We’ve completed another investment cycle at Clean Energy Trust and I’m super excited about the four new companies we recently unveiled at CO_INVEST CLEANTECH. Each of these companies is bringing to market innovative solutions for a more sustainable future. From advanced bioplastics to cloud-connected acoustic sensing, these companies are all sitting on strong IP with limitless potential. But great technology is table stakes. We need to see a lot more than a couple patents before we’re comfortable making an investment. Along with our Investment Committee, we spent several months evaluating over 100 applications and conducting extensive diligence on a smaller subset of companies before closing deals with these four. So what’s their special sauce, other than the tech?
From: Burnsville, MN
What they do: Intelligent controls for commercial buildings
What they believe: Saving energy never felt so good.
What I’m excited about/special sauce: The founder.
Tucked away in the woods in Mankato, Minnesota, not too far from a lake and maybe a moose, in an unassuming cabin with a vintage Porsche and a new Ducati in the driveway, lives Deepinder Singh, the founder and CEO of 75F, the fast-paced startup that makes buildings smart, efficient, and comfortable. “Deep” is not your typical Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur. In fact, there is very little about him that is typical at all.
Born in India, Deep is a trained network engineer with several startups in his rear-view mirror. Some were successes, some were not, but I’m sure they were all wild rides. The guy’s got an insatiable need for speed. He drives fast. He builds companies fast. And when one of his customers asks for a meeting, he says “Sure, I can fly down this afternoon.” Then he hops in his twin engine prop and pilots himself straight to the meeting. That’s just the way Deep lives his life. He gets shit done. Did I mention he was on the Canadian Olympic shooting team in the early 2000s? True story.
Deepinder Singh just may be the most interesting man in the world. But he doesn’t drink Dos Equis… that would be a waste of his time.
From: Knoxville, TN
What they do: Low cost, biodegradable bioplastics for ag, packaging and other applications
What they believe: There’s wonder in waste.
What I’m excited about/special sauce: The culture.
Culture? Isn’t this the company that developed proprietary chemistries unlocking a new class of bioplastics?? Yes, that’s right. It’s incredible technology that converts waste streams into cheap, biodegradable plastic. That’s huge! But as I mentioned in the intro, I’m not here to talk up the tech. I want to tell everyone what the magic is that we see in our new companies, and in this case, I believe the magic is the company’s culture. The Mobius co-founders — Tony Bova (aka “Chief Beard”) and Jeff Beegle (aka “Lieutenant Beard”) — are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the best sort of way. Tony and Jeff approach entrepreneurship with a much broader lens than R&D and biz dev. They fundamentally believe their primary goal is to make the world a better place. Mobius (formerly Grow Bioplastics) is a mission-driven, double bottom line company. This is not a trendy marketing strategy. This is just who they are.
Tony and Jeff are building a young, smart team of engineers from UTK and Oak Ridge National Lab, and they’re committed to running a transparent and inclusive company. I imagine Mobius must be a pretty inspiring place to work, and if I were a biochemical engineer in the Knoxville area, I’d want to work for Tony and Jeff, too. After all… they inspire me!
I have a feeling you’re gonna be seeing a lot of Mobius. They have big plans.
Company: Sigora International
From: Chicago, IL
What they do: Smart meter and turnkey platform for micro-utilities in frontier markets
What they believe: Power and empower.
What I’m excited about/special sauce: The impact.
Sigora is on a mission to bring affordable, reliable, clean power to the developing world. Replacing kerosene lamps, diesel generators, and wood stoves with clean, renewable energy can make a major impact on the environment and on the lives of the 1.3 billion people without access to electricity. But to drive meaningful impact on a global level, you need a solution and a business model that can scale. This is where Sigora really distinguishes itself.
After launching in Haiti last year and deploying 4,000 connections with 20,000 daily users, they realized that the technology platform they built has serious potential. But they would need to operate more like a technology provider than a developer in order to truly scale the business and fulfill their mission. Their proprietary meter and control platform ensures 100% revenue collection, eliminates power theft, automates real-time outage alerts, and offers wifi and content delivery capabilities. Beginning in 2019, Sigora will be ready to provide their turnkey solution to developers, utilities, and NGOs in frontier markets all over the world. Equipped with a scalable business model and a relentless commitment to their mission, Sigora is well positioned to make a major impact on the world.
From: Milwaukee, WI
What they do: IoT solution for well monitoring and groundwater data aggregation
What they believe: Make groundwater visible.
What I’m excited about/special sauce: The vision.
Not everyone gets as giddy about monitoring wells as I do. I don’t even own a well, and well water usually tastes gross and the sulfur it often contains makes it smell like rotten eggs when you heat it up. So why am I so giddy about Wellntel?
WELL…. let me tell you!
The Wellntel team developed an acoustic, non-invasive sensor that takes accurate well measurements for about $0.15 a pop instead of the $200+ it costs for a manual measurement. Sure, that’s a great value prop, but there’s a much bigger picture unfolding. Wellntel’s solution allows us to completely rethink the way we look at groundwater — the critical resource that feeds wells. Two-thirds of the country’s irrigation is fed by groundwater and nearly half of our drinking supply. But we know almost nothing about what’s going on in the underground aquifers… until now. By connecting Wellntel’s sensors to the cloud, the network of distributed monitors providing thousands of data points begins to paint a picture of our groundwater resource — a critical resource being threatened by climate change. Wellntel’s vision is to be the definitive source for groundwater data. Who’s interested in that? Insurance companies, hedge funds, government agencies, NGOs, and large food and beverage producers, just to name a few. Not unlike Josh Wolfe’s darling Planet — the venture-backed startup launching low-orbit, low cost satellites every few weeks — Wellntel is deploying its own low cost monitoring fleet — no rockets needed — to build the world’s largest and most reliable groundwater data set. And that’s what I’m so giddy about.