- I have a Bachelors in Materials Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, both a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at North Carolina State University and finally, a Master’s of Business Administration in Finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
- I started my career working with Texas Instruments. I was responsible for developing semiconductor chips for airbag applications and was the key design interface to Bosch, a major customer providing over $200 million in revenue. While at TI, I was sponsored by the company to the Executive MBA program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
- After completing my MBA, I worked at Citigroup on the sell-side covering semiconductor companies. I headed the technology M&A group at SunEdison, where I was responsible for over $4 billion in transactions. Many of the investments and acquisitions I led at SunEdison were instrumental in enabling the company’s entry into key market segments like residential solar and wind.
- I left SunEdison in 2015 to found Xponent Power, to develop an intelligent and retractable solar technology that enables power generation in applications that cannot be served by traditional solar due to space constraints. We successfully launched our first product last year to rave media reviews and strong customer interest.
- I hold two patents and have sixteen publications in renowned Journals like the IEEE Electron Device Letters, Solid State Electronics, and Journal of Applied Physics. I am also a co-author of the “Microelectronics Failure Analysis Desk Ref 4th Edition” handbook.
What is your field of expertise?
I have an educational and professional background both in engineering and management. I have a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and an MBA in finance. I have over 25 years of corporate experience with leadership roles in product development, product management, and corporate development in the semiconductor and solar sectors.
Describe your journey to where you are today.
My journey is a mixed bag of varied experiences that come together to enable my success as an entrepreneur today.
Xpanse is a product that required a tremendous amount of multi-disciplinary innovation, from mechanical to electrical to PV design, for it to work seamlessly and reliably. My deep engineering roots and background provided me with the skills and knowledge that I needed to create this incredibly innovative product. It takes more than just great technology for a company to be successful. I believe that my management background and a decade of experience on the business side were instrumental in helping me identify a very attractive go-to-market opportunity in the RV industry. A good entrepreneur needs to have a good understanding of not just technology and business as well, and I am fortunate to
have had experiences on both fronts before I started on my entrepreneurial journey.
Many of my life experiences, good and bad, have also inadvertently shaped me along this journey. As the only woman in a class of 35 students in my undergraduate class, I learned how to navigate a male-dominated technology world. It also has made me passionate about trying to change that paradigm. As a mother of a two-year-old with a full-time job and traveling every other week from Houston to Philadelphia for a grueling MBA program, I learned to multitask and manage my time efficiently. As the head of an M&A group, leading integration efforts of two large companies across multiple geographies taught me
how to build relationships and consensus among people. As with everyone, all of my many life experiences have shaped my journey in one way or another. I am also very fortunate to be surrounded by supporting friends, family, and mentors who have helped shape my journey to where I am today.
What does your company do, for whom, and how does it fit into the bigger picture of solving global issues with clean tech?
Xponent Power has developed a compact, ultra-light, and intelligent retractable solar system that enables power generation in applications that traditional solar cannot serve due to space constraints. There are many applications where solar power is desired but not feasible because of space limitations. For example, there are 400 million apartments and condominiums in the world were installing a solar system is difficult as they lack roof space.
Many other applications like emergency power relief, military applications, recreational vehicles, and tiny homes need portable power. The lack of roof space on these vehicles makes it difficult to add solar on them to generate meaningful power. Xponent’s unique, intelligent, and retractable solar technology platform addresses these constraints and opens up new markets for solar that do not exist today.
We chose the RV market as our initial target market because of the strong drivers for product adoption in this space. First, we observed a clear need for off-grid power generation to enable RV owners to camp in remote locations, a lifestyle that is important to them. Secondly, it is a very large market. 1 in 12 homeowners own an RV in the US; there were 11 million RVs in the US alone and about 20 million worldwide. Finally, the existing options for RV owners to power themselves off-the-grid are suboptimal and limiting. Generators are loud, polluting, and need constant refueling. We commissioned a sizable independent research study of 600 RV owners that demonstrated a strong interest in solar (about 75% of the participants surveyed indicated that they either had solar or were looking to install solar on their vehicle).
We saw an opportunity to launch our product in a space that was ripe for disruption and developed Xpanse to address this need. The Xpanse solar awning has a power rating of 1200W that can be seamlessly deployed at the push of a button. Over the course of a sunny day, this system generates sufficient power to run most RV appliances, including the refrigerator, lights, and microwave.
The Xpanse solar awning is the first in a line of products that Xponent plans to offer that leverages its core retractable technology platform. Xponent’s technology platform will enable solar deployment in unaddressed verticals today, both in mobility spaces (RVs, mobile medical clinics, emergency power relief, tiny homes) and residential markets (apartments, condominiums, etc. awnings/pergolas, etc. for single-family homes, etc.). Our vision is to enable widespread adoption of solar every way we can and everywhere we can combat global warming.
What do you think is the most important thing we can be doing in terms of clean tech solutions?
Addressing climate change requires a multi-pronged approach because there is no silver bullet to address this issue. We need rapid and unprecedented changes in many aspects of our lives — from how we generate power to how we consume them. In order to achieve a drastic cut in emissions we need to invest in various forms of clean energy technologies, energy efficiency improvement technologies, technologies for carbon capture, and reforestation among the many things we should be doing.
But in my opinion, one of the most important things we need to do is to educate, bring awareness to the issue of climate change and buy-in from the public and help establish policies that encourage climate tech investments.
Profitability and sustainability are not mutually exclusive and many companies have technologies that do both. We need to support and encourage such innovations.
This is our planet and it is a collective responsibility between individuals, capital markets, and the government to make sure that we leave it a better place for our children.
What do you wish you could tell the younger you? What would’ve been incredibly helpful to you 10 years ago?
I would tell myself to take risks and pursue my passion. Coming to this country as a student, having no support system to lean on, and with a loan to repay made it difficult for me to take too many risks. My decision to work for big corporations was driven by the need for stability and security at that time. If I could go back in time I would tell myself to be bold, take more risks and pursue my dreams early on.
LinkedIn: Rohini Raghunathan