by Wendy Bao
| March 7th 2014
Feedstock is a critical but costly step in the production of Biofuels & Biochemicals that has imposed as a bottleneck to the entire industry. According to Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform, we have seen increasing investment and partnership activities among multinational corporations with feedstock technology companies in order to develop cheaper sugars. For example, Dupont has invested in and partnered with NexSteppe to develop high biomass sorghum for downstream biofuels and biochemicals production. BASF and Waste Management have also made strategic investments to Renmatix to develop cellulosic sugars. Finally, Syngenta has formed an equity-based technology partnership with Agrivida towards the company’s technology on engineered crop. At Cleantech Group, we continue to see new innovating technologies that aim to solve this bottleneck issue from multiple angles.
Last week, Cleantech Group interviewed Ms. Kef Kasdin, CEO of Proterro, to learn more about the company’s technology innovations and the potential breakthroughs they might bring to the biofuel and biochemical industry.
Proterro, a New Jersey based producer of low-cost sugar feedstock for the biofuels and biochemicals industries, recently received a notice of allowance from the USPTO for a device patent that protects the company’s photobioreactor system. Proterro’s unique photosynthetic sugar-making organism, process, and system devices …
by M Paschich
| March 5th 2014
On March 11-13, Cleantech Group is hosting the largest and longest running Cleantech forum in the world, Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. This annual gathering of the global cleantech innovation community offers a comprehensive development program along with exclusive opportunities to network and make deals happen. In the lead up to the Forum, we’re chatting with leaders across the resource innovation space to discuss the changes decentralization is causing across different markets, end-users, enterprises, technologies, and business models.
Andrew Chung is one of six partners at Khosla Ventures, which manages over $3 billion of committed capital and has invested in over 80 sustainability companies. Andrew serves on the boards of companies that include Lanzatech, Ecomotors, Ambri, Pellion, and BioConsortia, and also leads the firm’s Asia activities. Prior to Khosla, Andrew helped build the firm’s cleantech practice area at Lightspeed Ventures, which invested in companies like Solazyme, Nest Labs, LS9, Coaltek, Quantumscape, and Stion. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @achung
We’re looking forward to having you participate in Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. As you know, the theme is Accelerating system change: towards a decentralized future. Can you tell us about some of the changes you’re seeing underway in our energy …
by M Paschich
| March 5th 2014
What is Axine’s Genesis story?
Axine was founded by Colleen Legzdins, a Ph.D. materials engineer with a deep history in the electrochemical industry who was most recently with Ballard Material Products and Ballard Power Systems (our leading fuel cell company up here in Vancouver). Colleen left that company several years ago, wanting to apply her knowledge in electrochemistry to another area of cleantech. She looked at various parts of the cleantech ecosystem and finally settled on wastewater because she could see that there was an incredible amount of pain points in industrial water treatment related to this area that she thought electrochemistry could improve upon. And she basically settled on the thesis that non-biodegradable and toxic organics in industrial waste water are really persistent pain points in many different industries, like oil & gas, chemicals, semiconductors, textiles, and mining. She looked at the incumbent solution for treating those types of persistent chemicals, things like volatile organic compounds, ammonia, nitrogen species, benzenes, dissolved hydrocarbons, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes from textiles…
Things that are super difficult to treat because they’re persistent and recalcitrant and not biodegradable and cannot be broken down with conventional biological waste water treatment. The incumbent way …
by Leo Zhang
| February 27th 2014
The cleanweb theme has received positive attention from venture capital and corporate investors in its innovating business model of connecting cleantech innovation with the web. Recall Cleantech Group’s Cleanweb and the City event (and associated White Paper), which highlighted some of the latest innovations in urban mobility, waste management, and energy management. Drilling down on how cleanweb has impacted the Recycling & Waste sector, let’s look at the Web-Based Recycling subsector, the investment trends and some of the leading companies in this space. As the chart below illustrates, the web-based recycling sector attracted a series of equity investments, including several mega deals in 2008.
Let’s take a closer look at the latest innovations on web-based recycling:
Recyclebank, the New York-based developer of a financial rewards system for household recycling, is working towards the ultimate goal of changing conusmer’s behavior in an effort to increase their recycling effort.
Gazelle, the Massachusettes-based provider of an online recommerce service, allows consumers to easily recycle and get paid for their used electronics. In addition, ReCellular, the Michigan-based online marketplace, is also working on similar projects.
thredUP, the California-based provider of an online platform for used clothing, allows consumers to …
by Gannon McHenry
| February 24th 2014
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved Wanxiang Group’s bid for Fisker Automotive last Tuesday. The deal was a combination offer of cash and equity worth $150 million. Rather than simply incorporating the intellectual property and assets of Fisker into Wanxiang’s existing brands, the company plans to restart production of the Fisker Karma in a matter of months. Wanxiang previously bought the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, following its bankruptcy filing in October of 2012. Wanxiang believes the synergies achieved through owning both A123 and Fisker will result in stronger financial and competitive positions for both companies.
