Startup participates in Google pitch competition

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Blue Crump is the founder of Uvest Solar.

Blue Crump’s voice was a little hoarse one morning in February for a good reason.

He had been practicing his elevator speech for Google’s Startup Next Demo Day. At that event, held in late February in Silicon Valley, he and 14 other entrepreneurs pitched their business plans in four minutes or less to more than 100 investors.

Crump’s startup, Richmond-based Uvest Solar, was picked from 100 around the world to participate in the event. Uvest also was an exhibitor at the Launch Festival, an event held March 2-4 in San Francisco, which bills itself as the largest startup conference in the world.

Uvest plans to create a crowdfunding platform to raise money for solar energy projects at schools and nonprofits. When the site begins operation, users will choose a project, decide how much they want to invest and receive a return on their investment of 5 to 7 percent.

Crump says the company will initially work with accredited investors (aka. high-net worth individuals), but plans to open investment opportunities to a broader audience as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission continues to redefine accreditation.

“What we are trying to do at Uvest is to bring Wall Street knowledge to Main Street morals,” says Crump.

His business partners are Michael Edgar, a Wells Fargo Securities associate, and Zach Axelrod, CEO at Washington, D.C.-based energy company Nextility. They already have identified three schools where they would like to begin solar energy projects using money raised through the portal (two of the schools are in Puerto Rico and the other is in Washington, D.C.).

This isn’t Crump’s first foray into startups. He calls himself a “bit of a serial entrepreneur,” having founded Surface, a green building firm in San Francisco, and Richmond-based Urban Grid Solar, a solar energy project installer. Crump sold both companies but still heads Lumen Energy, a firm with offices in Richmond and Kill Devil Hills, N.C., that develops energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. 

To be eligible for Startup Next Demo Day, Uvest had to participate in Google’s Startup Next pre-accelerator program, which took place last fall in 21 cities (including Richmond).

When Crump learned he had been picked to participate in Demo Day, he felt that his hard work was beginning to pay off. “I’ve been working on this idea for two years, and I have sat in front of other investment groups, and I have not been able to secure an investment,” he says.

Each time, however, he used feedback from investors to refine Uvest’s business model. With the recent opportunities he has had because of the Google program, Crump may be a little bit closer to turning his vision into a reality. The day after Demo Day, for example, Uvest was invited to talk with Blake Byers, a general partner at Google Ventures, the company’s venture-capital investment firm. At Launch Fest, Crump says he also started other conversations that are scheduled to continue in the coming weeks.   

“The future of UVest is bright,” Crump concludes in an email.

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