Green

Hawaii’s Energy Excelerator pours $5M into innovative cleantech startups (exclusive)

Above: Dawn Lippert in Honololu with entrepreneurs in the program

Hawaii is on a mission to achieve a 70 percent clean energy goal in 2030, making it the ideal testing-ground for green tech startups.

A new startup program, called Energy Exceletor, recently raised $30 million from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to help the state achieve that goal. A portion of the funds — about $5 million — have already been invested in 15 innovative companies, the founders exclusively revealed to VentureBeat.

The program typically invests between $100,000 and $1 million per startup, which should be a boon for cleantech companies during a prolonged funding dry spell.

Energy Excelerator is specifically looking to fund new transportation, renewable energy and smart grid technologies. About 200 startups applied this year for the program; eight seed stage and seven growth stage companies were selected.

By phone, cofounder Dawn Lippert said she chose Honolulu as the headquarters for the accelerator, in part due to the natural resources.

“We have ideal test bed conditions — sun, wind, hydro and geothermal,” she said.

Lippert believes that a huge market opportunity exists for cleantech, but startups are held back by the lack of available capital.

Many venture capital firms are wary, as the sector has experienced intense highs and lows in the past several decades. Firms like Kleiner Perkins poured funding into renewable energy startups in the early 2000′s, only to regret see many of their investments go bankrupt. Cleantech took a further dramatic turn for the worse after the financial crisis, due in part to competition from China and a rise in the production of abundant natural gas at home.

Lippert hopes that the next generation of startups can succeed with access to strategic capital and mentorship. Executives at the later-stage companies in the program will offer guidance to less experienced entrepreneurs. In addition, the company is working with a slew of partners and potential corporate customers, including the U.S. Department of Energy.

The program only takes one percent in equity in exchange for funding, which is a relatively small sum compared to most accelerator programs. For reference, Y Combinator takes roughly six percent.

The startups who receive funding can choose to relocate to Hawaii for the program, but many spend up to six weeks on the island. Not bad!

Meet the startups that have raised funding from the new accelerator:

Smart Grid and Energy Storage

Amber Kinetics, Inc. | Amber Kinetics utilizes a low-cost flywheel energy storage solution to help utilities reliably integrate wind and solar into the power grid.

Ambri | Ambri is deploying liquid metal battery technology to make power cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable all over the world.

Ballast Energy, Inc. | Ballast Energy, Inc. halves the cost of lithium ion batteries by pioneering a low-cost production process to unlock new markets.

Shifted Energy | Shifted Energy deploys smart grid, interactive demand response solutions using open standards and their Green Shift Platform.

Stem, Inc. | Stem optimizes energy savings and minimizes needed battery size through data analytics and advanced energy storage solutions.

Energy Efficiency

Effortless Energy | Effortless Energy integrates innovative finance with technology and marketing to make energy efficiency the no-brainer it ought to be.

Ibis Networks | Ibis Networks provides plug-load energy management services and secure data analytics for large commercial organizations.

Navatek Ltd. | Navatek Ltd. is reducing the cost of wind energy by increasing efficiency with on-blade actuators.

Open Power Quality | Open Power Quality is the catalyst for crowd sourcing power quality data collection.

Oroeco | Oroeco is developing a social platform to empower users to align their personal values with their everyday spending, investment, and lifestyle decisions.

People Power | People Power turns smartphones into smart homes by enabling homeowners to control and monitor all of their electrical devices.

Pono Home | Pono Home helps people reduce their utility costs through auditing, infrastructural changes, and occupant education, all in a one-time service.

Pyro-E | Pyro-E is harvesting vehicular and industrial waste heat to improve the energy-use efficiency of the U.S. and the World.

Transportation and Bioenergy

Autowatts | Autowatts helps consumers pair the purchase of an electric vehicle with a photovoltaic system for clean and eventually free fuel.

TerViva | TerViva develops and commercializes new crops that grow sustainably on underproductive agricultural land.

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