California State University, Northridge alumnus and Pick My Solar CEO Max Aram ’13 (M.S., Manufacturing Systems Engineering) was in Kansas City on Nov. 16 representing his company at the Kauffman Foundation’s One in a Million Contest.
Aram left a little disappointed.
Pick My Solar, a flourishing business that provides an online bidding platform for residential solar buyers, went up against about 400 other startups from around the country in a competition that awards a $10,000 cash prize to the winner.
Pick My Solar was a finalist. Good, but not good enough for the competitive Aram.
On top of not winning, he missed out on representing Pick My Solar to Vice President Joe Biden, who was back in Los Angeles on the same day at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator’s (LACI) Cleantech Roundtable at LACI’s La Kretz Innovation Campus.
Pick My Solar was one of just six companies that was selected to participate in the roundtable, and Aram had already committed to going to Kansas City before knowing Biden would be coming to the event.
However, Biden did meet Pick My Solar co-founder Chris Blevins — a huge moment for the fast-rising company.
Biden walked into the room with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and immediately approached Blevins and asked for his name.
Then, the vice president said, “Oh yeah, you’re going to be the guy that puts solar in my house.”
Though Aram wasn’t there, he acknowledged it as another large step for the company.
“It’s been very exciting,” Aram said. “We’ve been in the business almost two-and-a-half years. Every six months, we think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is moving fast.’”
In the past six months, the company has achieved a number of milestones:
- Its staff grew 25 percent.
- Revenue grew each month by 20 percent.
- The company became a sponsoring partner with the popular CicLAvia car-free street event, March 6, 2016 in the San Fernando Valley.
- Pick My Solar received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Services have expanded to New York, Massachusetts and Maryland.
- Pick My Solar was one of eight companies selected throughout the country by Google for its Project Sunroof.
Project Sunroof dovetails with Pick My Solar’s mission to help people calculate the best solar plan possible. Google is using Pick My Solar’s expertise and large network of installers for this project.
“They reached out to us back in April or May, and they told us, ‘We love your model. We’re working on a solar-related project. We can’t tell you what it is. Come to Mountain View (Google headquarters),’” Aram said. “Initially, I thought it was a prank.
“This is all validation — from the vice president, the mayor, Google — this validation makes us more committed to our mission,” Aram continued. “Our mission is to bring transparency and efficiency to the solar market.”
He added that it is also his mission to elevate Matadors and CSUN pride, noting that the biggest news for his company recently was partnering with the CSUN Alumni Association and becoming one of its affinity partners.
Pick My Solar is reaching out to CSUN alumni to offer its services. For each person who uses the services and goes solar, the company will donate money back to the Alumni Association. The company aims to get 50 solar projects going for alumni and fund a scholarship at CSUN based on the proceeds.