$200 Million “ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid” Competition Announced by GE, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and RockPort Capital

Earlier this month GE announced the ecomagination Challenge. This is a $200 million innovation competition launched in partnership with Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, RockPort Capital, and Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, Wired).

The ecomagination Challenge seeks breakthrough ideas to create a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient grid technologies.  Proposals are sought in three categories — Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings. This competition is open from now until September 30, 2010 to anyone aged 18 years or older and all legally formed entities.  Entries may be submitted via the ecomagination Challenge website

Selected entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through:

  • Investment: The $200 million capital pledge of GE and its partners will be invested globally into promising start-ups and ideas
  • Validation: Evaluate entrant’s business strategy through in-depth discussions with GE’s technical and commercial teams
  • Distribution: Explore partnership opportunities with GE to scale a business and create global reach
  • Development: Leverage GE‘s technical infrastructure and GE Global Research Centers to accelerate technology and product development
  • Growth: Explore opportunities for utilizing existing GE customer to take Challenge products to market

In addition, five entrants will receive a $100,000 “innovation challenge award” acknowledging their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation.

“Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we create, connect and use power,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “At GE we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernize the electrical grid around the world.”

GE CMO Beth Comstock said, “We took on a challenge when we launched ecomagination five years ago and we have learned about the power of partnerships to deliver clean energy solutions today. The challenge announced today is about collaboration and harnessing the promise of fledgling ideas and businesses to transform our energy future. We are confident in people’s willingness to change the way the world uses energy and in the ideas that will make this possible.”

“The Smart Grid is a new platform and a new market that is just beginning to be explored. Great ideas on how to do this can come from anywhere, so this competition is designed to tap the widest possible range of innovators, from big companies to entrepreneurs to students,” said Chris Anderson, who is serving as an advisor on the Challenge. 

“Modernization of global electricity transmission and distribution systems have simply not kept pace with our society’s growing demand for clean and highly reliable power,” said Gina Domanig, Managing Partner of Emerald Technology Ventures. “Smart Grid innovation has been a significant area of investment focus for Emerald over the past decade and we are pleased to be a partner in the GE ecomagination Challenge.”

Foundation Capital General Partner Paul Koontz said, “Global power grids make up the largest networks in the world. In most cases, the technology on which they are based is essentially 100 years old. The opportunity to reinvent how energy is produced, distributed and consumed is extraordinarily large and is critical in the battle against climate change. We’re pleased to support GE’s initiative to engage the entrepreneurial community, and the powerful innovation engine it represents, in this effort.”

“Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is committed to a sustainable energy environment and are working to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuel-based energy through our growing portfolio of innovative Greentech companies,” said Ray Lane, Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. We believe the Smart Grid is the information technology backbone that will enable faster scaling of energy innovations. Kleiner Perkins is proud to be a part of the GE ecomagination Challenge, and we are committed to working closely with GE and other investor partners to help commercialize the best Smart Grid innovations.”

RockPort Capital General Partner Chuck McDermott said, “The electric power grid is the central nervous system of the global economy. Though today’s grid is a 20th century engineering marvel, the smart grid of tomorrow promises to revolutionize how we manage our homes, offices and factories and to maximize the use of next-generation clean energy resources. Through this challenge, we will match the best ideas and best entrepreneurs with GE’s commitment to innovation, unparalleled technical knowledge and its deep penetration into the most vital areas of the world’s energy infrastructure. Working together we can transform yesterday’s grid into a 21st century marvel.”

A video of the formal announcement of the ecomagination Challenge follows below.

Project FROG Receives $8 Million in Series B Financing

Project FROG

Project FROG, a San Francisco-based start-up, announced in November that it closed $8 million in Series B financing, led by RockPort Capital Partners.  Chuck McDermott, a General Partner at RockPort, has also joined Project FROG’s Board of Directors.

Project FROG (Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth) was founded in 2006 and is focusing on designing and manufacturing "smart buildings" — high-performance, green building systems that are healthy, quick to deploy, affordable, sustainable, and permanent.  Among its products is FROG Zero(TM), which the company states is the world’s first - and only - zero-energy building system.  Project FROG introduced FROG Zero at the recent Greenbuild conference in Boston.

“RockPort has a very impressive track record and we are excited to have them join the FROG team,” said founder and CEO Mark Miller. “Their vision for energy and resource efficiency and innovative products is perfectly aligned with the Project FROG approach – to be better, greener, faster and cheaper – in that order.”

Chuck McDermott said, “This is a truly pioneering company. Project FROG is developing dynamic concepts from a product design and manufacturing platform and applying those innovations to the building industry. Project FROG has a critical grasp on the technical and market advancements that will be game changers in the green building industry. These attributes solidify Project FROG’s position as a leader in this fast growing marketplace."

Soliant Energy Receives Approximately $21 Million in Funding

Soliant Energy

Soliant Energy, a Monrovia, CA-based developer of solar technology solutions for the commercial rooftop market, announced at this week's Solar Power International '08 that it raised nearly $21 million in venture capital.  This financing was led by the venture capital group of GE Energy Financial Services, which invested $2.5 million.  Soliant’s other investors participated in this funding round, led by Convexa Capital. Previous Soliant Energy investors include RockPort Capital Partners, Nth Power, Trinity Ventures, and Rincon Venture Partners.

Art Buckland, Soliant's CEO, said, "GE's strategic investment is validation that our approach provides commercial customers with the lowest-cost solar electricity at the plug."

