How can you determine when a market has reached maturity?
Typically, you can assess this by examining traditional indicators such as revenue, market capitalization, customer base, profit margins, and similar metrics. However, there’s one relatively novel gauge that often goes unnoticed: the presence of a Y Combinator-backed SaaS startup operating within that market.
If this criterion is met, it’s safe to say that the market, such as the one for solar installers, has indeed matured. For years, solar installers have managed their project workflows in a makeshift fashion. Smaller companies often relied on a slew of spreadsheets, while larger ones cobbled together solutions from platforms like Salesforce or Oracle, tailored to the unique requirements of solar installations. These approaches have proven effective, as demonstrated by the ongoing growth of the industry, with a projected 22% increase in solar installer jobs this year.
Nevertheless, these systems, while functional, are far from ideal. Coperniq’s proposition is that its SaaS solution will empower solar installers to manage their projects more efficiently than existing options, all while offering companies a long-term source of recurring revenue. The startup was selected for Y Combinator’s Winter 2023 cohort, aligning with the accelerator’s commitment to invest in more climate tech startups. Since its graduation from the program, the company has been on track to increase its annual recurring revenue by fivefold this year, as per Abdullah Al-Zandani, Co-founder and CEO, who shared this with TechCrunch+.
“We’re in a good place,” he remarked.
Several factors inspired Al-Zandani, along with Max Kazakov, to establish Coperniq. Most notably, Al-Zandani’s experience working for a solar company, where he was involved in sales and operations management, revealed the need for a superior solution. His journey with solar, however, began years earlier when he was a teenager in Yemen. A persistent civil war led to an unreliable electric grid, forcing him and his family to endure power and water shortages. “I had to think of something,” he recalled.
Solar energy became his focus, and he constructed an improvised system using solar panels, an inverter, and old car batteries, even suffering two electric shocks in the process.
“It started working. For a 15-year-old, that was really magical, right? And I was like, wow, oil and energy, countries fight for this. This will replace it. But how can I do this a little bit safer and on scale?”
Certainly, developing Coperniq is a safer route compared to connecting car batteries to an inverter. Al-Zandani and Kazakov made their first sale during their senior-year finals at UC Berkeley and have been dedicated to building the company ever since.
The startup’s solution complements solar project proposal software by seamlessly integrating with Aurora, widely used for proposals, and assisting installers throughout the project lifecycle, from inception to grid connectivity. Coperniq also enhances customer communication by providing real-time status updates on installation progress.
TechCrunch+ has exclusively learned that the startup recently closed a $4 million seed funding round led by Initialized Capital, with participation from Y Combinator. While the company did not disclose its valuation or revenue figures, Al-Zandani revealed that its annual recurring revenue increased sixfold in the previous year.
In contrast to a per-seat pricing model, Coperniq charges based on a common metric in the solar industry: per watt. Prices currently range from $180 for residential projects (8–10 kilowatts) to $500 for commercial projects (0.5–1.5 megawatts), with sales conducted in batches rather than individually. The startup calculates the number of installations a solar company completed in the past year and provides enough to cover those projects plus 10%.
A portion of the seed funding will be allocated to developing an API capable of interfacing with various solar hardware components. This will enable solar companies to proactively address issues before customers notice them or recommend additional panels if a customer’s electricity consumption rises. Establishing such enduring relationships represents a significant shift for an industry that traditionally has minimal customer interaction once the panels are operational.
This move will also provide Coperniq with an additional avenue to generate recurring revenue, mirroring the essence of the SaaS revolution. This revolution was not just about software but about innovating pricing models that allowed companies to forecast their software expenses more accurately and align them with their cash flow.
Due to the predictability it offers to both investors and customers, the SaaS model has extended from enterprise IT operations to diverse sectors, including law firms, medical practices, restaurants, and debt collection. Now, it has reached the realm of solar installers. The emergence of an investor-friendly SaaS for solar installers signifies that the solar market has evolved into a stable and predictable industry that is here to stay.