Neil Patel

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In the world of entrepreneurship, there are tales of triumph, moments of despair, and lessons learned along the way. One such remarkable journey is that of Mike Hall, a visionary leader who transformed a garage start-up into an industry leader.

In this interview, we’ll delve into Mike’s inspiring story, from his humble beginnings to his groundbreaking achievements in the renewable energy sector. He talks at length about the fundraising challenges he faced in 2008, restructuring the business and the transaction with a private equity firm for over half a billion.

Mike’s latest venture, Anza Renewables, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Angeleno Group and Energy Capital Partners (ECP).

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Mike’s journey underscores the impact of having mentors who recognize and nurture potential.
  • From layoffs to near-miss deals, perseverance proved essential in overcoming challenges.
  • Mike’s transition from service-oriented to technology-driven leadership highlights the importance of adapting to industry trends.
  • Identifying untapped market opportunities and pursuing innovative approaches can lead to sustained success.
  • Mike’s experience during the 2008 financial crisis emphasizes the importance of timing and foresight in capital raising.
  • The evolution of Anza Renewables showcases the power of innovation in revolutionizing industry practices.
  • Mike’s legacy serves as a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasizing the potential to create positive change.



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About Mike Hall:

Mike Hall currently serves as Chief Executive Officer and board member at Anza. Mike began his career in renewable energy in 2002 when he co-founded Borrego with his brother, Aaron, and his ultimate frisbee teammate, Chris Anderson.

Mike’s 21-year career at Borrego included serving as the company’s CEO from 2009 to 2023. Borrego built several successful downstream solar and storage business lines during that time.

One of the businesses was a leading middle-market solar, storage, and distributed wind developer. Energy Capital Partners bought that business in 2022, now New Leaf Energy. In 2020,

Mike and his brother Aaron developed the initial Anza business strategy after observing Borrego’s IPP customers’ challenges in managing a rapidly changing module supply environment.

Today, Mike’s focus is working with the Anza team to help the entire solar and storage industry achieve superior project outcomes.

He is passionate about building high-performing teams, developing leadership, and maintaining a lean philosophy of continuous improvement—in all things related to renewable energy.

Before joining Borrego, Mike worked as a Process Engineer for Applied Materials in Santa Clara. Mike holds an M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California Santa Barbara.

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Connect with Mike Hall:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmaker show. So today. We have an amazing founder. You know a founder that has done it a few times and very successfully. So so we’re going to be again, you know going into this incredible journey. Very inspiring. You know on on his story. What he has been building the founding story of his last company. Also you know what happened during the fundraising stages. They actually did a fundraise you know during the o eight you know crisis financial crisis. Also they went about restructuring the business having different units there of the business how they went through. A transaction with a private equity firm for over half a billion and then also what that transition looks like when you go from being a service as Ceo to being more of a technology Ceo so a lot of interesting stuff and very inspiring and educational. You know what we’re going to be discussing so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Mike Hull welcome to the show. So originally born in New Jersey but raised in San Diego give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.

Mike Hall: Thanks all Andro it’s It’s fun to be here.

Mike Hall: Life is great if you’ve ever been to San Diego it’s almost like a perfect place right? You could wear sandals and shorts year round so I’d a pretty ah pretty typical suburban upbringing and this was a happy happy childhood.

Alejandro Cremades: So in your case, how did you get into the whole engineering problem solving. You know how did that come knocking for you.

Mike Hall: Yeah.

Mike Hall: Yeah, it’s interesting I did not think growing up that I was gonna be an engineer I ah actually wasn’t that inspired a student. Um, but I got to University Of California Santa Barbara I went to school and I was actually a journalism major I was gonna. Study study english and learn to be a writer but my father who was an optometrist convinced me. He said you know, just just take the math and science and you know if you want to drop it later. That’s great, but keep the options and I took first year chemistry and I did really well and I loved it and. Had a really good friend who was a chemical engineer and it just kind of followed him into chemical engineering and actually the thing that made all the difference I should say is really early on when I started taking engineering classes I found a mentor and he he really invested a lot in me. He saw potential. He helped me get like summer internships back actually in New Jersey at Bell Labs and then at his lab and so I really got hooked and actually I was on the academic track I and went into a ph d program at Stanford I thought I was gonna be be be a professor didn’t end up doing that. But yeah. And really just found found engineering in college and and enjoyed it. Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: So why not being a professor. Why did you decide to go into the business world.

