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Splitting Molecules And Fitbits For Farms: Energy Excelerator Invests $5M In 12 New Cleantech Companies

February 1, 2017

· 9 min read
Elemental Excelerator


February 1, 2017 – Energy Excelerator, the national clean-energy program dedicated to helping solve the world’s energy challenges, is announcing its latest cohort of 12 companies, with later-stage companies set to each receive up to $1M in funding.

Ranging from aerial spectroscopy for farmers to a new CO2 conversion technology, these companies join a portfolio of more than 50 companies who are affecting change across the energy and infrastructure systems.

With funding from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, GE Ventures, Blackstone, power utilities in five different countries and more, Energy Excelerator issues a yearly call for infrastructure-related companies from across the globe, conducts rigorous due diligence, and eventually chooses a select class (~5 percent of applicants) to fund, train and help succeed through a vast array of partners.

Energy Excelerator’s portfolio now includes 52 companies with $352M in follow-on funding, and 27 customer demonstration projects in Hawaii and Asia Pacific. Recent highlights includes NEXTracker’s acquisition of portfolio company BrightBox Technologies; a $2.5M Series A by Ibis Networks; partnership between portfolio company WaterSmart and General Electric to develop solutions for water utilities; and most recently Blue Pillar’s $10M raise.

This 5th cohort is drawn from across the world, from Indiana to Spain. Portfolio companies are accelerated in place and do not move their headquarters, but will spend two weeks in Hawaii and one in Silicon Valley, culminating with a Demo Day held at X: The Moonshot Factory (formerly Google X). (99-second video from previous Demo Day)

The road to 100% renewable energy goes through Hawaii. With the nation’s first and only 100% renewable energy statewide mandate, highest energy prices in the country and an existing renewable mix of almost 50% on some islands, Hawaii is pushing the boundary of the new energy economy on several fronts, and is often seen as a bellwether for electric grids and services across the globe.

Energy Excelerator works with its Global Partners like Hawaiian Electric, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and others to address the challenges they are facing in a rapidly shifting world by sourcing innovative companies and then helping design and fund pilot projects. “We work deeply with our partners – from the US military to corporations to utilities – to understand their most pressing pain points. We take that intel and scan the global landscape for the most promising innovators solving those problems. The pace of energy innovation is accelerating every year, and our entrepreneurs are really windows into the future,” said Dawn Lippert, co-founder and director of Energy Excelerator.

Putting their experience to work in another capacity as a startup-utility bridge, Energy Excelerator was just last week announced as the Program Facilitator for Free Electrons, a new consortium of eight international utilities, from Dubai to Portugal, covering 73 million customers across 40 countries. Energy Excelerator will be helping to develop the startup intake process and running modules at all three week-long engagements in Silicon Valley, Europe and Singapore.

Just as this cohort is announced, Energy Excelerator is already gearing up for the next round – pre-applications for the 2018 cohort are now available.

The 2017 Cohort: Demonstration Track
Up to $1M in funding, 18 month program

Ceres Imaging – Aerial spectroscopy to help farmers efficiently allocate resources
Why do we love them? Ceres Imaging works at the intersection of data, agriculture, and water. They help farmers increase water efficiency by 5-10%, while also increasing crop yield. Ceres Imaging has analyzed water and nutrient stress on hundreds of acres of farmland and is generating millions of dollars in revenue through their business model: imaging as a service.

Go Electric – Uninterruptible power supply for microgrids
Why do we love them? Go Electric provides utilities with demand response services, and customers with uninterruptable power and peak load shaving. Their microgrid hardware and software has found great success in military applications – particularly a 3 MW microgrid in Hawaii – due to enhanced power reliability and cybersecurity, and they are now expanding into new commercial markets.

in2lytics – Database platform and high definition analytics to help solve grid challenges
Why do we love them? in2lytics combines a wide array of utility data (SCADA, renewable forecasting, AMI, synchrophasor) in a lightweight solution that stores and organizes data in one tenth the space of Oracle’s database. Their solution is already powering data for three utilities and the Marine Corps base in Hawaii. For their EEx Demonstration project, in2lytics will be building and testing their lightest and fastest analytics engine yet, with a customized business model for small utilities and cooperatives.

Kevala – Mapping the grid to enable data-driven decision making
Why do we love them? Big data visualization! Kevala is mapping the world’s utility infrastructure to help policymakers, utilities, and DER providers use real data and infrastructure dynamics to inform decision making. How will 10 EV charging stations effect a circuit? Ask Kevala. Data-driven decision-making… how refreshing.

