In anticipation of the final round of the 2019 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for the $15,000 Grand Prize on March 7th in the Grand Ballroom of Stamp Student Union. Learn more and register to attend the competition here.
Alexei Onufrak ’20, Co-founder and President
DC: Tell us about your startup.
AO: There is a demand for power no matter where you are. Every electronic device you own is subject to a dead battery when you least expect it. Solr Tech has created the most versatile, powerful, and convenient way to transform any outdoor patio umbrella into a solar charging station. Whether it’s by the pool, on campus, or at a cafe, people have an easy way to charge their mobile devices, and businesses benefit from increased customer retention and customer experience.
DC: Have there been some key decisions or milestones along the way that have led you from an idea to now pitching for $15K?
AO: Over the past year and a half, our goal has always been to deliver the best user experience for both our customer and our end user. The most significant way we’ve changed our path to keep this goal intact is by increasing our product’s versatility. Why limit our customers and our solar panels to the short life of one outdoor patio umbrella when the Solr Retrofit Kit can be used past the life of any outdoor patio umbrella? Rather than providing our product built into a patio umbrella, we have decided to add more value with an increased life-span by only providing the Solr Retrofit Kit.
DC: What have you learned from the semifinals that will help you better prepare for Finals?
AO: The semifinals have introduced a new level of comfort with the process of pitching in front of a large group of people, including reputable judges. We realized our excitement and enthusiasm about Solr Tech needs to be the greatest in the room. Since the presentation, we have focused on developing our storytelling in a way that not only captures the audience, but the judges as well. It is all a part of the journey to evolve from a startup into a business that will modernize the outdoor experience.
DC: What has your startup been working on since Pitch Dingman Competition Semifinals?
AO: Making sure our venture is ready to be pitched for the finals has required my co-founder and I to juggle many moving parts: Solidifying our manufacturing partners, continuing our work with our legal team to publish our patent, and continuously learning more about our customers. Over the past year and a half, we have come to understand that the amount our team can achieve within a strict deadline is truly amazing. Given nearly 5 months to prepare, we are confident with what we can accomplish for the Finals.
DC: What are some goals you are looking to reach before Finals?
AO: During the process of learning about our markets, we realized that real-world data is important not only for pitching to judges and investors, but also in providing our team with a solid understanding of what the customer wants in a product. We have been focused on bringing our product to test in as many environments as possible, from Southern California to Miami Beach. By partnering with clubs, hotels, resorts, and cafes, we are looking to their business operations to see how our product can improve their customer retention and experience.
DC: If you win Pitch Dingman Competition, what will you do with the $15,000?
AO: Solr Tech would directly invest the $15,000 winnings into the establishment of intellectual properties, delivering Solr Retrofit Kits to partnered locations, finalizing design and development of manufacturable hardware based on our findings, and marketing our product. Solr Tech is committed to bringing the most versatile, convenient, and powerful way to simultaneously improve businesses customer retention and their customer’s experience by providing a sustainable space.
If you’d like to hear more about Solr Tech, be sure to check-out their feature from this summer’s Terp Startup program: https://dingmanblog.com/2018/07/17/terp-startup-solr-tech-designs-solar-powered-umbrellas-to-charge-phones/