Wanxiang’s purchase of Fisker follows a positive trend among Chinese companies, who are increasingly looking outside of their border for potential acquisitions. Following years of little to no international acquisition activity, Chinese companies and investors began to acquire foreign companies at an increasing rate following an off-and-on start in 2008. Following this trend, 2013 was a landmark year in cross border acquisition by Chinese organizations, recording the largest number of deals to date. Hanergy has been a notable prolific foreign investor, scooping up distressed solar companies including MiaSole, Solibro and Global Solar Energy over the past two years. The global …
by Amanda Faulkner
| February 20th 2014
On February 14, Cleantech Group, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati hosted a Power Breakfast focused on Agriculture & Food. Conversation starters from Monsanto Ventures, Khosla Ventures, AgFunder, OnFarm, and Grundfos, along with over seventy investors, corporates, startup and grower attendees, discussed topics ranging from the Climate Corp acquisition to labor challenges to local food. Ultimately the conversation returned time and time again to how data can make agriculture more efficient. For those of you that couldn’t join us, here were some of the key takeaways:
- Fidelity of data – The billion-dollar Climate Corp acquisition by Monsanto was a popular topic of discussion. One investor commented that Climate Corp offers generalized and public data at a cheap price (combined with a financial product offering). Participants saw high fidelity data as the next frontier for startups to tackle. Although this type of data is more expensive to collect, it is also worth much more to farmers. Regardless of the fidelity of the data, a number of participants emphasized the need to make data more actionable.
- Origination of innovation – Although startups are the source of innovation, corporates are the players that will likely
by Leo Zhang
| February 18th 2014
Rennovia, the California-based developer of renewable catalyst and chemical technologies, announced last week that Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has committed to a $25 million equity investment to co-develop bio-based chemical products. Specifically, Rennovia will leverage ADM’s strength in manufacturing in order to reach commercial production of biochemicals utilizing Rennovia’s core processing technology.
Given the recent hurdles in scale-up production across multiple companies in the Biofuels & Biochemicals sector, this deal represents a crucial stage for Rennovia as the company aims to prove its technology and achieve commercialization. This deal is also significant since it further resonates with the growing popularity of biochemicals, as the products have much higher margins compared to commodity-based fuels. As a result of this deal, we expect to see additional updates from the two companies throughout their commercialization journey. Stayed tuned via Cleantech Group’s i3 platform for the latest updates on corporate investments and partnerships in the cleantech space.…
by Amanda Faulkner
| February 13th 2014
Corporates, with access to capital, markets and tech know-how, are obvious partners to help startups succeed. Yet despite the recognized importance of partnerships, actually finding a partner and nurturing a successful partnership can be challenging. On February 12, we hosted a webinar to discuss this topic and get feedback from top investors and corporates in the field. Stephan Dolezalek from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Gil Demeter from Qualcomm Ventures, and Bharat Ramakrishnan from Applied Materials talked about their own experiences and advice for startups looking to partner with corporates. Here are some of the key takeaways from the webinar:
Have an internal champion – The biggest point that Stephan, Gil, and Bharat made was that individual champions at the corporate are key to making partnerships happen. Those champions will pitch your company, debate any doubters, and be your defender throughout the process. He or she will be personally and professionally invested in the partnership and push to make the partnership successful.
Diversify and strengthen your personal relationships – Not only do you need a champion; you need a variety of people within the corporate with interest in making the partnership work. Personnel change fairly frequently; diversity of relationships ensures …
by Leo Zhang
| February 10th 2014
Two weeks ago, we posted a blog post that looked at investments in electric vehicles vs. drop-in fuels which showed a comparable amount of dollars having been invested into these two technology areas. As evidenced by the current market, investment into electric vehicles has led to significant progress as Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and other electric vehicles continue to flood the showroom. Similarly, we are also seeing major partnerships from key corporate stakeholders with the goal of a wider adoption of drop-in biofuels.
- Global Bioenergies, the France-based developer of renewable drop-in fuels, has partnered with German-based manufacturer Audi for a two-year collaboration on the development of high performance biofuels for gasoline engines.
- Boeing, the U.S.-based aerospace and defense corporation, partnered with Etihad Airways to create an aviation biofuel industry; Etihad Airways also conducted a demonstration flight using renewable aviation biofuel.
Although much debate has been raised on the disadvantages of alcohol-based biofuels, the industry continues to evolve with new technologies and products that address these concerns. As an example, Global Bioenergies is developing a renewable drop-in fuel that is 100% compatible with existing gasoline engines. As a result, automobile manufacturers such as Audi can benefit from this …
| February 5th 2014
Just over a month into the first quarter, it’s becoming clear venture investors are renewing their bets on energy storage in 2014.
Within the first week of January, we’d learned of Aquion Energy‘s second, $20 million closing of its $55 million Series D round and of Amprius‘ $30 million Series C round.
Aquion Energy’s Series D, opened in April 2013, saw new investors including Bill Gates, Yung’s Enterprise, Tao Invest, Bright Capital, and Gentry Venture Partners join previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Advanced Technology Ventures to help the company pursue commercial deployment of its sodium-ion battery technology in 2014. The company’s technology is reportedly already addressing an off-grid application in conjunction with a solar array for lighting and air conditioning, with a planned grid-tied deployment for demand-side energy management for a commercial customer.
Amprius’ high-energy and high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, based on the use of silicon nanowire anodes, will initially target consumer electronics applications and could be scaled for use in electric vehicles. SAIF Partners led the company’s Series C round and was joined by all the company’s previous investors, which include Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, …