The Ten Most Innovative Companies and the LGBTs Who Got Them to the Top

Our annual list of innovative companies shows the many ways LGBT people are making a difference to business.

BY Advocate Contributors

September 12 2012 3:00 AM ET

SolarCity
Bradley Robinson
San Mateo, Calif.

SolarCity harnesses sunlight to bring clean yet affordable energy to homes and businesses, and it does so while allowing employees to bring their full selves into the light.

“The company was born with a true entrepreneurial spirit,” says Bradley Robinson, 42, SolarCity’s director of field marketing. “It’s a very open and creative environment.… The culture here is very young. There’s not a distinction between LGBT and non-LGBT employees.”

Robinson, who is gay, joined SolarCity in July 2008, just two years after its founding by brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive. He was originally director of online marketing, then switched to his current position last April.

SolarCity designs, installs, and maintains solar energy systems for residential and commercial customers, and its financing program allows them to do so without a huge up-front cost. When the system is up and running, it provides electricity at less expense than a traditional utility company, Robinson says.

“SolarCity has removed all the barriers to get all consumers access to clean energy,” he says. For its removal of these barriers, the company was named one of the most innovative companies of 2012 by Fast Company magazine and was honored at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June by being listed in the Sustania 100, a guide to the top 100 sustainable energy solutions.

The company has grown to 2,000 employees, serving 28,000 customers in 14 states, and it’s still expanding. Besides homeowners, its customers include more than 100 school districts, government agencies, and high-profile corporations such as Walmart, Intel, and eBay. It’s embraced the LGBT market, with booths at San Francisco’s pride events and other functions, Robinson notes.

Robinson works out of SolarCity’s San Mateo, Calif., headquarters and lives in nearby San Francisco with his husband, Reynald Hiole. He says SolarCity’s innovative nature was the key factor that drew him to the company. “Technology has always interested me,” he says. “When someone like SolarCity comes along and is making technology affordable to everyone, that was the allure.”

Is there anything that’s surprised him about working for the company? “How much I love it,” he answers quickly. “What is most impressive is that everyone is willing to listen.”

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