Niels Van Duinen, member focus of the month

Niels Van Duinen is Chief Operating officer at Fonroche Lighting and has been in Boston for over 10 years. Niels took a few minutes to discuss with our team. Here is what the conversation looked like!

Please meet Niels Van Duinen !

In just a few words, can you tell us more about Fonroche Lighting ?

Fonroche Lighting has been pioneering solar-energy for over a decade and is now the world’s leading provider of off-grid solar lighting solutions. The company is based in the southwest of France and is part of Fonroche Group, an industry leader in renewable energy.

Your company recently acquired SolarOne, can you tell us more about it ?

Fonroche Lighting America, subsidiary of Fonroche Lighting, recently acquired Boston-based SolarOne, leading brand in the US and pioneer in the field of solar lighting. SolarOne has been manufacturing solar street lights for over 15 years. With an elaborate network of channel partners across North America, the company is now the acknowledged leader in Solar Lighting Solutions in the US market.

This acquisition confirms the strong ambitions of Fonroche Lighting, world leader in off-grid solar lighting with close to 100,000 solar-powered streetlights installed, including the two largest projects for solar lighting in the world, in Senegal and Benin with in total 65,000 solar-powered streetlights.

What does your company do best? What is your value proposition?

Fonroche Lighting has developed a complete range of autonomous solar streetlights. With solutions from 4 to 10 meter, single or double arms with LED lights from 20W to 80W, Fonroche streetlights suit any type of public, urban, suburban and residential lighting applications.

Branded SolarOne, our products and solutions provide safety, visual quality and consequently well-being, while contributing very effectively to the required and more-and-more urgent energy transition. We design and make highly reliable and cost-effective street lights, to light-up our public spaces, 365 days in a year, powered by just our sun and nothing else!

Why did Fonroche decide to expand the company in Boston?

With the tremendous success of their breakthrough solar lighting products and technology in other parts of the world, Fonroche decided to team-up with one of the first solar lighting companies in the US, to combine strength and bring their solutions to the US market. There are so many opportunities to improve infrastructure and public space in the US, while helping communities to save energy.

If you have hired, can you tell us about how easy/challenging it has been for your company ?

You find so much talent in this region although you are not alone in trying to attract good people. We have plans to extend the organization and we trust that Boston is an excellent base to grow!

What have you learnt from working in the US?

The US has very different values and rules than in other parts of the world. Culture is very different, way more individualistic, and you realize that every day when doing business, organizing people and developing compelling solutions. Bottom-line upfront is most effective in the US…

What can't you get used to from Boston/ the US?

Having lunch in a cubicle... But in fact, you can get used to about everything but there are things that will always be remarkable in the US, like in all countries. You always have to (try to) embrace the differences because they can be source for inspiration and new ideas. I think exactly that working abroad is so exciting!

"I think that working abroad is so exciting!"

There are so many tech hubs in the US, why did you decide to start/expand your company in Boston?

Boston is an ideal place to get started. The distance and time-zone difference with France is reasonable and to some extend there are cultural and environmental similarities. Boston is an attractive and international pocket-of-competence, thanks to the academic world. And Boston is so much easier to navigate than some other cities on the east-coast, like New York City. Moreover, Boston has a strong and active French community. All this helped Fonroche to make the decision to open a subsidiary here.

Tell us about support from the French institutions: FACNE, French Consulate, French tech? Any recommendations?

Fonroche in France reached out to several French tax and law advisors and specialists to get things on track. The network in Boston is extensive and organizations like FACNE and French Tech offer a wealth of practical and strategic advice!

The venture capital firms have helped turn Boston into a booming tech hub; can you confirm if it was a driver when you decided to start/expand your company in Boston?

The availability of tech-savvy talent and resources has certainly stimulated to focus on Boston, when selecting candidates for an acquisition, and to decide for a suitable landings spot in the US. Boston offers some unique resources associated with green-tech, green-energy and sustainability.

Do you have any recommendations for French entrepreneur and starting a business in Boston?

You have to be aware that what is successful and effective in one place, is not necessarily the same here. Both rules and the way people play can be very different and sometimes you only discover that once you are here. You have to be prepared and agile when making such an important move. But there is so much knowledge and help available in Boston. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

"Don't hesitate to reach out"

The experience can be very rewarding, and business can grow fast.

Thank you very much Niels we wish you a successful end of year !

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