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Spreading Our Wings

April 13, 2017

· 5 min read
Elemental Excelerator


I am excited to share with you a new chapter in Energy Excelerator’s growth! Today we are becoming Elemental Excelerator, a new nonprofit created in collaboration with Emerson Collective, the investment and philanthropic platform founded by Laurene Powell Jobs.

Elemental Excelerator will work in collaboration with Emerson Elemental, the newly established platform of Emerson Collective committed to strengthening the relationship between humanity and nature through scalable, equitable, and innovative solutions. Emerson Collective is dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential, with its work centered on education, immigration reform, the environment and other social justice initiatives. Emerson Elemental is led by Andy Karsner. While he was Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, Andy was a principal architect of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative – which is how he first met Maurice Kaya and me – and he is deeply committed to Hawaii’s energy transformation as a model for other communities.

For the last seven years, our team has been developing the Energy Excelerator (EEx) and helping startups scale and sustainably modernize our infrastructure. We have evolved from funding companies who are primarily focused on energy to a holistic systems approach funding companies in agriculture, water, transportation, and more – and we’ve built partnerships with some of the largest energy and technology companies in the world. Our ‘ohana (Hawaiian for family) has grown to include 53 startups and their growing teams, 12 public and private funders, 10 investors in our first venture fund, and hundreds of community members, project partners, investors, mentors, interns, and friends (all of you!). We have been humbled by your generosity of spirit in helping our entrepreneurs and our team as we try new things and deploy new innovations in Hawaii and the Asia Pacific. It is your commitment to making lasting change that has made this work possible.

Now our EEx team is ready to take what we’ve learned and spread our wings a bit more. Together with Emerson Elemental, we will scale our model to communities who welcome us and share our mission – from Hawaii to California and beyond. Wherever we go, our work will be rooted in who we are and what we are learning and implementing in Hawaii: being guided by our values, honoring our host culture, serving as a trusted partner, pursuing equity and inclusivity, and working collaboratively with all who are committed to designing and creating a better world for everyone to share.

We know that Emerson Collective is the right partner to help us grow because our two organizations share a strong belief that our most complex problems require collective action – and that this action must start at the local level. In Hawaii, we understand our responsibility through Aloha, a word whose meaning goes beyond love to interconnectedness, respect, the very way we live and work and play and learn together. The growth of our program is an embodiment of Aloha – and of our vision to share the approach developed in Hawaii with the rest of the world. We hope to play some small part in making our planet a better place to live and serving our human family, our ‘ohana.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Here’s to blazing new trails!

With aloha,
Dawn, Jill, and the EEx team


What’s changing?

  • Our name: we will now be Elemental Excelerator. Our new name better communicates that we fund projects beyond energy; we have portfolio companies in water, agriculture, transportation, finance, and cybersecurity. We are also seeking more companies in recycling and resource management. We love the new name because it aligns with Emerson Collective, whose nature-related practice is called Elemental, and helps communicate that we take a broad systems approach to changing a place.
  • Our organizational structure. We have started an independent non-profit to house this new effort, and we’re rolling our team and current program into this new organization. While Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), the organization that incubated us for the last 7 years, is spinning us off, we will continue to work closely with PICHTR on administration and operations.


What’s not changing?

  • Our team. Our founding team will remain at the helm; Jill Sims, EEx co-founder, will be COO and Head of Innovation Deployment. Maurice Kaya is continuing to serve as a Senior Advisor. I will serve a dual role as CEO of Elemental Excelerator and Director of Innovation and Community at Emerson Elemental. The rest of our EEx team will continue their amazing work, buoyed by new reinforcements.
  • Our Honolulu HQ. The founding team and principal office will remain in Hawaii, which is the proof point for this community-driven model of change. We recognize that transformation of our infrastructure, systems, and communities takes decades, and we have a long-term commitment to the place we call home. Hawaii now has 25% renewable energy, up from 8% just a decade ago. Our work continues on the way to the state’s mandate of 100% renewable, local energy for the islands.
  • Our dual-track program. We strongly believe in the long-term relationships we build with our companies and the model we’ve pioneered to support them. Applications for our next cohort are open until May 25. Refer your favorite startup to eexstage.wpengine.com!
  • Our Global Partners. We are fortunate to work with partners who are deeply committed to our mission. The U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy, the State of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Industries, General Electric, Blackstone, Tokyo Electric Power Co., Vector in New Zealand First Philippine Holdings, and Hawaii Community Foundation will remain our partners and collaborators.
  • Our nickname. You can still call us EEx!