In California, Max Aram and Chris Blevins are two young men who are committed to finding solutions to the energy crisis with their start-up company, PickMySolar.com, an online marketplace where solar providers bid against each other on residential installations, reducing cost to homeowners by twenty-five to thirty percent. The company has grown by word of mouth only. Mr. Aram and Mr. Blevins plan an expansion that will cover the entire state of California by 2015.
Upon leaving their day jobs, Max and Chris invested forty thousand dollars of their own money into Pick My Solar. Mr. Aram consulted with Pacific Coast Regional (PCR) and The Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC), utilizing market research, to develop his idea into a business plan. He went to work with Mr. Blevins and started their beta-website launched in 2014. Max Aram describes their business venture, “We are a trusted neutral one-stop shopping platform for residential solar market. We are like the Expedia or Priceline for the solar market.”
Max continues, “Many homeowners who ‘go solar’ sign the first contract they see that saves them money. At Pick My Solar, savings could be much more. We use our solar expertise, experience, and large network of installers to deliver the top three bids on the market. There are no salesmen. When you go solar with us, that means no sales commission, therefore lower prices.” Mr. Aram likens the current state of solar bidding to that of “being a used car salesman.” Now with Pick My Solar stepping in as a bidding agent, the ‘used car salesman’ can take a hike and customers in the solar panel market can receive an honest bid.
Max received a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering in 2008, immigrating to the United States in 2010 to pursue his master’s degree at California State University Northridge (CSUN). It was there that Max conceived of the idea for a smartphone app to assist students in finding parking spaces on the crowded campus, rather than driving around in circles for hours looking for a space. The idea was to reduce the school’s CO2 footprint. Max’s thesis looked at CSUN’s energy consumption of the last two decades. The project was funded for more than $100,000. Upon completion, Max became an advocate of solar energy.
He looked into the residential solar energy market and found that installers’ aggressive marketing strategies left potential buyers skeptical and uncertain. Max also found that installers were not knowledgeable of the factors that buyers needed to know when going solar. His idea was an online platform for solar providers to bid against each other on residential installations. Later, Max met Chris at a General Assembly event, and both shared a passion and commitment to our environment.
Chris received a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Mechanical Engineering in 2010 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Chris developed several websites while working on a design of geothermal and solar energy projects. Chris realized that renewable energy resources would not only help the environment but also consumers’ wallets. In 2012, Chris visited South America. While traveling through rural parts of third world countries, he saw that even people who are living on meager wages are using environmentally-friendly practices without being aware. Chris noticed that there was an abundance of tankless water heaters for those who could afford running water. These people were using the tankless water heaters to save money. Unknowingly they were also helping the environment. Upon returning to California, Chris worked as a solar consultant. It was there that he found that the solar market was in a state of chaos. Salesmen were ripping off customers, manipulating data and overcharging customers. Chris found Max thereafter who was also aware of the sketchy practices being used in the solar industry. More importantly, Max had an idea, a way to get the solar industry on track. Chris quit his job on the same day that he heard Max’s idea. Pick My Solar was created, and the two men went to work.
Pick My Solar cuts prices by reeling in the competition. The buyer just sits back and waits for the best bid. This is how it works. 1. Visit PickMySolar.com. 2. Take ten minutes to register for no charge. At this stage the project that you are planning is reviewed and then you will receive a phone call to follow up. The company does not share contact information. 3. Your project is posted online where dozens of installers will bid. The best bids on the market are those with the best price and quality. 4. An expert analysis is conducted and then you choose a bid, one of three, any of the others, or none at all.
If the buyer decides not to ‘Go Solar,’ then all bids remain valid for two weeks after being submitted by the Installers. The company screens all potential installers, using both local and large national companies to ensure the best possible bid. The quality of the company screening the installers is taken into account when advising buyers on bids.
As I write this, I sit up and crane my neck closer to my Apple Mac 13-inch screen. I think about turning up my air conditioner. It’s hot in Los Angeles during July. Instead, I sit back in the heat. It’s almost midnight. I visit PickMySolar.com. The building I live in was built somewhere in the early seventies, and I imagine what it would look like with solar panels on it. Like the people that Chris Blevins met with that own tankless water heaters on his journey through South America, we could unknowingly move forward to solar energy, and a cleaner, better world.