Fort Collins, Colo.
Founders: W.S. Sampath, Al Enzenroth, and Kurt Barth
VC investment over the last four quarters: $104 million
Founded in 2007, AVA Solar, which has fewer than 150 employees, says it has perfected a process for producing solar photovoltaic modules at a cost below $1/watt, significantly reducing the cost of generating solar electricity. Its founders are optimistic about its prospects, despite the recession, with Vice-President of Marketing Russell Kanjorski explaining in an email that "while some things have gotten tougher and valuations have certainly suffered, the outlook for solar PV is still very strong in Europe. Plus, the environment in the U.S. and other parts of the world appears to be growing as well." Apart from the venture capital investment, the company received two rounds in 2007 and a grant from the Energy Dept. as a winner of the Solar America Initiative.
Key to startup success: "Contrary to what others interested in thin-film photovoltaic [manufacturing] were focused on in the early 1990s, our founders concentrated on creating a low-cost, manufacturing process that could scale. Without this solid foundation, there is no way we could have taken a lab process to high-volume manufacturing in 2½ years. They knew that electricity is a commodity, and for solar to compete, it needs to be low-cost and simple to scale."