Monday, December 15, 2008

Boston VCs Hope for Sunnier Days Ahead

From Sunday's Globe: 'Releasing Capital for Rays of Energy.' It deals with two of the newest-vintage photovoltaic start-ups in the Boston area, 1366 Technologies and Wakonda Technologies.

    To date, 1366, which traces its roots to MIT research, has raised $12 million from Polaris and North Bridge Venture Partners, another Waltham venture capital firm. Wakonda, which spun out from the Rochester Institute of Technology, has raised $9.5 million, much of it from Massachusetts-based venture firms Polaris, General Catalyst, and Advanced Technology Ventures. The two companies are located a few miles from one another, off Route 128 in Boston's northern suburbs.

    Polaris's involvement with two start-ups working on new approaches to wringing electricity from the sun is a little out of the ordinary but not unique; General Catalyst has funded two solar companies, and Advanced Technology Ventures has funded three. Over the past four years a roaring torrent of cash has been funneled into companies developing photovoltaic materials. According to Cambridge-based Greentech Media, a research firm, roughly $4.5 billion has been invested in about 150 solar start-ups in that time frame.

In the video, MIT prof. and 1366 co-founder Ely Sachs gives you a PV primer.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Enertech Salon in Back Bay, Hosted by Bob Metcalfe and Polaris

Just back from the Enertech Salon, held at Bob Metcalfe's spiffy Back Bay brownstone and dedicated to bringing together VCs, researchers, and entrepreneurs working on new energy-related technologies. (Rode my bike there and back, since Metcalfe had asked invitees to "lower their carbon footprint by walking or taking the T.")

Some quick impressions:

- The greentech or cleantech economy in Boston seems to have two hubs. The better-established one is the MIT Energy Club. Their Energy Conference in March attracted some pretty stellar folks: GE chief exec Jeff Immelt, VC Vinod Khosla, and author/consultant Daniel Yergin, for instance. The second hub, growing quickly thanks to funding from several local venture firms like Polaris and General Catalyst, is the New England Energy Innovation Collaborative, headed by recovering tech exec Nick D'Arbeloff. Of course there are several other associations and state-sanctioned councils -- and this Mass High Tech piece explores some of the overlap.

- EnerNoc CEO Tim Healy was present for the start of the evening, but had to leave early to fly to New York. Tomorrow, he is going to press the button to officially open trading on the Nasdaq exchange. (The company went public in May.)

- Greentech Media, founded this January, is a cool new micro-media company in Cambridge that I hadn't heard about before. One of their co-founders was present.

- Boston Power founder Christina Lampe-Onnerud seems to be powered by a mysterious energy source.

- I hadn't met David Danielson before, a PhD candidate at MIT who plans to move over to General Catalyst in the fall, where he'll work alongside Hemant Taneja, that firm's energy-oriented partner. Just before informing me of that impending career move, Danielson said he worries that we're experiencing a greentech "bump" or "bubble" that isn't sustainable. But why not take advantage of it while it lasts?

- Oddly, having just posted about Marin Soljacic's work at MIT, I bumped into him on my way out. He said that he's currently exploring the potential of getting venture funding for WiTricity. I think it could be the most interesting energy-related start-up from MIT since A123 Systems...but the technology may still be too embryonic for VCs to feel comfortable with. (A123's battery work was quite nascent when it left the MIT nest, as was another MIT hatchling, Greenfuel, where Metcalfe is currently serving as interim CEO, raising funding to keep the company alive until it can prove its technology works at scale.)

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