Pay attention to who Elon Musk trusts
Today I was watching a recent interview with Elon Musk, famed multi-billionaire entrepreneur and technology wiz, most of which focused on Musk's activities with Tesla Motors (TSLA) and SpaceX. Out of the 90 minute interview, Musk spent probably no more than 60 seconds talking about SolarCity (SCTY). Musk said his daily involvement with SolarCity is limited because of the incredible leadership of the Lyndon and Peter Rive (Musk's cousins who started SolarCity in 2006 and continue to lead the company).
"Thankfully [SolarCity] requires almost none of my effort, because those guys are just awesome in terms of their execution of SolarCity." Strong words coming from Elon Musk.
In other words, Musk has entrusted the operations of SolarCity -- and his $1 billion+ 25% stake in the business -- to his cousins and the leadership team they have assembled. Of course, SolarCity's new partnership using Tesla batteries could signify what is in store between the two businesses. In any case, I was struck by the trust and admiration Musk has for the Rive brothers and SolarCity's leadership; not only talking the talk, but walking the walk by entrusting his major stake in the company to these fellows.
It was no surprise then, to see that SNL Energy, a business intelligence firm, named SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive one of the 10 most influential people of 2013:
Led by co-founder and CEO Lyndon Rive, SolarCity Corp. has shaken up the utility industry by undercutting traditional electricity rates with its direct-to-consumer leasing model for distributed solar generation.
With 177 MW of distributed solar installed through the first three quarters of 2013 — and another 101 MW expected in the fourth quarter — SolarCity has supercharged the boom in distributed solar generation and will almost double its installations from 2012.
Instead of requiring consumers to come up with the money upfront, SolarCity buys the system and then sells the power to the customers under a 20-year contract, providing them with immediate savings on their electricity bills.
Now the company, which went public in late 2012, is taking its model to energy storage. In early December, SolarCity, backed by Rive's cousin Elon Musk, announced that it had begun selling energy storage systems to business customers using the same business model it has used to install more than 464 MW of solar energy across the country.
SolarCity said the battery technology, developed by electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, also backed by Musk, will use learning software that automates the discharge of stored energy to optimize utility charge savings for customers.
The company has set a goal of installing solar for 1 million customers in the U.S. by 2018, Martin LaMonica wrote in an October profile of Rive for GreenBiz.com. In October, SolarCity only had roughly 60,000 customers. But Rive says SolarCity's vertically integrated business model, which offers installation and financing, will allow the company to continue to grow its market share, according to LaMonica.
Rive, who never went to college, and his brother, Peter Rive, founded SolarCity in 2006 with the goal of making solar technology more widely available, not just to the wealthy. Prior to SolarCity, the South African-born Rive co-founded Everdream, a software company that was ultimately acquired by Dell Inc.
For those interested, this is the Elon Musk interview to which I am referring (Musk talks about SolarCity at 1:12:56): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1qyzxxq7QY