki Uhuru.

At the time we met with Karioki, we had been relying on our founders to finance the company. We had made enough progress with our technology and prototype to begin looking into external funding sources.

ACTIONS
Karioki helped us move forward with this stage in our development in a number of ways. 

First, he gave us a thorough assessment of our financial projections, helping us either validate or improve our assumptions. 

Next, he worked with us on our business plan as we sharpened service and cost arguments for HiQ Solar products relative to our competition.

And last, Karioki helped us get input from bank and Venture Capital executives who provided valuable insight into the benchmarks that the Company needed to achieve to receive lender or equity funding.

RESULTS
“The SBDC has played an important role to help us get a handle on the value of our product in the marketplace, and our costs. We have benefited from our contact with Karioki,” said Andre Willis, CEO of HiQ Solar, Inc. 

Andre was impressed with Karioki’s knowledge of what is involved in getting a company off the ground, and his willingness to see us through over time. Since we met Karioki, we have raised more than $500,000 in funding for operations and are looking for a VC investment to fuel our growth.

HiQ Solar, Inc. recommends the Silicon Valley SBDC to other small companies who are looking for specific information in the areas of business plans, cost analysis, and sources of funding, as well as contacts in areas such as legal, financial, and insurance. 

“Karioki was helpful in getting our priorities straight. He helped us to see that we had to get a handle on our competitive advantage, to really understand all of its ramifications, its cost benefits and actual costs. He also helped us identify possible sources of funding, such as an SBA loan, and brought to us possible investors and interested parties. Karioki has shown our company support, and provided valuable contacts in various business areas. He is well connected and generous with his contacts. He has been a real support and sounding board through our development stage.” Pamela Lawson, COO of HiQ Solar, Inc.

Company Name: HiQ Solar, Inc.
Business Owner(s): Pamela Lawson, Chief Operating Officer
Email: info@hiqsolar.com
http://www.hiqsolar.com