Mike Hall: I don’t think I realized this at the time but kind of just like how I got into engineering and I think probably is the lesson for anybody in their career. Um, it’s all about the mentors you have and the quality of the mentors you have. And as an undergrad I had this amazing mentor who kind of got me down the path into academia and then in grad school I did not have a great mentor did not have a great experience with my advisor and that drove me off the track and drove me into the workforce. And into semitectors where I got my my first job. Um, but yeah, it’s all about the people and who’s teaching you and who’s encouraging you and if you don’t have somebody teaching you and encouraging you. It’s pretty hard to get excited about the path you’re on and keep going so that’s that’s what i.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about then entering the business world because you know the first day stop that was applied materials the first and and only stop really because I mean obviously after this, you know you went at it and and you went at really creating your own future. So.

Mike Hall: Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: What do you think needed to happen for you to be comfortable with the unknown with becoming an entrepreneur. What were the sequence of events you know from being here to then all of a sudden be like you know what? I think it’s my time.

Mike Hall: Well, yeah to be candid what? what allowed it to happen was that I had I had the space and time I actually had gotten I joined applied materials I’ve been through a few major kind of financial crises. In my life and I don’t mean my personal financial crisis but like the global financial crises and when I got my first job was right as bust was happening and so it was tough times to be in technology then and so I actually got laid off from my job which I wasn’t happy about at the time. Um. But it gave me the space I had really nice severance and I kind of had nothing to do and so that’s how that was really the founding story of Berego was my brother would have been messing around with this idea of doing a residential solar which is hard to imagine but back in 2002 very nascent I mean you could go for days driving around California and not see any solar panels and any rooftops so we were very very early and he was playing with this idea and I had this extra time and so I went out went down and started working with him and realized that there were some things I could do to make the phone ring and. And I just got hooked and part of the reason I got hooked was actually my job at applied materials has been so miserable. Um, and really I had it was my only corporate experience and it was so negative that I had trouble imagining going back to work in.

Mike Hall: Work for somebody else in another corporate environment whereas this thing we were starting berego back in the early days was just so exciting like solar was just getting started. There was this idea that we could use renewable energy to solve climate change. Um, everything was new. Everything had to be figured out. Um. And if we had an idea we could just do it and not ask a hundred people for permission and so I got I got hooked on solar I got hooked on entrepreneurship I got hooked on building a business building a team and never looked back and yeah I’ve just spent the last 20 Almost twenty five years of doing it. Yeah yeah, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: As the commercial set once you pop you can’t stop right? Ah now now now your case you know for the people listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of borrego.

Mike Hall: So the founding business model was pretty simple. We were trying to do trying to convince homeowners to buy solar and put it on the roof. That’s what we started as a garage business literally garage business I’d go pitch about 5 homeowners a day and then come back. Two weeks later with our truck and a tool belt and actually put the solar panels on the roof so that was the early days the business evolved over twenty years and by the end what we were doing is we were really doing everything. There was to do in the downstream part of the solar and energy storage market. So we did design and construction. We did operation and maintenance. So after the plants were built we would maintain um the the thing that we did that was most successful that made the most money and actually generated the great. The biggest outcome for our investors was we kind of stumbled into development. In in the context of renewable energy development means it’s kind of like real estate development except for renewable energy power plants. So we went out and we were finding real estate that you could use to locate places you could locate these plants. We were negotiating the rights to interconnect with the utility. We were. Ah, getting the land doing all the local use permitting and then putting you the financial models for what a power plant project would look like and then once we packaged all these things together. You know the lamb and the interconnection rights the engineering designs. Um all the permits.

Mike Hall: We would then sell those assets to specialized private equity firms and that business was very successful. It wasn’t the thing that we thought we were going to be doing in the beginning. So. It’s a good lesson in in you know, pivoting. But it’s the thing that ended up generating the most. Return for our investors and and was a lot of fun and actually in some strange ways actually propelled us into what ands a our new business. What Ansa is today? yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: And we’ll we’ll talk about answer in just a little bit but obviously for Borrego you guys decided to raise money. No wait. Oh nine I mean those those were crazy times I mean walk us through how crazy that was how painful it was and what were some of the lessons. You know that maybe you took out of um.

Mike Hall: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: Capital racing especially at such a tough time.

