The journey that started in a garage has gone on to become one of the most popular solar companies in Australia. SunDrive Solar was originally founded by Vince Allen. At the time, he was a PhD student at the University of New South Wales. Allen saw an opportunity in what many would consider impossible. He came up with the ingenious idea of creating affordable and sustainable solar panels. His revolutionary step was to replace the regular, costly silver electrodes in the solar cells with a more available and cheaper copper source.
Allen spent some years assembling machines that could hold a liquid copper concoction of his own and deposit the slurry onto a solar cell. Apparently, the idea of using copper was tested and discarded by many highly funded labs. Allen’s concept worked with the use of copper as the metal at the core. He decided to join hands with David Hu, his former flatmate, to commercialise the technology. Hu was born in China but relocated to Australia at age 16. He is in charge of the company’s business affairs while Allen focuses on the science. SunDrive has grown from a garage project to a company with a dozen employees.
SunDrive Solar is building a sustainable future that would be safe for all. The Australian-based company is a well-funded solar technology start-up based in Wollongong city in Australia. SunDrive is providing distinct solutions to the high cost of efficient solar cells. While doing that, the young company isn’t compromising on its performance and quality through the use of more abundant resources.
Founded in 2015, the firm has been an ideal solution for those looking for Australian made solar panels. SunDrive has been dedicating its focus on developing a new breed of solar cells that don’t rely on the use of silver and other precious metals. Their products are less prone to degradation, and less material and energy intensive.
SunDrive Solar has secured millions of dollars in Series A funding and grants. In August 2020, the company was backed by Australia Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) with a grant of $3 million for the development of Solar panels that could be utilised on rooftops in homes.
SunDrive Solar received another financial backup to the tune of $7.6 million from the likes of Blackbird, a capital venture firm, and Mike Cannon-Brooke, the owner of Grok Ventures, a private investment company. Dr. Zhengrong Shi, regarded as “Sun King” is one of the board members at SunDrive Solar. He was the brain behind Suntech and the founder of SunMan Nergu, a company that produces flexible, lightweight eArc solar panels. One of Blackbird’s founding members Niki Scevak has joined the board of the Aussie solar panel start-up.
- Jul 1, 2015 – Pre Seed Round – $600k
- Aug 10, 2018 – Seed Round – Blackbird Ventures, Grok Ventures – $1.6M
- Aug 13, 2020 – Grant – Australian Renewable Energy Agency – $3M
- Aug 16, 2020 – Series A – Blackbird Ventures, Grok Ventures – $5M
- Oct 12, 2022 – Series A – Main Sequence Ventures, Virescent Ventures – $21M
Blackbird Ventures was founded by Larry Marshal in 2012 as a capital venture firm that invests in enterprise technology, education, hardware and in other profitable sectors. The company is based in Sydney, Australia. Blackbird Ventures has always shown interest in start-up companies in its home country. Blackbird Ventures was created to provide investment seeds for Australian entrepreneurs. With over 200 investments in its portfolio, SunDrive Solar was added to the team in October 2022. The capital firm has invested A$21 million in the solar panel company.
Grok Ventures is an Australian-based capital venture company that provides early to late-stage funding rounds. The investment firm primarily serves companies in Australia. The company was created by Michael Cannon-Brookes in 2008. Grok Ventures has invested in companies like Culture Amp, Brighte, Fleet Space Technology, Spriggy, Juvenescence, DGraph, Spaceship Financial Services and SunDrive Solar.
- The company announced in 2021 that it had developed what was considered the most efficient commercial sized silicon solar cell on the planet. At an efficiency figure of 25.54%, the project was certified independently by the Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamelin (ISFH) for its particular design of solar cells conversion to electricity from light.
- SunDrive Solar recently fabricated its first-ever solar panel, which unarguably put the young company on the global map. The company doesn’t depend on hyping up their accolades in the energy industry. Rather, their engineers are working around the clock to solve some of the unique issues confronting homes and high cost of energy.
Board members at SunDrive Solar
- Vincent Allen, Co-founder and CEO
- David Hu, Co-Founder and COO
- Dr Zhengrong Shi, Founder Suntech
- Sylvia Tulloch, Founder Dyesol
- Niki Scevak, Partner Blackbird Ventures
- Professor Alison Lennon, Chief Scientist
- Dr. David Mills, Founder Ausra
- Dr. Pierre Verlinden, Former Chief Scientist Trina
- Robyn Denholm, Chair Tesla
- Wyatt Roy, Strategic Advisor