Bright, a Californian startup working in the solar power business, has set up a smart brand ambassador system that serves to motivate and train future staff before they join the company.

HR: Bright revisits the concept of brand ambassador

Bright, with whom L’Atelier met up at an event focusing on energy that took place in San Francisco on 2 February, is basically on a mission to offer low-cost residential solar panel systems to householders in developing countries, starting in Latin America with Mexico.

The challenges of climate change have thrust ‘clean tech’ companies into the limelight during the last few years. Bright, which has been through iconic startup incubator Y Combinator, is looking to ride this wave and also seems set to benefit from the falling cost of installing photovoltaic panels. The United States national Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that total installation costs have fallen by around 30% over the last three years. ‟The cost per watt of solar installation has been decreasing and doesn’t seem about to stop falling,” points out Bright co-founder and CEO Jonah Greenberger.


Bright propose des panneaux solaires abordables à Mexico

Bright transforms its brand ambassadors into highly-trained, skilled salespeople (Credits: Bright)

However Bright stands out from its competitors in that the company uses a sales model which the CEO likes to call ‘social’. When they decided to launch on the Mexican market, the company founders were keen to hire local staff. ‟It’s not unusual for qualified people from the top universities in emerging countries to go abroad to look for work. We’re going in the opposite direction to this brain drain by recruiting local talent rather than bringing in a full team of US expatriates,” stresses Jonah Greenberger. In addition, Bright has been building a system of brand ambassadors, recruiting students from Mexico City on a volunteer basis to find new customers for the young startup.

The idea behind the ambassador programme is to give young people who are about to graduate an opportunity to develop sales skills. Bright then looks closely at individual performances and will offer the most effective students an internment on the team with the prospect of a full-time job. ‟We’re a ‘metrics-driven’ company. So we can very quickly identify those ambassadors who have converted the largest number of prospects into customers,” explains Greenberger, adding: “At Bright, we’ve got 30 employees but over 1,000 ambassadors at the present time. So at the end of the day we retain only the very best talent – those who’re going to be excellent salespeople.”

Bright aborde le concept d'ambassadeurs de marques sous un angle novateurBright hopes that everyone will be able to access solar power (Bright) (Credits: Bright)

It is not hard to see the advantages of this approach. The selected student-ambassadors have probably practised their sales pitch hundreds of times already and learn by doing. ‟They start by practising on their families, then their friends, then their family’s friends, and so on”, says Greenberger. Consequently, these future employees know the product and the thinking behind it by heart. In fact this looks like a promising recruitment model for startups, given that recruiting staff is often a real challenge, and can serve as a reminder to larger established firms of just how important it is to ensure that staff become the prime advocates and evangelists for the company.

By Pauline Canteneur