Mike Hall: Yeah, so the first lesson that we learned there was don’t wait too long to raise capital if you wait till um, you’re you’re you know a few months away from meeting it. Um, and you’re look like. So what? what happened was 2007. We we had been a bootstrap business just off of some you know friends and family money from 2002 until 2007, we thought about raising capital in 2007 but said hey we don’t want the dilution so we waited until 2008 when we needed it even worse. And the capital raising environment was so robust and frothy in 2007 that we just didn’t think we’re gonna have any problems and then 2008 rolls around and obviously it’s a different story and we I mean I used to say like I can write a book on like how not how not to close a deal because we had so many deals. Um, in 2008 you know, get to the one yard line and then fall apart because of what was happening in the macro environment. So I think first lesson is is like get out ahead of it. Don’t wait too long because you never know what the environment is gonna be like in three and six months um the the other lesson I just learned a lot of lessons about counting chickens before they’re hatched so we early in 2000? Um, we had a term sheet actually to acquire the business for like $100000000 and this is my family owned almost 100% of it.

Mike Hall: And so it was just this this amazing life chain I mean we were in our early thirty s it was just you know, kind of mind boggling. We actually signed a term sheet the deal fall apart and we kind of got stuck like okay, that’s that’s that’s what we can do. That’s what this business is worth Let’s find another deal like that. And so we were really focused on that and while we were focused on that kind of the market was eroding and you know our ability to get any deal done was getting more and more difficult. Um, we had another deal that we did with a pride that we were with a private equity firm where we actually fully negotiated the contracts the kind of signature pages are sitting in escrow. And bear stearns failed the bank bear stearns failed and so that deal fell apart then a few months later we had another deal with a strategic to make a significant strategic investment again. Contracts negotiated basically signatures in escrow at Lehman Brothers failed that deal fell apart and so it was it was really tough and we went from hey we could really use the capital the fairly desperate for the capital late in the year and ultimately had to do a deal with the strategic at a very small fraction of the initial valuation. That resulted in really massive dilution I think because we started late and because we didn’t really quickly adapt to what the environment was like and just accept like no no, we just need to get a deal done quickly before this environment you know, ah runs away from us.

Mike Hall: So it was a really really tough really really tough year and a half and we ended up having to to sell a lot of the company for not very much money because we were stuck in the worst possible fundraising environment. You could be in.

Alejandro Cremades: So I mean it’s pretty crazy. You go from having an amazing deal. You know and obviously first time founders you know the typical thing that they will do is start going online and looking for fancy cars and stuff that they’re already like thinking about buying once the deal closes. But then all of a sudden you know things don’t happen and then you go into like this crazy you know rodeo of sequence of events I guess for you as a founder you know it’s it’s it’s tough to control your mind to and to and to be effective and to be out there and to be in action especially when you’re going through so much trouble. I guess for you? What did you learn for yourself like who did you need it to be during those tough times in order to be effective.

Mike Hall: That’s a great question and a couple things and so perseverance. Um, and I think my brother and I who are out there trying to get this deal then we have it and so we ultimately were able to get it done not giving up. Because there were lots of times when it looked pretty dark and I think we could have given up so perseverance is one another is is is frankly ah assertiveness. Um, so we were in these discussions and there are these different options on the table that that were. Far less attractive than like that $100000000 term sheet. We’d seen but could have allowed us to get a deal done and um I definitely was scared and was saying hey we should take you know bird in hand. Let’s take the deal. We’ve got. Let’s not let’s not keep you know. Going back out there and trying to optimize now is not the time to optimize now. It’s the time to execute. Um, but you know there was there was a group of people you know actually wasn’t the Ceo at the time I was co-founder. My brother was a Ceo but there were other executives and you know they and we had a. Friends and family investors who kind of known about those original deals and I don’t think that I was a serve enough around saying you know what? no like let’s take let’s take the let’s take the deal. You know it might not look as good as we wanted it to but like we lived to fight another day.

Mike Hall: And ultimately the deal that we ended up doing with this taiwane strategic I ended up because we had all these deals fall apart doing that and saying like Nope this is our last chance. It doesn’t look good at all. But we live to fight another day we take it because if we don’t take it. There might not be another one and so just. Just learning to be like hey you know you ah having confidence that you’re seeing the whole field and that you may have to just push people. Um and say no no, we gotta do this, you know, especially with these big decisions like fundraising capital raisingising. Um, ah when your back’s against the wall so that was that was definitely one I learned.

Alejandro Cremades: And right before the um, the transaction that you guys did you know which ended up being a 25 x return for investors. How much did you guys raised for the business.

