Meet The Billionaire Family Building America’s Roofs—And Taking On Elon Musk

avid Millstone and David Winter, co-CEOs of Standard Industries, are working on a top-secret design for a new solar roof that they expect to launch within the year – a new, direct competitor to Tesla’s flashy one, for which there is a multi-year waitlist. For more than a year, researchers at their solar company’s San Jose, California R&D center have been tinkering with the design. Their advantage: Their New York City-based company is the parent of the country’s largest roofing manufacturer, and has already sold well over 2,000 solar roofs with an earlier iteration called Decotech. “We have put more solar roofs out there than Elon Musk has,” Winter says, in a swipe at one of the world’s richest people. Over the next decade, they hope to install millions of these new roofs helped by a price point designed for the masses and an army of certified installers. “If you can crack rooftop solar that is functional, affordable and aesthetic, we think that is life-changing for Europe, the U.S. and around the world,” Winter says. “”If somebody could crack it, it was going to be us.”

Don’t underestimate “the two Davids,” as Millstone and Winter, who are both 44, are sometimes called. Through their family-owned conglomerate, which has $6.4 billion in revenue and Ebitda of roughly $1.4 billion, they’re on a mission to use technology to change the way that people think about the simple notion of having a roof over one’s head. They expect to spend $1 billion over the next several years to get there.

Solar is their biggest, boldest bet, but it’s hardly the only one. Last year, they retooled 10 plants in seven months – an unheard-of speed for an industrial operation – to launch a new version of their flagship asphalt shingles that can withstand hurricane-force winds. This year, they’re working on a prototype for a new 5G roof concept that will allow telecoms to more seamlessly incorporate the technology into its residential roofs. They’ve rolled out new digital tools like 3D modeling and aerial measuring to make their 12,000 certified roofing contractors’ jobs easier, especially during the pandemic. Beyond roofing, they’ve got a massive, related investment arm, 40 North, which has some $5 billion in assets and is betting heavily on industrial innovation.

“We’re at the beginning of the golden age with embracing industrial technology, like with the Internet in 1990 when we had decades of growth ahead of us,” says Millstone.