"iPhone pulls Oregon's Choice Solar into U.S. market"
By: Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Journal
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An Oregon company formed to develop easy-to-use solar-powered battery chargers and lights in India is being pulled into the U.S. market by the siren song of iPhone users clamoring for charging options.
Choice Solar India, formed in 2008 by Hewlett-Packard veterans Ravi Sinha and Katherine Cleland, is owned by Portland-based holding company Choice Solutions Corp. Choice Solar's website shows solar-powered lanterns and rooftop solar panels in rural and urban India.
Choice will start selling its solar-powered cell phone charger in the U.S. this week, a product clamored for by iPhone users eager to charge their phones in coffee shops without plugging in.
"It's almost against all odds," said Sinha, a Blackberry user, who is somewhat bewildered by the demand for a product he intended for use in a setting with spotty electricity service. "We didn't think there was a demand for it in the U.S. We were wrong."
Choice Solutions Corp. is a tiny company run by Sinha, who is CEO, and Cleland, chief marketing officer. Its angel investors include Dave Chen, founding partner of Equilibrium Capital; Sarah Cleveland of Towers Watson Investment Services; and Ryan Finley and Chris Finley, founders of Portland-based Survey Monkey. Sinha declined to disclose the amount of seed money raised by Choice Solutions.
Choice Solar's debut in the U.S. market will be with two products, a generic solar-powered charger for $39.95 and one tricked out especially for the iPhone at $89.95.
Choice Solutions Corp. will continue to push the original mission of Choice Solar, expanding into Africa and eying the need for solar in Haiti. The company also owns Loop Environmental Solutions India Private Limited, which markets environmentally friendly products and services.