SolarCity’s Family Business

If any company proved that blood is thicker than water, it’s SolarCity. The co-founders are brothers who serve as CEO (Lyndon Rive) and chief operating officer (Peter). And Elon Musk, one of the most intriguing business operatives on the planet, is their first cousin, a catalyst in starting the business, the initial investor and, now, chairman of the board.              

Lyndon Rive explains Musk’s role. “The idea came about in 2004 as Elon and I were driving in a car toward the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert,” he said. “I told Elon that Peter and I were tired of enterprise software [they eventually sold their company, Everdream, to Dell in 2007] and wanted to do something with environmental impact. His recommendation was to look at solar. When we got back from Burning Man I told Peter about it, and he loved the idea. We launched SolarCity two years later.”         

Rive says Musk is “definitely an adviser. We go to him with challenges, and he sees us through them.” Even though Musk is spread thin, Rive says his cousin’s advice is invaluable because he can focus quickly and find any holes in business plans.              

And collaboration could grow in the near future. There’s actually considerable synergy between SolarCity and Tesla, because the latter’s lithium-ion batteries provide excellent storage for the energy that photovoltaic panels generate from sunlight during the day. SolarCity leaders disclosed last summer that the company is testing Tesla batteries for applications like that, and in 2010, SolarCity was awarded $1.8 million by the California Public Utilities Commission to study the issue of storing solar power in batteries.

*Photo: Brothers Lyndon (left) and Peter Rive's SolarCity gives consumers a no-brainer option for electricity.

What do SolarCity, Republic Wireless, Keurig and Red Bull have in common? They all revolted against the status quo to delight consumers. Read the full-length feature on how these businesses disrupted the market.


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