Cleantech startups are taking center stage — literally — as their founders aim to address compounding challenges from climate change and the pandemic.
For one company, that stage was in a TV studio. SparkCharge, a startup that provides a portable electric vehicle (EV) charging system, secured a million-dollar investment last year from Shark Tank investors Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. SparkCharge is also one of the many startups in the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) community. The city of Los Angeles and its Department of Water and Power founded the nonprofit as an economic development program, in part to help spur an “inclusive green economy.”
LACI this month selected 10 "clean energy, cleantech and sustainability" startups to join the fall 2021 cohort for its two-year incubation program. Each startup will participate in a six-month curriculum to help its founders and teams strategize team development, financial stability, environmental impact and securing external capital.
As many startups in the LACI cohort and elsewhere aim to team up with cities, LACI CEO Matt Petersen identified key obstacles that founders often encounter when working with the public sector.
Two of the key challenges, he wrote in an email interview, are "A) getting in front of decision makers, and then getting into and through the procurement system; and B) if they get a contract, the terms of the agreement are onerous for a startup: long lead times for grant payments or reimbursable contracts that require capital outlays, etc."
As cities look to partner with startups, Petersen advised city leaders to find ways to "invite innovation from startups, rather than letting innovation show up on their streets, sidewalks and communities and then have to respond," noting examples of the latter with scooters and ride-sharing platforms.
Seven of the 10 startups in the fall cohort are focused on clean energy, two on the circular economy and one on zero-emissions mobility:
- Delphire aims to help prevent and contain wildfires by providing real-time information. Its sentinel system monitors power lines to detect maintenance issues with the goal of stopping wildfires from happening.
- Energos provides an end-to-end platform that’s based on the Internet of Things and edge artificial intelligence analytics to “automate the energy flow between distributed energy loads and distributed energy resources.” It has designed its platform to help large corporations meet their net-zero carbon emission goals by improving energy efficiency from heating and cooling loads, optimizing local solar and storage and EV battery charging management.
- Evolectric specializes in electrified transportation and battery technologies, partnering with other startups and established businesses to develop electrification strategies. The company says it helps advance e-mobility via battery technology, rapid prototyping and electrified mobility solutions.
- Flick uses time-based electric rate signals from local utilities to help households make more informed choices about their energy consumption. Its light switch uses color displays and sounds to signal when energy is the most expensive or most carbon-intensive.
- Humble produces and rents electric carts designed for entertainment production sets. The carts can carry heavy equipment and provide clean energy.
- Joule creates inexpensive energy that also cleans and aerates oceans, in addition to certain other types of bodies of water, through a process that mimics what's “already occurring in nature.”
- Meterleader uses real-time energy data from utilities PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to to gamify energy savings, creating incentives for households to save energy when they participate in energy-savings challenges.
- Olokun Minerals intends to create a renewable source of power and key compounds for future supply changes by sustainability harvesting ocean minerals from desalination brine, helping to “solve global clean water security.”
- Rewilder is a sustainable design company that diverts waste materials from landfills and upcycles them into usable materials for manufacturing consumer products.
- SolarFi provides solar-powered, transparent enclosure or pods for businesses, restaurants, municipalities and other groups. The enclosures come equipped with WiFi, heating and cooling.