25. January 2012–
The Berlin-based social solar startup Changers will need to find an investor by the end of February if it wants to stay afloat, the company confirms today in a VentureVillage exclusive. On the 2 January, the hardware-software based company had to file for insolvency. Now the 15-member team has to bootstrap quickly or otherwise go bankrupt.
Imagine if your startup relied on the sun
When I visited the Changers office in December, CEO and founder Markus Schulz led me into his flat above the office. Strapped to the two windows alongside his balcony were over a dozen solar panels, all made of different materials with varying degrees of absorption and connected to wires running into a computer on his desk. “This side of the building is where we get the most light,” said Schulz as he led me to the table where he collects the information each morning. "I'm always trying out new materials and seeing how they perform."
This is a founder who recently told me when I asked him if he'd ever consider moving to another city, that'd he'd "do like Kant." (Kant famously remained in Koenigsberg, East Prussia until his death, in 1804). "I will stay in Berlin the rest of my life, creating..."
If a founder's strength lies at least in part in his spirit, insolvency felt far out of sight
Changers is unique from competitive solar hardware companies in that it feeds automated status updates into the user’s preferred social network. In this, it allows a green-minded user not only to publicly communicate his personal environmental contributions, but also to compare himself against others. The company is aiming to incorporate a point/currency system called “Changers Credits,” which would further incentivize reducing one's own carbon footprint.
Others in the community are also shocked to hear the news.
"It comes as a complete surprise to me to hear this news,” said EcoSummit founder Jan Michael Hess in an interview with VentureVillage. "I was very confident that Changers would be a success, both in the short-term and long term – they had a very successful marketing plan and launch. The issue may be with mis-management of finances in liquidity and cashflow – perhaps they needed to start earlier to look at a new financing round."
What’s the trouble? And what's the future?
The recent trouble is likely caused mainly by a dramatic 60% loss in stock shares since last year of the company's main investor Centrotherm Photovoltaics. Centrotherm declined to comment on the investment.
So far, the companies most active regions have been the USA, Australia, Spain and Germany. With a strong Apple-like design and one of the more passionate teams in town, we're crossing our fingers that things will look up.
"Changers is now in conversations with othe investors interested in cleantech," says CEO and founder Markus Schulz. He could not yet give specifics on who has shown interest in keeping the company afloat in the future.