Transforming Solar Trade: An Interview with SolarAcademy

SolarAcademy is a platform that enables property owners, local solar and advanced energy contractors, developers, financiers and other professionals to meet to advance their knowledge on local sustainable energy solutions for their buildings and communities. Kerim Baran, founder of SolarAcademy recently interviewed Kadeer Beg, Sunhub’s COO, and discussed Sunhub’s revolutionary role in the industry and showcased the platform’s seamless buying and selling process. Read some of their discussion and watch the full interview in the video below.

Welcome to a new era in solar energy with Sunhub, an innovative solar marketplace transforming how users buy and sell new and used solar products. Born as a spin-off from YellowLite, a leading regional installer in Ohio, Sunhub has evolved from a solar marketing and e-commerce platform into a thriving procurement and distribution business. 

As the COO, Kadeer is responsible for overseeing the platform’s operations, ensuring its efficiency, and driving its innovation.

Kadeer’s Background

Beg has a proven track record of success in the technology and e-commerce sectors. He has successfully introduced and commercialized products under the IBM WebSphere umbrella, pioneered NFC Tap-based interactive content management platforms, and unveiled custom E-Commerce and Order Management System (OMS) platforms for Fortune 500 companies. His expertise in re-engineering and automation, combined with his passion for solar energy, has been instrumental in the development of the Solar Trader Platform. 

The Birth of Sunhub

Kadeer’s partners, Mitch Bihuniak and Azam Kazmi, two solar industry veterans, launched Sunhub after identifying a significant gap in the marketplace. They received numerous calls from installers and customers looking for solar equipment, highlighting the need for an online marketplace where suppliers and buyers could communicate more efficiently and quickly. This realization led to the creation of Sunhub, which was designed to bridge this gap and streamline the procurement and distribution of solar products.

Industry Collaboration

As Kerim Baran notes, “In the distribution space, a lot of the players work with their competitors and with partners as well. Even as a regional leading installer, I’m sure you have many buy-sell conversations. Even though it’s a rapidly growing industry, it’s a very friendly industry.”

The collaborative spirit at the heart of Sunhub’s success creates a supportive community where industry players can work together to advance the solar and renewable energy sectors.

Key Features of the Solar Trader Platform

Beg compared the platform to eBay, with a chat interface “like WhatsApp on steroids.” The platform allows users to negotiate various terms, including incoterms, payment, and delivery terms. It also provides a comprehensive product presentation, auto-fills product listings for efficiency, and offers a quantity on hand calculator for accurate inventory management. These features, combined with the platform’s user-friendly interface and efficient communication tools, make the platform a powerful tool for solar trade. 

The platform is similar to Ebay, but there are some key differences. On the Solar Trader Platform, users might be looking for more than just the highest bid. They might prioritize higher upfront payments, specific delivery terms, or different incoterms.

Sunhub also actively moderates the negotiations while maintaining anonymity for both parties. Once an agreement is reached, it provides them with a binding contract. 

Comparison to the Travel Industry

Similar to the evolution seen in the travel industry, where online platforms have revolutionized the way people book flights and hotels, Sunhub offers users more options and real-time inventory visibility on the trader platform. Users can obtain quotes and negotiate incoterms, delivery schedules, and prices per watt, all in one place. This comprehensive approach ensures that buyers and sellers can efficiently reach agreements tailored to their specific needs, much like how modern travel platforms provide travelers with extensive options and real-time data.

Kadeer highlights, “Until now, the solar procurement business has been conducted over the phone. Every other industry has an e-commerce or brokering platform, but no one has created a platform that speaks this language for the solar industry.”

Helper Tools

Sunhub offers several helper tools to streamline the buying and selling process:

AutoFill for Efficiency: The AutoFill feature automates the population of your listing with detailed product specifications by simply entering a manufacturer SKU or Part Number. This feature saves time and ensures the accuracy of your product information while still allowing you to personalize and modify auto-filled details as needed.

Quantity on Hand Calculator: This tool calculates inventory by inputting the total Watts and number of solar panels. It also estimates logistical details like the number of pallets or containers and total weight, ensuring your listings are accurate and logistically viable.

The comprehensive product presentation feature of Sunhub, which allows for the upload of detailed product images and relevant documentation, ensures that your listings are extensive and informative, giving buyers the confidence they need in their purchasing decisions. 

Platform Demo

During the interview, Beg demonstrated how users can search for inventory by panels, batteries, inverters, panel type, wattage, brand, connector type, and other characteristics. After users click through to their preferred item, they’ll learn more about the terms of that item, including incoterms, upfront payments, etc. 

Beg showed how users make bids on the platform and how terms are automatically updated throughout negotiations. 

Users do not have to make an offer; they can make an inquiry and start chatting. Beg demonstrated the chat through the Sunhub Assistant, showing how users can negotiate terms:

I’ll give you a scenario: if an installer or EPC makes a proposal for 2 megawatts and wants to negotiate for delivery included and the seller can’t, Sunhub can. We also provide value-added services like warehousing, logistics, and delivery. We tag in those with a marked-up cost. The buyer is content because they get delivery. The seller gets a pickup. Now you have two-way contracts going to both people, and we’ve bridged the gap.

Baran noted:

I know a similar tool exists in the banking industry where certain conversations are recorded and become a record of transaction in treasury and trading rooms. Very innovative and new for an industry like ours.

Once negotiations are complete and users agree to terms, both parties receive a binding agreement. 

User Experience

Users appreciate the platform’s efficiency, live inventory updates, and pre-filled information. Kadeer invites interested users to book a demo, stating, 

“If people are interested in more information, they can book a demo. We have a dedicated team for that. For the procurement arm, if you’re looking for something more customized, such as utility-level and contract-based items, we have an offline team that services those.”

Sunhub continues to pave the way for innovation in the solar procurement industry, making it easier for buyers and sellers to connect, negotiate, and finalize deals efficiently and effectively. By providing a platform that speaks the language of the solar industry, Sunhub is bridging the gap between traditional procurement methods and modern e-commerce, revolutionizing the way solar products are bought and sold.

Watch the full interview below. You can also learn more about the Sunhub Solar Trader Platform or book a demo

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