A glass of beer, a good friend and a hot summer's night. That’s the genesis of the idea behind the ShadePlex startup in Ypsilanti.
ShadePlex is a company that specializes in making tents with solar panels built into them. Brian Tell, the president and co-founder of the company, came up with the idea two years ago while drinking beer on his porch with his brother in-law from Iowa and talking about ways to lessen global warming.
"He went back to Iowa and I became obsessed," Tell says.
That obsession turned into ShadePlex. The idea is to sew solar-cell enabled fabrics into larger tents, such as those used by retailers to shade outdoor customers. That way the solar heat that would normally bounce off the blacktop of a parking lot is used to generate large amounts of electricity. In this case a 90 square foot panel can generate between 200 and 500 watts of electricity.
"So instead of a basic shade canopy they might use our product so they can still provide some shade and generate some electricity for their building," Tell says.
Tell and co-founder Jeff Peelman have been toiling to make the idea work for the last couple of years. But this year they expect to breakout and start hiring as many as five people by the start of next year, up to a dozen by 2011. Their business plan calls for $15 million in revenue by 2012, which Tell says is a conservative estimate.
"We’ve been boot strapping it up until now, but we’re looking to begin an angel seed round," Tell says. "We’ve been doing well, but now we’re looking for some help to get us to the next step.”"
This will be quite a few steps from the conversation over a beer on a hot night that started it all, but only the first few steps in what the ShadePlex guys hope will be a long journey.
Source: Brian Tell, president and co-founder of ShadePlex
Writer: Jon Zemke