Mike Hall: We raised not much so we raised like yeah maybe a million or so in friends and family and then we raised 14000000 back in across 12009 so it was it was it was a good. It was a good outcome the local.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow. Very very effective, very effective.

Mike Hall: Yeah, the low point was like 2008 2009 we learned a lot from that we had a near death experience. We actually had to we actually had to restructure the business. We. We sold off a underperforming division. We shrunk the size of the company focused. Really focused on the small niche market cut out cut out a lot of the the complexity in the business and once we like shrunk the business down refocused on a niche had gotten our capital raise behind us from there. We started to. We could get back to. Okay. Now we can start growing again and so we we shrinkank the business but we started growing. We had losses in 2008 2009 and then we had thirteen consecutive years of profitable growth after that.

Alejandro Cremades: I mean obviously that’s now is the time to talk about the good stuff because I mean the listeners are gonna have my god mike you know what what what? a crazy journey I mean everything is is is bad. But now you know there is a very positive outcome as you said you know 13 years of consecutive growth that led to ah amazing. Transaction first company first exit so make us insiders. How did the ah transaction happen and and and I believe it was over half a billion. So I mean quite a quite the exit too.

Mike Hall: Yeah, yeah, it’s an ancient story. So um, it was 20 so through 2020202021 and we we’ve now had this long track circuit of profit growth. We had significant e but.

Mike Hall: And we’d had the same investor base ah in the business for you know, well over a decade and we were certainly starting to look around and say okay, what’s next like what are we going to do with this company and our investors weren’t venture privatequities. So um. There was the positive and negative and this is another lesson for entrepreneurs depending on your investor base. The the nice thing about or or challenge with private equity or venture investors is the clock is taking right? They’ve got. They’ve got a tenure fund typically they’re invested in you somewhere between years probably 1 and 3 and so you’ve got you know between 9 and 7 years but really less because they don’t want to be up against the edge and in that time you got to do something they have to monetize their investment. The company has to sell or the company has to Ipo so you’ve got a clock ticking and that on the 1 hand sounds bad on the other. It’s kind of good cause when you have. Investors who are infinitely patient. There’s no clock and so I experienced the no clock in my last business in this business. You know we’ve got private equity investors so we’ve got a clock. There’s positives and negatives to having that clock but even without the clock. Everybody was starting to kind of get restless and say okay, what are we gonna do and so we were looking at different options. The first option we looked at actually was taking the company public. Um, and this is like 202021 when solar stocks were really hot and so we looked at that.

Mike Hall: We ultimately made the decision to really actually look into doing a sp which was quite hot back then and we hired a banker and got pretty far down that path. But. Managed to pull out before going too far kind of right as the spat market back market was cooling down There’s probably some lessons learned there where that market was irrationally hot and this back thing we were all looking at it and saying like kind of doesn’t make sense but yet. The deals getting done looked so attractive that it was just this magnetic force that pulled us into investing time in it even though, um, like just rationally like why are these companies going public. Why why is there a vehicle to take like. Companies that aren’t making money and they don’t have a clear path towards profitability or any kind of like meaningfully differentiated business strategy to go public at billions of dollars like that doesn’t make sense but it was happening and so it was hard not to to invest time in that so we invested time in that but then ultimately made the decision to not. To not go down that route which was ultimately the right decision. Um, and then the the ipo market cooled and so we’re kind of like on pause again. But we realized when we as part of going out for this fact process and talking to investors that the investors were really really focused and interested in like.

Mike Hall: 1 part of our business. They really like the development business and they kind of are lukewarm on everything else and so what like what? what that meant was that the value of that one part of the business was probably about the same as the. Value of the business’s entirety and so that led us to this idea of you know what? maybe we can do a spam. Maybe we can sell this this one part of the business. That’s really attractive to investors and and then keep everything else kind of for free and so that’s what we ended up doing um. We ended up hiring a ah Jp Morgan and did it went through classic big big. You know, investment banking process. There’s some lessons learned from that and we talked to private equity investors we talked to strategic investors did the did the virtual roadshow. And ultimately did a deal with an infrastructure fund called Energy Capital Partners who I still have a relationship with actually in my current business as well. Um, so so that was the process and the the spinout and sale was not the first idea we had but ultimately ended up being. Winning idea. Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing and obviously that and let you guys into getting going with answera renewables. So I guess say for the people listening to get it. What are you guys doing at Ana renewables. Okay.

