Cpower or “enterprise building 101”

As I, my colleagues and (ex)students were all convinced that the Market is the real test for any technology, I pushed them to create, all together, Cpower srl (LLC) to produce and market our concentrator photovoltaic system….

We had ideas, enthusiasm, patents… all we needed was the money!

After one year of work we had collected two private companies with capitals and marketing capabilities, the local city bank, the University and our main Professor as minority shareholders in a company where the younger researcher, all bundled together in another specific reality, were able to develop freely the project holding the relative majority of shares.

I also happened to be the relative majority shareholder in this second company….

While this was my first attempt at company building, I’m still proud of the contribution each partner brought to the project during the years in a well managed and transparent start-up!

The commercial version of the concentrator system was developed over two years, certified for commercial operation and deployed in few commercial test facilities…

Unfortunately, we (I) had underestimated the complexities to enter, even in the “roaring years” of the Italian Feed-in tariff, into the highly regulated energy market.

The feed-in tariff, while conceptually being open to any kind of certified technology, had technical references only to the flat panel certifications thus, involuntarily, cutting out anything different.

While all our contacts at the government and regulatory level, agreed that this was a trivial point very easy to solve, it took 3 years of intense lobbying by the University, our Industry partners and ourselves to get the regulation amended with the insertion of the relevant technical reference to IEC62108.

By that time (late 2008) our technology had been priced out of the market by the aggressive decrease of silicon solar panels while, do to lack of clients, we had no way to climb the product learning curve. We were late.

I, thus, left the company and moved over (ending up at Masdar Institute of Science in Abu Dhabi). The company was liquidated, in orderly fashion, 2 years later and I still have the last product version in my lab.

Insert pictures of the last version of the panel including certification.

While not strictly an entrepreneurial success, this was a great learning experience for future (hopefully more fortunate) endeavors and a very humbling one too!