Entrepreneurship is All About Pain

Lyndon Rive knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship.

In 1998, he started Everdream, a Software-as-a-Service company that made it easier to install and maintain software. In 2007, he sold the company to Dell.

Now he’s Founder and CEO of the Solar-as-a-Service company SolarCity, which makes it easier for home and business owners to install solar. Started in 2006, the company now has over 250 employees and will likely hire 100 more in the coming year.

Rive is 31 years old. ::continue::

Why did he achieve so much at such an early age? He saw what all successful entrepreneurs do: Pain.

Licensing software used to be an expensive and cumbersome affair. Managing the installation of software on computers — even those that didn’t use the programs all that much – was not the easiest of tasks. But with web-based software downloads and remote management, the process became easier and more fluid. Everdream was starting to do this even before Software-as-a-Service became a ubiquitous term. 

Rive has carried that concept into the solar industry.

Purchasing a solar system can also be a complicated and expensive affair. Researching contractors, navigating the patchwork of incentives and then plunking down $25,000 for a solar system can turn a lot of people off. But what if a company could take care of the process for you and guarantee clean electricity that is cheaper than utility rates over a 20 year period of time?

That alluring (and common-sense) proposition has made companies like SolarCity, SunRun, SunEdison and Solar Power Partners some of the fastest-growing companies in the solar industry today. It looks like this is the future of solar — and Rive recognized that back in 2006.

“We saw the pain point and went for it,” said Rive in an interview I conducted with him last week in New York City.

His advice for other entrepreneurs looking to get into solar: Don’t just get into solar for the sake of getting into solar. You need to address a market need.

“The first thing you need to focus on is what is the pain point you are trying to address. If they notice a part of the market that is not being addressed yet — a pain point that is clear that they think the can solve, that should be their focus.”

But it’s not just about ideas either. You need to be able to act on those ideas. And given how crowded the solar space is with new technologies and business models, there will be a painful culling process in the coming years, said Rive.

“Over the last three years a lot of ideas have been established and the investments have gone into those ideas. For the next three years, it will be the execution of those ideas. The idea is one percent, the execution is 99 percent,” Rive said.

With two successful companies under his belt, Rive is certainly showing that he can execute.

I will be publishing my entire interview with Rive in a coming episode of Inside Renewable Energy, our weekly podcast that features news and interviews on all the latest industry developments.

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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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