East: Kool offer
A 3-year-old company with a promising but untested technology aimed at keeping rooftop solar systems working during outages is making an offering to create more of a market for its stock. Koolbridge Solar, based in Wrightsville Beach, isn’t raising any money from the proposed sale of 2.5 million shares. Instead, the existing 67 holders are offering to sell as many as 50,000 shares each to new investors for $1 per share.
Since incorporating in 2013, Koolbridge has raised $1.83 million, says J. Stephen Burnett, the company’s co-founder and CEO. Burnett started the company based on the inventions of Paul Dent, a retired scientist and investor who helped develop Bluetooth wireless technology while working at the Research Triangle Park office of Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson. After a chance meeting at Chapel Hill’s 411 West restaurant, the two men became friends and business partners when Burnett learned of Dent’s work on a breaker box that enables power from rooftop solar panels to keep electricity flowing when storms have knocked the electric grid out of service.
“Ninety-nine percent of rooftop solar systems are tied to the grid, and they don’t provide power to the owner’s house,” Burnett says. Dent started working on the project after installing a solar system at his Chatham County home. Koolbridge has agreed to use three of his patents, with testing underway at Underwriters Laboratories, the safety certification business. The company expects to start testing the systems in North Carolina homes later this year, Burnett says.
Dent, 73, is the biggest shareholder with 7.8 million shares, according to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Burnett, 60, previously worked for Remote Light, a successor company to Durham-based Remote Source Lighting, which failed to produce significant revenue after raising more than $30 million from investors attracted to its fiber-optic technology for lighting systems at hospitals, stadiums and other sites. He owns 6.9 million shares in Koolbridge, while High Point investor Phil Johnston is chief legal officer and a director. Its board of advisers includes Bill Pratt, a co-founder of Greensboro-based RF Micro Devices (now Qorvo), and Raleigh architect Mike Nicklas, a solar-energy pioneer.
Most of Koolbridge’s investors do not want to sell shares, but the goal is to broaden ownership to make trading easier, Burnett says. While the company had cash of $523,000 as of May, it will need to raise more money to pay expected costs of $937,000 over the next year, according to its filing. The company’s startup losses have topped $1 million without any revenue recorded. No plans are set for an IPO, in which proceeds would go to the company itself.
Startup Koolbridge Solar hopes its technology can place it in the middle of North Carolina’s growing solar industry.
245,000 number of homes that could be powered by N.C. solar energy today
$1.69 billion amount invested on solar installations in 2015 in the state
3rd N.C.’s ranking in total installed solar capacity
2nd N.C.’s ranking nationally in solar electric capacity added in 2015
5,950 employees of the state’s 213 solar-related businesses
Source: Solar Energy Industries Association
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