Aurora Solar, a software platform for solar sales and design that allows solar professionals to remotely determine various factors key to an installation: from how many solar panels will fit on a property, to the project’s energy production potential and battery needs, to the financial savings that switching to solar will bring to a client.
Using features such as automated photovoltaic system design, lidar-based shade analysis and AI-assisted 3-D modeling, a solar installer using the Aurora software can save money as well as the time normally required to travel to the location of the installation, capturing its sunlight exposure and processing the results, ahead of providing a customer with a quote.
It’s a popular proposition: Aurora claims that more than 40,000 projects are created on its platform each week. Investors are increasingly paying attention, too. Aurora has raised a total $320 million in the past two years after nearly five years of bootstrapping. The startup announced today the closure of a $250 million Series C round—a fivefold increase since its $50 million Series B round announced in November. It is a testament to the increasing attractiveness of the solar industry, where costs for photovoltaic panels have decreased by more than 80% in the past decade, according to some estimates.
And even if recent research indicates a reversal in the collapse of solar power price due to rising costs of its key raw material, polysilicon, Aurora’s cofounders say their technology can help push costs related to solar panel installation down further. “If you can be more accurate, and you know what system size fits how much you’re going to produce, what the savings are going to be, you can quote with much more confidence, and this is also going to reduce costs,” says Hopper, adding: “If we can make a dent in soft costs, that would be massive.”
The project was found by Sam Adeyemo and Chris Hopper in 2012 when they were M.B.A. students at Stanford University.
Aurora’s platform, which is powered by a variety of data sources, has been used so far to complete 5 million projects, Adeyemo tells Forbes—95% based in the U.S., with international demand picking up. With every new project, the platform acquires more data. “Increasingly, as our product develops, we’re also generating data that we can use to make the product better. That’s actually one of the most exciting aspects of what we’re doing,” he says.
The automation potential and its application to other services is also what excites backers like Nomad. “As a software-as-a-service company, Aurora continues to outperform in all traditional metrics and, more importantly, continues to grow at rates that we only see in early-stage companies. The opportunity is beyond their initial SaaS product but in becoming the operating system for the solar industry,” he says.
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Blockchain is one of the most talked-about technologies in business right now. Blockchain tech has the potential to drive major changes and create new opportunities across industries – from banking and cybersecurity to intellectual property and healthcare. But not everyone agrees on what role blockchain should play in the future. What is blockchain, and what impact will it have on business going forward?
How Blockchain Works
A blockchain is a decentralized database – an electronically distributed ledger or list of records that is accessible to various users. Blockchains use cryptography to log, process, and verify every transaction, making them secure, permanent, and transparent.
There are two general categories of blockchain:
Who is Using Blockchain Already
Bitcoin is the most well-known example of blockchain technology, but it is joined by a growing number of early adopters. For example, Google, Goldman Sachs, Visa, and Deloitte are investing in blockchain projects. And businesses working on blockchain based services include:
What the Future Holds for Blockchain
Blockchain is an emerging technology, so predictions are still mixed about its potential.
In a TechRepublic Research study, 70% of professionals who responded said they hadn’t used blockchain. But 64% of said that they expect blockchain to affect their industry in some way, and most predict a positive result.
A recent Trend Insight Report from analyst firm Gartner made the following forecast:
Cybersecurity is one of the most promising areas of projected growth for blockchain technology. An ongoing challenge for businesses of all sizes is data tampering. Blockchain technology can be used to prevent tampering, keeping data secure and allowing participants to verify a file’s authenticity.
“We believe that blockchain technology will be transformative in the tech and IT sector in the coming years, similar to what the internet did for the world back in the 90s and early 2000s,” said John Zanni, President of the Acronis Foundation, in Forbes. “Today, part of our storage and backup software lets users notarize any digital data and put that fingerprint on the blockchain to ensure it can’t be tampered with.”
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The financial services sector has been largely unaffected by software and the internet. Sure, market preferences have shifted, and banks are doing what they can to balance the online experience of the increasingly personalized, on-demand internet providers to which consumers have become accustomed — but business models have not.
This is in stark contrast to the total chaos faced by many other sectors, ranging from shopping to hospitality to newspapers. The music business is the clearest indication of this, as shown by the following sales breakdown over the last 17 years:
Physical sales were practically the only way to make money in music in 2001. By 2018, subscription revenue had increased by 34% year on year and accounted for almost half of global revenue, leaving physical revenues as a longing, derelict shell of their former selves. Today’s industry leaders (Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube) were not in the music business at the turn of the century. The internet altered the music industry’s economics, encouraging new competitors with orthogonal business models to enter the market.
Business structures in financial markets, on the other hand, have not undergone a similar transition. Though FinTech systems are used by a significant proportion of retail customers in particular countries, most notably China, FinTech companies have mainly sought new niches — for example, P2P lending sites, investing, cross-border transfers, and underserved clients, such as small enterprises or individuals without a credit background — or they have collaborated with incumbents or major tech firms. Cooperation provides FinTech start-ups with customer access (via white-label, co-branded products) while reducing their regulatory enforcement burden in many situations.
As a result, incremental upgrades, such as improved user interfaces and alternative data outlets on the edges, are not strong enough drivers to unseat big financial institutions. To disrupt the financial services sector, the underlying networks must be re-architected to bear orders of magnitude less risk. Only then would an alternate business model gain enough of a strategic edge to capture a commanding market share.
Blockchains are distinct from other open source programs in that they preserve a shared state. They work as global accounting machines, processing financial transfers and storing the results in stable, public data structures. Both transactions can be validated by ensuring that a record of them exists on the blockchain. This increases the social scalability of financial systems: Since blockchain transaction parties use a shared accounting scheme, there are fewer opportunities for them to injure one another. Blockchain networks can handle larger numbers of individuals on a global scale by offering better protective assurances.