By Jay Fidell
Darren Kimura - an amazing young man, who keeps going and going with local style and global courage.
He founded Sopogy, an alternative energy company, only a few years ago, and it has been going gangbusters ever since. You need to know about it, so you probably want to check out its site, sopogy.com.
Not only has Darren developed innovative use of his favorite solar collection technology, which will have a great place at the energy table in years to come, but he's ridden the very crest of the energy wave in Hawaii and for that matter set up a number of offices on the mainland and in Asia too, one after the other, easy as falling off a log.
Leadership is so important, and in him so recognizable. In the clever concepts he's used to build his company, develop and leverage his IP, design his corporate culture, and light up his staff (now 40). And in his early pay-back to the community. He sits on the Energy Policy Forum and the Innovation Council with people twice his age.
It gets better. Darren has extended himself to the national energy industry as an advocate for federal policy. He threw himself in with a group of energy companies working to extend solar tax credits in Congress. They tried to beat a veto by George Bush (based on big oil) with a filibuster strategy, but it failed for one vote (John McCain). The bill was then vetoed, and for now there is no extension of the credit. Thank you, Mr. President, but this doesn't bode well for alternative energy when oil has already gone north of $125.
Undaunted, Darren trundled off to Europe, where there's lots of solar power in the sunbelt, all the way from Portugal to the underbelly, as well as greater access to the grid and better development incentives. In no time at all, he cold-called his way into deals with an impressive array of European strategic partners, and set up a network of sales offices, and voila, he is selling his technology all over the Continent. Go Darren!
He does all this unhesitatingly, and with panache, as if he was born for every step of it. It's all about making friends and building relationships, he says. Meanwhile, here's a 30-something Hilo boy who took a BA from Manoa and studied Electrical Engineering at Portland State University, and who now has an empire on which the sun only sets once in a while, ranging from Asia to Hawaii to the mainland to Europe. And who does in fact refreshingly want to help the world on the way to his IPO.
At home, Sopogy is building a "power plant" at NELHA, the first of its kind in Hawaii, with acres of Darren's solar collection devices pumping megawatts out to the grid without using a drop of fossil fuel. This plant should be operating in the next few months. It will be a magnificent showing of Sopogy's prowess and clear proof of concept for Hawaii's energy future. Hopefully, Hawaii will recognize the concept and the company, and hold on to both.
I interviewed Darren on these things this past week, and took great video of his comments. When I'm done editing that video, I'll post a part of it on my Advertiser video blog, and the whole of it on Olelo and ThinkTechHawaii.com, so stay tuned to hear more about Darren and about Sopogy.