Sighten – Software platform that supports the entire solar workflow, from lead to financing
Why do we love them? Sighten’s software does it all – and it’s easy to use. This has lead to impressive traction and lowered customer acquisition costs for distributed energy resource providers. Solar PV sales teams that could only produce a few proposals per day are able to produce 100+ per day using Sighten’s platform. Long term, we see Sighten as a growth engine for hardware companies across the new energy economy.

Varentec – Noise canceling headphones for the distribution grid
Why do we love them? Varentec provides utilities more control of a distributed electrical grid. Their hardware and software is designed to control voltage and reactive power in real time to eliminate volatility on grids with high penetrations of wind and solar. Working closely with utilities, the Energy Excelerator team has seen a big demand for this type of solution. Varentec’s backers include Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla, and 3M.

The 2017 Cohort: Go-to-market Track
$75k in funding, 8 month program

HST Solar – Bringing computational firepower to solar system design
Why do we love them? HST Solar’s software allows utility-scale solar developers to run 180 billion potential designs on any given site. Why is this important? What took teams of financial analysts and engineers months takes HST Solar minutes to compute – this powerful tool will help developers across the world prospect utility-scale solar projects with greater speed and efficiency.

momit – Upgrade that old-school AC unit with Momit Cool
Why do we love them? Momit is our first international portfolio company, hailing from Spain. They are coming to Energy Excelerator with a significant amount of traction in Europe, seeking to bring their smart home technologies to end users, OEMs, and utilities in the U.S. and Asia Pacific markets. Momit Cool focuses on elegant design and occupant comfort as a first priority – and happens to save the average customer 30% on their electric bill.

Opus 12 – Converts CO2 into 16 cost-competitive chemicals and fuels
Why do we love them? Opus 12 is effectively turning trash to treasure, remaking CO2 into a useful product. Their electrochemical process – developed in the labs of Stanford – can turn CO2 into chemical products and fuels, such as syngas, ethylene, ethanol, and methane.

Smart Yields – Fitbit for farms
Why do we love them? Small to medium-sized agricultural operations make up 85% of the farms in the U.S. and 99% globally. Smart Yields helps this massive sector optimize plant production and labor management. It’s smart farms for the masses.

Swiftly – Seamless and connected urban mobility
Why do we love them? They have created a big data platform designed to increase the performance and reliability of public transit networks… that cities can actually afford. Swiftly’s data is 20% more accurate than existing solutions, costs up to 90% less to deploy, and results in a better user experience. Hate wondering where your bus is? So does Swiftly.

Whisker Labs – DIY energy monitoring platform
Why do we love them? Today, if you want access to real-time energy data you’ll have to wait for an electrician to install a meter. Whisker Lab’s energy sensors can be installed on a home’s breaker box without an electrician, and takes non-contact measurements of voltage, current, and real power. They turn residential energy data into actionable insights, which can be used by solar or storage providers to help right-size products for the home and engage their customers.

2017 Applicant Pool; A Snapshot Of The Global Cleantech Startup Ecosystem

From June 2015 to June 2016, we pounded the pavement, attended summits around the world, sent thousands of emails, had countless phone calls, and tapped our global network to find the most innovative cleantech startups. Here are a few statistics:
– We received 337 pre-applications
– There was a 50/50 split between Go-to-market Track and Demonstration Track applicants
– 60% of our applications came from direct referrals of partners, investors, or other incubator/accelerator programs
– We saw an uptick in policy startups for the first time in our 7-year history, and noted a new focus on ‘elegantly designed’ products and web services, which we believe will be a key indicator of success in the future
– Average team size was 7 people
– The average applicant had raised $2.1M before applying to our program. The average Go-to-Market track company raised $450k, and the average Demonstration track company raised $4.5M. You could extrapolate this to say that demonstration-ready cleantech startups are 10x larger than those with an operating prototype
– 60% of our applicants had female executives or senior leadership
– 60% had leadership team members with prior exits, up from 40% last year and a key metric we pay attention to for indication of applicant quality

About Energy Excelerator

Energy Excelerator funds innovative startups to create a 100% clean energy future, starting in Hawaii and Asia-Pacific. We invest in energy, water, transportation, agriculture, and cybersecurity companies (up to $1 million USD per company) and open up a world-class network of investors, customers, and experienced CEOs to help our portfolio companies change the world. Energy Excelerator operates as a non-profit program, part of Pacific International Center for High Technology Research. For more information, please visit www.energyexcelerator.com.

Media contacts:
Lauren Tonokawa
lauren (at) energyexcelerator (dot)com

Ryan Kushner
ryankushner (at) gmail (dot) com