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Celebrating World Environment Day - Polysolar’s Contribution to Saving our Planet

last modified Jun 05, 2019 11:00 AM
ideaSpace exists to support founders with scalable innovative ideas which could potentially address global threats like climate change. To celebrate World Environment Day we spoke to Hamish Watson, founder of ideaSpace alumni company Polysolar – a leader in the provision of solar PV glass for energy generation in buildings. He took us through Polysolar’s story, from product inception to where it is today, and shared his thoughts on the secret to the company’s success, the challenges that have shaped its growth, and some advice on crowdfunding.

 1. So how did Polysolar start?

Polysolar started as a result of a Chinese client company approaching me, as a management consultant, trying to get into the solar industry (China’s richest man at the time made his fortune in solar).  Having come across plastic electronic technologies while working for CDT – a spin out from the Cavendish Labs in Cambridge; I thought this new technology would lend itself to transparent photovoltaic glass – allowing buildings to become power stations and making glass windows multifunctional and hence cost effective.  Realising the Chinese client wasn’t in a position to support the R&D, I decided to pursue the idea myself.


2. What do you think has been your biggest challenge to date and how did you approach it? 

The company has experienced numerous challenges throughout its development.  From its foundation it has faced competition from university research partners setting up in competition, the financial crisis floored its bank and scuppered its fundraising, as well as resulting in the loss of corporate partners from grant programmes. It has also had to confront the roller coaster ride of changing solar grants, building regulations, but probably its biggest challenge has been in understanding and integrating within the building contractor industry, with its notoriously difficult procurement structures.


3. You recently undertook a crowdfunding campaign. How did that go and do you have any tips for anyone wanting to do the same?

The company completed its first fundraise with an equity crowd funding campaign on Crowdcube last Summer. This proved extremely successful and we raised £1.3m, all from new crowd investors. We understand this was one of the largest and fastest fundraises on the platform from new investors. Our advice to anyone looking at this form of capital raise is to ensure the concept/message is clear and readily understandable. Invest in a professional video, secure credible seed investors and have an ongoing flow of project/client news.


4. What do you think is the secret to Polysolar's success?

Perseverance, good people and a good idea.   


5. What advice would you give anyone starting their own company?

Don’t! It always appears greener on the other side, but setting up a business always takes longer, requires more money and is harder work than you would ever expect.  That said, it’s never boring, endlessly stimulating and educational. You can feel good about your contribution to the world and in exceptional situations, you can even make some money.


6. What's next for Polysolar? 

Polysolar is still a start-up. We are still on the journey of building a sustainable business. I don’t think you ever get to a point of having reached your goal. At ideaSpace they have a bell that you ring to celebrate a ‘success in achieving a goal’.  Polysolar never once rang that bell as we never felt comfortable that we had really achieved and completed a goal, despite having landed major contracts, raised funds and created new technology.

Going forward we have endless exciting opportunities which we are pursuing and creating. We are after all, not only trying to build a business, but to save the world too. 


Find out more about Polysolar here

To find out more about ideaSpace, a community of founders, innovators and entrepreneurs who are working alongside each other at one of our three locations, visit email– we’d love to hear from you!

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