Made in Italy has always been synonymous with luxury, excellence in design and style. A new Italian startup, ILOOXS Technologies, leveraging these values, created invisible solar panels that beautifully integrate with any surface from building roofs to automobiles.
Three partners with complementary skills founded ILOOXS in Turin. Fabrizio Chiara, a communications expert and fashion-tech blogger, was previously involved in two digital startups: “uReshare”, a social advertising platform and “Blagour” an automated fashion advisor (a sort of “bot”).
Fabrizio was the first to come up with the idea of personalizing solar panels but he admits that without his partners Giancarlo Casellato and Andrea Demonte, the product would have never been so powerful and incredibly beautiful.
Giancarlo is an engineer, former manager of “Electrical / Electronic Systems and Architectures” at the Fiat Research Centre, where he invented everything from the common rail to the start and stop on the Ferrari California. Thanks to him the ILOOXS efficiency is so high. Andrea, calls himself a “technological craftsman” and owns a company that does clothing personalization and digital printing. Subsequently, Simona Santoro owner of Santoro for Luxury Yachts, joined the team lending her expertise in the luxury goods industry.
This innovative ILOOXS concept fascinated me so much that I decided to interview Fabrizio to learn how the initial idea became a Green-tech startup.
How was ILOOXS born?
“We started in 2013 developing a photovoltaic fashion accessory with a minimalist design and immense adaptability. However, some of the Italian luxury fashion brands we approached told us they would never buy it because, although they liked the design, the photovoltaic cell was ugly and it did not fit their product aesthetic standards. Today, all photovoltaic products are limited by the look of the solar panels, which do not look that great. At that point, we decided to pivot and make “beautiful” panels that blend with the product or structure they need to power. We also managed to maintain high efficiency, because a solar panel that does not generate energy is useless.”
What concrete steps did you take to turn your concept into a business?
“Our idea solves a real problem that the market has been dealing with for quite some time: solar panels need to be less “visible” in order to seamlessly integrate with any product requiring energy. After a couple of decisive “NO’s” to the solar-based fashion accessory, we took a break to figure out what to do next. We spent 18 months between pivoting and determining if there was demand for our new solution. Then it was time to patent the product and get ready to go to market.”
What results have you achieved to date?
“It took us 9 months to replicate the technology and 7 more to optimize it. Now we have some advanced prototypes and we hope to close our first sales contracts in the coming months. In view of achieving these objectives, we are confident that our solar panels will enter the market in early 2017.”
What are the most promising markets for your technology?
“Since we announced our innovation last April, we have received requests from various sectors. The renewable energy trend is growing along with the rules for the proper use of PV panels. For instance, ILOOXS is considered the ideal solution for historic buildings and protected landscapes, where regular solar panels are prohibited because they have a direct and irreversible impact on the character‐defining features of such environments. The same happens with cars, where we can integrate a photovoltaic roof that increases the range of the vehicle without modifying its design. In the nautical industry, our solution allows companies to offer solar-powered yachts without affecting their aesthetics.”
How do you plan to scale, considering that hardware startups are different from software startups?
“A hardware startup grows thanks to its team’s know-how and its patents which help slow down the competition. We are positioned as a luxury product that meets the needs of a high-end clientele without budget restrictions. Our target customers are wealthy people who seek exclusive, environmentally friendly products. However, as we will grow our prices will drop as a function of increased sales volumes and we will become accessible to many more people. A recent example of the strategy we are pursuing is Elon Musk who entered the automotive industry from scratch producing high-end cars, and now it is expanding by offering more affordable models.”
How do you finance your project?
“So far we have invested our own money in addition to our time. We are now looking for investors and strategic partners because we need funds and industrial alliances to market and manufacture the product in large scale. Some Italian and foreign investors are interested in us and we believe we will be able to raise the first round this year.”
Did you learn anything from any mistakes you made in your previous startups?
“My mistakes were mainly due to my lack of business experience. Generally, I found that the biggest hurdle for Italian entrepreneurs is to form a solid and cohesive team, with the right skills and above all, dedication. I also learned to avoid doing business with friends because friendship might get in the way of making sound business decisions. Finally, in any early stage startup, while money and brand appeal are scarce, one needs to be prepared to become a jack-of-all-trades.”
What is ILOOXS’ mission besides making money?
“ILOOXS wants to change the world with a combination of creativity, love of nature and style. Our motto is: beauty and purity, kissed by the sun. ILOOXS Kissed by the sun.”