Mike Hall: Yeah, so and the renewables so we’re working in the we’re still in the renewable energy space. That’s our passion. That’s the industry we know and what we’ve done with anza is take um and I think this is kind of a classic story where you’re in an industry for a long time. You are in a ah business. That’s competitive a services but there’s some superpower you have like in order to make a competitive business work. You got to have something you’re better at than everybody else. So at barrego in development. 1 thing that we realize we are better at than everybody else is. Optimizing the process for procuring solar modules or solar panels and batteries and there are some some like secret sauce that we had developed and so. We realized we looked around and we realized that we had some tools and approaches in a philosophy that the industry could really use and that without it the buyers companies that were buying these panels. Ah. The millions and tens of millions of dollars we’re leaving a whole lot of money on the table and wasting massive amounts of time and so we saw that opportunity. We said look let’s invest. Let’s supercharge this capability we have and then let’s put it up into the cloud and serve it up for the entire world to use and so that’s what we’ve done is we’ve built.

Mike Hall: A data and procurement platform to help large scale buyers. This is not homeowners. This is not even small businesses. We’re talking about companies that are buying Tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of solar panels a year and to move from the really low tech inefficient methodology they’re using which is like. Calling 1 vendor at a time and writing down all the information they have about what product and what price and to use modern technology and structured data ah to to make to be able to look at all of the options that they have available to them very rapidly. So instead of calling one venor at a time you can log into our platform and see basically every product available on the market and then to rapidly compare them in a much more holistic way. So we’re going and aggregating all the data from the industry around who has what product available when what are the pricing on that product. But what are all the technical specifications of those products. What are all the the commercial terms associated with those products who are the counterparties and what what are the various risks that they have and we serve all that data up to our customers so that they can make like a better informed decision much faster.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s go let’s pretend we go to bed tonight Mike and we wake up in a world where the vision of unsai is fully realized what does that world look like.

Mike Hall: So what it means is like that every before it anybody who is buying anyone who has projects to develop in the market. Anyone who’s buying solar modules or storage before. They’re gonna make a decision before they’re gonna even engage in a conversation. They’re gonna come into anza that get the lay of the land. They’re gonna say they’re gonna put in their information about their project and Ana’s gonna tell them hey here are the products you should focus on here is why you should focus on them. And here’s the relative value of these products across every dynamic including price lifetime value and risk and anta has really become the standard that um the industry uses um to evaluate procurement options and then also for sellers to evaluate their product options. So it’s kind of like how the in travel. You know you don’t usually call 1 airline at a time anymore you go to kayak and so we’re trying to effectively be the kayak for our industry.

Alejandro Cremades: So I guess say in that regard. Let’s now talk about the past but doing so with a lens of reflection. Let’s say I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time. Okay I bring you back to that moment where you were perhaps you know around 2000 and 1 okay or or yeah around 2001 you know wondering you know what will be maybe like a world where you could bring something of your own. Let’s say you were able to stop that younger self on the tracks that younger self that is coming out of applied materials and let’s say right? after that moment where you gave the notice. You’re able to give a piece of advice for to that younger Mike and you’re able to give that younger Mike 1 piece of advice about launching a business. What would that be ny given what you know now.

Mike Hall: Um, um, yes, that’s a really good question. 1 piece of advice. Geez I’ve learned so much so hard to give 1 piece of advice at the the 1 piece of advice I would have given to that younger Mike would have been to look for more blue ocean. Um, that that was something that I we didn’t do a lot of especially in those early years at berego we were just trying to build a business in solar and ah, pretty quickly. We ended up trying to do the same thing that ten twenty thirty eventually hundreds of other companies were doing. And and that was part of the constant. Even though we were successful that was always in the background and something that we’re doing very differently in anza is what we were doing was was was was even though we were early it ultimately became derivative and so. The constant struggle was to separate yoursels from the pack to communicate communicate communicate the customers why they should work with you. Why they were different when in the reality you were most we were mostly the same and so that’s something that if I had all that time over again. And would have spent more time to think about. Okay, what’s the more blue ocean approach. What’s the more unique approach. What’s a way where we can you know dominate a niche and I don’t think we had enough conviction around that and ah and if I had to do it over again. That’s how I do it? yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: So for the people that are listening Mike that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Mike Hall: Yep, you can reach me on Linkedin mode. Our defined might call it and the renewables I’m on I’m on there air for and once a day and you should check out and if you’re in the industry and you want to try out the the platform. You can register for a login there. Those are yeah those are the best ways to get me. Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: You see enough. Well hey Mike thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

Mike Hall: Thanks! All Andro was fun.


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