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Berkeley Ventures, the new Bay Area incubator for early-stage tech startups, has announced its first four portfolio companies — all set to take up residence in the firm’s 8,400 square-foot office space. The firm says it handpicked each of the recipients based on their disruptive potential in each of their sectors.
Power2Switch, for example, aims to set up the first retail marketplace for electricity online — an innovative idea that fits roughly in the cleantech space. For now, it provides a web portal where small businesses in Illinois can view a range of power vendors and choose based on competitive prices. That way, they will be able to choose utilities that draw more power from renewables if they prefer, or simply hone in on the cheapest options. Based in Chicago, Power2Switch claims that its technology makes switching electricity suppliers a seamless shift for both sides.
Also under the cleantech banner, WAPIS is a self-labeled clean energy prospecting service. It doesn’t have a web site yet, and not much information about the company is available online. However, according to the description on the Berkeley Ventures web site, its technology will make clean energy even more cost efficient than it is today. The idea is that if it can lower the prices regular consumers pay for electricity generated by renewable sources, conversion from dirty sources of energy will pick up speed. It remains in stealth mode and is not seeking additional funding at this time.
Virtual Labs, a startup that uses cloud computing to make test and measurement tools more effective, hopes to improve and accelerate research and development efforts at a range of companies. With most R&D divisions only have a limited number of instruments devoted to these important tasks, Virtual Labs premise is that it will provide some of the same capabilities via an internet interface so that more engineers can do more more in the same amount of time. The software also allows these users to store all of their data in a centralized and safe location in case they need to share it with colleagues.
The last of the four, FI InfoNet, pulls together many features unique to Web 2.0 in order to empower financial institutions to make better investing and business decisions. For example, the company says its system will help firms retain customers, and integrate with the slickest tools available on the web. It is at such an early stage that it also lacks a web site and little information is available.
As VentureBeat reported earlier this month, Berkeley Ventures is distinguishing itself from the other Bay Area incubators that focus on similar areas — Y Combinator and TechStars, chief among them — by extending its portfolio support services far beyond the standard three-month program. In addition to providing seed money, the firm offers rent-free space in its building for three months, and discounted rent after that for as many as two years. During this time, the startups will also have access to mentorship, legal and other services through Berkeley Ventures, as well as a springboard to connect with external investors.
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