AgileSwitch helps lead digital energy revolution

STEPHANIE AARONSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Rob Weber holds the device made by his company, AgileSwitch.
STEPHANIE AARONSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Rob Weber holds the device made by his company, AgileSwitch.
Posted: June 25, 2013

R OB WEBER, 53, of Rittenhouse Square, is CEO of AgileSwitch, a Center City company that builds a switch driver to power everything from renewable energies to electric cars. AgileSwitch operates from co-op space on Arch Street near 17th. Weber is a serial entrepreneur who also co-founded Robin Hood Ventures, an angel investment group. He holds degrees from Penn's Wharton School and its School of Engineering.

Q: How did the business start?

A: My co-founder and I were at a power-electronics trade show in 2010 and met an executive of Fuji [Electric]. He said, "I make this [switch] but I need something to power it," and that led us down a path to where we are today.

Q: What does AgileSwitch do?

A: We make circuit boards with a computer chip used in switches . . . that convert direct [electric] current that comes from a solar panel or wind turbine into alternating current which we have in electric outlets.

Q: How many customers?

A: Today we have 30, about half overseas and half here in the U.S.

Q: What's the market for this?

A: We're collaborating on a fully integrated, commercial embedded system for high-volume renewable energy called a "SmartPower Stack" to deliver smart, efficient, reliable, long-lasting power conversion. Most companies make their own, but there's an emerging $4 billion market for third-party providers. We formed a consortium of firms . . . to create a global brand.

Q: How much does the AgileSwitch cost customers?

A: A switch driver costs between $100 and $200 and the switch is $100 to $500.

Q: How many switch drivers have you sold?

A: Probably 2,000 to 3,000.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: This year we should do revenues of $500,000 to $1 million. Ultimately, we see this as a $40 [million]-to-$50 million company.

Q: How many employees?

A: We have 12, seven full-time and five part-time.

Q: Where did you get the money to start the business?

A: Ben Franklin Technology Partners has given us [$550,000 in loans and grants since 2010]. My co-founder and I have probably invested $250,000 cash and we also received [support from two SmartPower Stack partners].

Q: What separates you from your competitors?

A: The computer chip in the driver enables us to program it to the needs of a customer. We also [can] . . . monitor what's happening inside the switch and the SmartPower Stack. Our competitors don't offer that.

Q: And the value proposition?

A: These SmartPowerStacks will enable an inverter to last longer by better monitoring the switch. If you increase the life of the inverter, you can reduce its cost and make renewable energy more affordable and accessible.

On Twitter: @MHinkelman


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