Two superstar investors go all-in on Complete Solaria merger

John Doerr and T.J. Rodgers put their money on vertically integrated residential solar.
By Eric Wesoff

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A brown stucco house with solar panels on its black roof
(Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash)

Fabled Silicon Valley investors John Doerr and T.J. Rodgers are helping to bankroll the merger of solar module maker Solaria with residential provider Complete Solar, which was announced late last year. The duo is also backing the public listing of the merged companies, which will be known as Complete Solaria.

Doerr’s investment arm, Foris Ventures, just announced a $10 million investment in the reverse merger via special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Doerr is the chairman of Kleiner Perkins and currently serves on the board of directors of Alphabet and DoorDash. He previously served as a director of Amazon, Bloom Energy, QuantumScape and Zynga.

Joining Doerr in the investment is T.J. Rodgers, Cypress Semiconductor founder and billionaire who spearheaded a miraculous turnaround at microinverter firm Enphase and was an early backer of solar manufacturer SunPower.

Both companies bring a strong investor base, which recently funded a $30 million bridge round preparing the company to go public,” Will Anderson, founder and CEO of Complete Solar who will serve as CEO of the combined entity, said in a presentation for analysts on Monday. The bridge funding includes $14.2 million from T.J. Rodgers, $3.5 million from blank-check company Freedom’s sponsors and $2 million from other investors. Rodgers’ total investment in Complete Solaria amounts to $39 million.

Freedom is led by executive chairman Tidjane Thiam, who served as CEO of Credit Suisse and Prudential.

Complete Solaria will differ from most vendors in the market. It’s a manufacturer of premium solar modules combined with a distribution company that provides financing, project fulfillment and customer service. The closest competitive equivalent would be SunPower with its Maxeon high-efficiency solar module and robust installer network.

Complete Solar raised a $50 million Series D last year to grow its digital platform, which streamlines rooftop deployments by coordinating third-party solar sales, equipment vendors and installation pros. The Carlyle Group led that funding round, which also included T.J. Rodgers.

Complete Solaria and Freedom expect the business combination to close in the second quarter of 2023, resulting in Complete Solaria being listed as a publicly traded company.

U.S. residential solar is currently at 4 percent penetration but is forecast to reach 19 percent penetration and 18 million homes in 2033, according to Anderson. People close to the deal contend that the only way to scale a solar company and manage the supply chain to meet growing market demand is to own some of that supply as well as the channel to the customer.

It remains to be seen whether this play will pan out. But history suggests that betting against a Doerr and Rodgers investment is a foolish wager.

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Eric Wesoff is editorial director at Canary Media.