Steven Curtis - LuvSolar
Steven Curtis - LuvSolar
Having always appreciated the beauty of the natural environment and the value of individuality and people, I am motivated to work towards a sustainable future that considers social and environmental factors. I see the role of business being a mechanism for making meaningful impacts in our globalized world. In meeting this need, Joshua Kirkman and I have developed a platform to increase the number of solar panels installed that leverages human connectedness.
I am from the United States, having lived in Utah, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New York. I attended Penn State to study meteorology and climate science. With a technical background, I have sought to apply scientific principles to economics and policy. I have had some wonderful opportunities to travel and see unique cultures like that of the Samoa. This international perspective motivated me to come to Sweden to study Environmental Management and Policy at Lund University.
This summer, the LuvSolar team will continue to answer the verification questions we have in developing our business. In particular, we will address the legal and financial questions regarding the developing of an online peer-to-peer lending platform. We will continue to develop relationships with stakeholders and seek knowledge and capital to bring our business to market. Much of our time will be spent in VentureLab working on product or spent in meetings with stakeholders.
As a result of the LeapFrogs scholarship, I envision growth in LuvSolar and ourselves. Everyday, I surprise myself in the people I meet and the knowledge I acquire. It is a gift to be able to focus 100% of our efforts on LuvSolar and work towards something we believe can have a meaningful impact on the world. We feel we are creating something of value. We hope to have at least on solar panel installed by the end of the three months.
Our goal at LuvSolar is to empower people around solar panel installations by providing means to creative finance through peer-to-peer lending. At this point during business development, we are relying heavily on the expertise and knowledge of others. We have engaged with numerous stakeholders from different industries: solar panel installers and technical experts; lawyers and members of the finance community; and potential investors and other stakeholders.
We’ve met with a representative from Solar Region Skåne to learn more about the technical aspects of solar panel installations in Sweden. Further, we’ve met with two different groups to provide expertise surrounding legal and financial regulations associated with peer-to-peer lending. We are looking to enroll in the Vinge Growth program as we continue to answer our verification questions relating to finance and regulations.
Other things we are focusing on: improving the business plan; developing a business strategy; and creating a multimedia package to communicate our multi-sided business model to stakeholders.
Much of our work is built on interactions with technical experts in various industries. Sweden celebrates a culture with an equal work and home / family life with many taking many weeks to rest, spend time with family, or explore and experience. As international students, this industrial holiday came as a surprise (although we applaud such a culture) and has left us focusing on other aspects of the business.
On another note, we have learned the importance of believing in our idea and being able to communicate the idea in a concise and clear way. Having the pitch thought out and at our fingertips in any occasion has opened doors for us. Through the impromptu pitch, we have gained support, made introductions, and gathered feedback invaluable to our business development.
In part due to the industrial holiday, much of our work has had to shift focus to business strategy, communication and website development. While we are being productive, having meetings with necessary stakeholders, and creating work product, we find ourselves adjusting the timeline and goals of what we set out to do this summer.
In our remaining time, we look to begin developing one aspect of our platform: a marketplace for solar installers to find potential clients more easily. This platform requires little expertise with few legal barriers and will form a fundamental part of our platform moving forward. As we begin our 2nd year of our Master’s Programme in Environmental Management and Policy at the IIIEE, we will have to develop a strategy to continue the momentum we have developed thus far! The future looks bright at LuvSolar!
Luvsolar # 3
The three months have been great! In between Leapfrogs meetings and seminars, Steven and I moved into our office in Venture Lab and begun settling in there. We have also been working in partnership with Lund University Innovation System over the summer, in developing our business concept and planning engagement with key stakeholders. We appreciated the uninterrupted time to develop key communications documents and strategy moving forward with our business. The opportunity afforded to us as a result of the LeapFrogs scholarship allows us to continue developing our business.
The hardest part about the summer was the difficulty in connecting and meeting with stakeholders due to the industrial holiday time in Sweden. The fact that the majority of businesses are either closed down or operating on a very low staff during summer made it difficult at times to engage with the right people when we needed to. However, we were able to accomplish a great deal and really focus on the core business. Now, moving into the later part of 2014, we are more focused and prepared to take LuvSolar to the next level. Among the highlights, the Leapfrogs seminars and events were valuable and rewarding. We were able to meet interesting people and learn from them moving forward.
It didn’t go quite as expected, but we will be continuing with the project for the foreseeable future. Many of our goals we discussed in May during the beginning of the LeapFrogs program hinged on key meetings with stakeholders to aide in our business development. While we didn’t meet some of our initial goals for the project over the summer, I think we are more prepared moving forward to engage with key stakeholders like solar installers, lawyers, and potential investors. Our partnerships with LU Innovation and others are strong and we have solid plans moving forward towards the end of the year.
Among the most important lessons we learned: patience. It is important to learn that starting a business is a collaborative effort that hinges on the knowledge and experience amongst your business team and external stakeholders. We had to learn patience as we had unrealistic timeframes in executing specific tasks. We understand that we don’t have all the answers and that we must rely on the knowledge and expertise of others to see our business to fruition. Further, we have learned much about ourselves as a team and what it takes to work in a foreign country. There are different cultural norms that permeate through the business culture that are important to understand and realize in doing business in Sweden.
Tips for new entrepreneurs:
1) We have found that the greatest challenge to being an entrepreneur is the willingness to take risks and put yourself out there. We all have great business ideas. The ideas that are truly successful are those ideas with a team made up of diverse talent who are willing to take risks.
2) Don’t give up! Sometimes you won’t get the answer you wanted from a stakeholder. Sometimes an order falls through. In the end, the business is what you make it. So much of success is believing in your business and product.
3) Even though it may seem like a big messy mix of ‘things to do,’ if you can manage to break them down to smaller tasks and work on them incrementally you can get there in the end.