Weather was partly cloudy for solar power startups last week. Investors in Santa Clara, Calif.-based photovoltaic panel maker MiaSolé saw no sun, as the acquisition price yielded pennies for the millions of dollars capitalists ventured last year, according to The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
On the bright side, Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings agreed last week to pay as much as $2.5 billion toward solar energy projects in California. This is the third significant solar power investment in a little more than a year for the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, The Telegraph noted on Wednesday.
But all startups, from a solar-powered panel maker to a girl-powered ballet school, rely on more than venture capital and decades of profoundly sage experience from an iconic investor. Small business owners in developing markets and SAP employees are learning this firsthand through SAP social sabbaticals.
People from around the company and across the globe take time away from their SAP jobs to work abroad on not-for-profit projects in emerging market economies, helping startups while gaining new experiences and insights. The first group went to Belo Horizonte, Brazil last summer.
SAP’s Michaela Degbeon and Christoph Zeidler (pictured, left and center) recently spent a month in India helping entrepreneurs in Bangalore. The two told German daily newspaper Die Welt and public television channel Deutsche Welle how they bridged technological, economic and cultural gaps.
“Many conversations [in Bangalore] begin with questions about your family and about personal things,” Degbeon said in an English-language version of the video, which aired last week. “Generally, it’s about building up trust via interpersonal relationships, and then achieving results.”
Degbeon and Zeidler worked at the National Entrepreneurship Network, where shelves full of car batteries help prevent computers from crashing during the city’s frequent power outages. That helpful and friendly nature of the people impressed Zeidler the most.
“It’s possible to be successful using approaches different than the way we do things in Germany,” Zeidler said. “Things always seem to end well despite the alleged chaos.”
And that’s a sunny forecast for startups around the world.
“The Daily Startup: Miasole Fire Sale a Solar Meltdown for Investors” by Venture Capital Dispatch
“Warren Buffett to build world’s largest solar energy project” by Nathalie Thomas
“Social Projects as a Break from the Job” (at 19:30) by Deutsche Welle