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Vivint Solar CEO talks IPO

Oct 01, 2014

Residential solar energy company Vivint Solar (vslr) went public earlier today, raising $330 million in its initial public offering. The company -- which uses a door-to-door sales force to offer solar energy systems on long-term leases -- priced its shares at $16 a piece (low end of proposed $16-$18 range). It closed up one penny on an awful day for the broader markets.

Following market close, Fortune spoke briefly with Vivint Solar CEO Greg Butterfield about the IPO process and his company's chief rival, SolarCity (scty). What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Fortune: You priced the IPO at the bottom of its range and closed basically flat. Disappointing?

Butterfield: This is the second time I've taken a company public as CEO, and have been involved in some others. I view this as a financial event and am interested in the long-term. I was pleased with the pricing and we had a great reception with around 400 meetings. People got the story and were really excited about Vivint Solar. We can't control what's happening in Hong Kong today or what the Fed's doing with rates. We can only focus on our business.

Did you get any heartburn early this morning, when the markets looked poised for a major fall?

Again, we can only focus on things we can control. We had a lot of volume, over 20 million shares traded, which I think showed people's confidence and acceptance of our company and our management team. At around 2pm I looked at my phone and saw everything was red except for Vivint Solar.

It appears that you and SolarCity are on a bit of a geographic collision course, given where each of you are growing. Does that matter?

The reality is that we and SolarCity are 6/10 of 1% market penetrated, so right now we're all aligned and growing together as an industry. That said, there are some differences in our businesses. We are downstream, whereas I think that SolarCity is going midstream. It recently bought a panel company and a racking company. We have partnerships with panel makers and racking companies, but don't think we can be the best in everything, and are not looking to get into hardware. I think that gives us more strategic alignment with our customers, because we're always looking to partner with the best providers.

What were common questions during the roadshow?

From a strategic standpoint, everyone wanted to talk about SolarCity and Vivint. But one other common question that was kind of tactical was about what happens if the homeowner wants to sell their home. The answer is that 100% transitions to the new homeowner.

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