“Concentrating photovoltaic solar power is especially viable for space-constrained applications such as commercial rooftops, and Soliant is well positioned with its elegant design, market-leading efficiency and potential for low installed cost per kilowatt hour of energy produced,” said Kevin Walsh, Managing Director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services.

Soliant Energy was founded in 2005 and was known as Practical Instruments until early 2007.  Using solar concentrators and other features, the company is developing products that it states will provide significant value for the commercial rooftop market.  Soliant Energy is aiming to open a 40-megawatt production plant and ship its first products for commercial rooftop applications in late 2009. Additional backgroound on Soliant Energy is available in this 2007 interview of founder Brad Hines (MP3 file, right-click to download). 

For more information:

Solyndra Emerges from Stealth Mode, Announces $1.2 Billion in Contracts


Solyndra, a company based in Fremont, California that designs and manufactures photovoltaic (PV) systems for the commercial rooftop market, emerged from stealth mode earlier this week and announced that it has $1.2 billion of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States.  Solyndra claims that its CIGS-based thin film PV systems provide significantly lower installation costs and significantly higher annual solar electricity output per rooftop as compared to conventional solar panel installations for large, low-slope commercial rooftops.

"By eliminating the need for roof-penetrating mounts and wind ballasts, PV arrays with Solyndra panels can be installed with one-third the labor, in one-third of the time, at one-half the cost," said Manfred Bachler, Chief Technical Officer at Phoenix Solar AG, one of the largest solar power integrators in Europe and a Solyndra customer. "For commercial rooftops, PV module installation time can now be measured in days, not weeks. For flat commercial rooftops this is game-changing technology."

Solyndra founder and CEO Chris Gronet said "Solyndra’s system uniquely optimizes PV performance on commercial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity while also providing for a lower installation cost and lower cost of electricity."

The following video provides an illustration of the manufacturing and installation of Solyndra’s product.

According to various media reports, Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet has stated that the company has raised $600 million in equity financing. Solyndra’s investors include Argonaut Private Equity, Artis Capital Management, CMEA Ventures, Madrone Capital Partners, Masdar Clean Tech Fund, Redpoint Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, U.S. Venture Partners, and the Virgin Green Fund

For more information:

Sustainable Spaces Obtains $6 Million in Series A Financing

Sustainable Spaces

Sustainable Spaces, a San Francisco-based company that offers home performance testing and retrofitting solutions, announced on Tuesday that it closed its Series A financing, receiving $6 million from RockPort Capital Partners and Shasta Ventures.  The company said it will use the funding to invest in building its infrastructure to meet the growing demand for its services.

"We are very pleased to be working with investors who understand the value proposition and market potential of our business and are committed to successfully growing companies that can make a real impact on global climate change and the emerging green economy," said Pratap Mukherjee, CEO of Sustainable Spaces. "There are more than 70 million single-family, owner-occupied homes in the U.S. and they typically use one and a half to two times the energy required to achieve the homeowners’ desired level of comfort. Finding the causes of wasted energy in homes and fixing the underlying problems represent the single most potent and cost-effective measure we can take to combat global warming."

"Sustainable Spaces has created a compelling value proposition for homeowners," said Chuck McDermott of RockPort Capital Partners. "By addressing each individual homeowner’s concerns and constructing an improvement roadmap customized to that customer, they can work within any homeowner’s budget to reduce their bills and make an impact on global climate change. Our investment enables the company to further increase the tremendous results they have seen in their local market and expand their programs into new markets."

"There’s a massive opportunity to create the trusted brand in home performance to help homeowners sort through the dizzying array of green products and services in the most cost-effective way possible," said Tod Francis of Shasta Ventures. "Sustainable Spaces has been leading the way with a track record of providing a very high quality service enabled by leading building science know-how. We are very excited to be working with the company on the ground floor of this growing sector."

Sustainable Spaces is a licensed general and solar contractor and provides home testing and building performance retrofitting for existing homes to create environments that are comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient.  The company has performed more than 400 home retrofits in the San Francisco Bay Area since its founding in 2004 and has been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as the case study in its REGREEN Green Remodeling Best Practice Guidelines.

Hycrete Obtains $15 Million in Series C Funding

HycreteHycrete, a Carlstadt, New Jersey-based company whose products include Hycrete Admixture, which waterproofs concrete and provides environmental benefits, has closed a $15 million round of series C venture capital financing, according to VentureWire (via Private Equity HUB).  The round was from led by Mohr Davidow Ventures, with participation from previous investors NGEN Partners and RockPort Capital Partners.  Other investors in Hycrete include NJTC Venture Fund.

The following video provides an overview of Hycrete.

For more information:

RockPort Capital Partners Announces $450 Million Cleantech Venture Capital Fund

RockPort Capital Partners

On June 5th, RockPort Capital Partners announced that it closed its third venture capital fund (RockPort Capital Partners III, L.P.) with commitments of more than $450 million that will focus on clean technology investments. New investors in RockPort include endowments, institutional investors, and foundations.

In commenting on this news, Wilber James, co-founder of RockPort Capital Partners and a Managing General Partner, said:

The clean tech sector provides enormous opportunities to identify and foster initiatives that offer solutions to global energy and natural resource needs, while providing superior investment returns. We have already seen how the teams we invest in can create enormous value. Our collaborative approach together with a business-building mentality and keen domain expertise has proven invaluable to growing companies.

RockPort Capital Partners has invested in approximately 40 clean technology companies thusfar and has more than $850 million under management.  The firm has offices in Boston, Massachusetts and Menlo Park, California.

For more information: