Sonoma Co.’s EnergyPeriscope solar software venture sold to SolarReviews.com

PC: Scott Cronk of Santa Rosa and his solar panels that were installed on the roof of his home in Santa Rosa in 2001. 4/6/2002: D1-C: Scott Cronk stands on the roof of his Santa Rosa home where gleaming solar panels were installed in 2001. Cronk, an electrical engineer, received a $186,000 grant from the state to produce a video on how to choose and install home solar and wind-power systems, which have increased in popularity since last year's energy crisis struck.

JEFF QUACKENBUSH,

A Santa Rosa inventor who has been involved with electric vehicles, solar power and even tax e-filing has inked a deal to sell his solar sales-management software venture to a Colorado company that offers customer reviews of installers.

Scott Cronk’s Energy Matters is selling the EnergyPeriscope.com platform to Lakewood, Colorado-based SolarReviews.com, the companies announced Sept. 26. The sale is expected to be completed by mid-December.

EnergyPeriscope is said to be designed to drive efficiency in the solar sales, with tools for project evaluation and sales management.

Andrew Sendy, president of SolarReviews.com, said in the announcement that EnergyPeriscope is a key player in the solar industry, has an "impressive" client base and "functionality not yet available in other products."

"By integrating EnergyPeriscope, we will be able to further streamline the sales process for our customers, making their businesses more effective and efficient at closing sales," Sendy said.

Earlier this month, SolarReviews.com announced a partnership with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, to integrate NABCEP certifications and credentials into the site. Combined with EnergyPeriscope, the site offers customers more information for their solar decision process, the company said.

Cronk, 52, launched EnergyPeriscope in 2009, calling it the first web-based financial-analysis and performance-estimating tool for solar-electric, solar-thermal, energy-efficiency, energy-storage and wind-turbine projects. He claims that 80 percent of renewable-energy contractors use his company’s software.

"As part of SolarReviews.com, the software will be well positioned to grow as an industry-leading sales platform, enabling sales and installation teams to close high-quality sales faster, at lower-cost," he said.

As of this month, SolarReviews.com has received more than 22,000 unsolicited reviews on solar installers across the U.S., the company said.

A previous Energy Matters venture was Solar-Estimate.org, started as Calenergy.org in 2000. The free service offered online project estimates and referrals to contractors. Cronk sold Solar-Estimate.org in 2013, when it is said to have offered a total of 70,000 contractor recommendations. It is now operated by SolarRewiews principals Vassie Fitzgerald, co-founder and chief technical officer, and Sendy.

Trained as an engineer on GM’s sponsorship, Cronk worked his way up in the automaker’s hierarchy to international manufacturing planning manager. He left the company in 1994 to develop electric vehicles, becoming an officer at U.S. Electricar, a Santa Rosa venture that ran out of cash about a year later.

Cronk started Electric Motorbike in Sonoma County in 1996. Zapworld acquired it in 1999, and he worked in management there for a couple of years.

In 2001 he focused on Energy Matters as a developer of software. A beta software package was purchased by Clean Power Finance, now Spruce Finance, and folded into its platform.

After working in the venture capital–fueled startup world, Cronk told the Business Journal he took a different direction with Energy Matters.

"I set a different path; a deliberate, written, goal of generating $500,000 a year in revenues with no employees, little or no overheads and working not more than 40 hours a week — from home, no commute, and a dog at my feet," he said by email. "It was my way of trying to provide it could be done without investors, without large startup capital needs and still making a significant impact in the renewable energy industry, and generating wealth for myself."

He said it only took a few years for EnergyPeriscope to help him achieve that. Energy Matters still has low overhead — no employees, working with a few software consultants and licensing some code. He said he writes much of the code himself and administers the company's roughly 9,000 accounts.

"And I achieved this in a competitive scenario where my main competitors have staffs of dozens and investments in the many millions," Cronk said.

One software project was outside of clean energy. In 2005 he launched TaxHead.com, going up against online tax e-filing giants such as Intuit's TurboTax. He sold that venture in 2012.

Other ventures could emerge from stealth mode, he said. Opportunities include software and hardware for mobility services, electric vehicles and renewable energy.