Solar and Steady: Sparkpr’s work with Innovalight leading up to its acquisition by DuPont

The Situation:

Drivers through Santa Clara or Sunnyvale in 2007 would pass solar company after solar company; Solyndra was staking its claim in Fremont – solar seemed poised to boom in Silicon Valley. Fast forward to 2009, and it was a different world. Less expensive solar panels – mostly built overseas – had flooded the market. With a new constant of cheaper production materials, there became an economic race to the bottom, and the impact on US firms has been well documented.

Innovalight saw this market tsunami rising and spearheaded a shift in the solar panel materials industry. With the main intention to lower the cost of solar energy, Innovalight – also for a time intending to build its own large production line – pivoted its business model to produce only quality materials integral to the production of solar panels. The high caliber team filed over sixty patents in the process. Innovalight retooled its business model to become the worldwide dealer of silicon ink – a unique technology that increases the conversion of sunlight into electricity.

Innovalight teamed up with Sparkpr to grow recognition and support its business efforts in maintaining steady company growth as the entire solar industry landscape shifted around them.

The Results:
Sparkpr worked in tandem with CEO Conrad Burke to establish Innovalight as a clear industry leader. Respected energy writer Todd Woody of the New York Times first saw the change coming and hoisted Innovalight to the spotlight in a landmark story about California’s solar industry. Not long after, the company was acquired by DuPont in July 2011; the deal was covered by Forbes and many other leading news organizations (Wall Street Journal, Reuters, GreenTech Media, and Bloomberg to name a few).  

How we did it:

Sparkpr helped to lay the groundwork for Innovalight’s new business push though a sustained effort and close strategic coordination. Together they made the most of all the key company milestones, including financing rounds, key hires, technical advances certified by leading international organizations, and test projects with major companies like Chevron.

Sparkpr worked with Innovalight to build relationships with top-tier Silicon Valley media – especially respected reporters at major business publications and top energy blogs (like Solar Novus, GreenTech Media, and PV Tech). Reporters were invited to tour the company’s facilities, hear CEO Conrad Burke’s vision for the direction of the global solar industry, and tour the company’s factory for producing silicon ink (as well as a small 10MW solar demonstration line). As media relationships increased, so did news coverage and feature stories between news cycles.

As the company turned on its sales and marketing machine in the U.S. and Asia, Sparkpr worked with the company to continue to leverage every key milestones—technology breakthroughs, new hires, customer news. Each announcement was told within the broader context of Innovalight’s successful pivot toward becoming a top materials provider.

The Takeaways:

A long-term build and integrated messaging were the key components to Innovalight’s success. By tightly integrating PR messaging to Innovalight’s business goals and priorities, both Sparkpr and the company had a long-term view in sight.

Creating opportunities for journalists to meet company leaders and experience technologies like silicon ink hands-on led to deeper media relationships and opportunities for inclusion in top publications.

In CEO, Conrad Burke’s words, “We did everything right. We never made a mistake.”

Today the technology, and team that comprised Innovalight have been integrated into the DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions division – about half of the world’s installed solar panels contain at least one DuPont material. Conrad Burke remains on as GM.