Earlier this month, Cleantech Open West and Cleantech Open Northeast held their National Academies on opposite coasts, marking the beginning of the 2019 Cleantech Open startup cohort’s path to #CTOAlumniSuccess. On the West coast, approximately 50 cleantech startup companies gathered in Fremont, California, over the first weekend of the month to launch the 2019 accelerator cohort. Just days later, another group of about 50 startups gathered in Boston to begin their parallel startup path toward market-readiness.
As tends to be the case, the 2019 cohort are concentrated in the West and Northeast: with approximately 40 startups in each. The Canadian Consulate in New York is partnering with Cleantech Open Northeast to support Canadian cleantech startups, bringing 9 of its country’s startups to CTO Northeast and 2 to CTO West to gain market traction in the U.S. Likewise, in its close partnership with Cleantech Open West, the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) referred 11 startups from their California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) grant program.
The remaining 26 startups came from our Rocky Mountain region (5), Southeast region (9), Pacific Northwest region (3), the Midwest region (4), and the South Central Region (5). We are excited to have the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) at the University of Texas at Austin, running the CTO South Central region under the leadership of CTO Regional Director Tyra Rankin.
Waste Not, Want Not, Recycle, and Reuse
Increasingly, wealthy nations—and, certainly, the U.S.—are realizing that their disposal of plastic and electronic waste has been historically mismanaged. Countries are joining into trading blocs to ban the import of other countries’ waste. It's clear that recycling isn't going to solve our plastic and electronics waste crisis. Rethinking the systems that produce both is our only choice.
Enter Cleantech Open. Many of this year’s startups are working on innovations that get the most value out of and add the least negative pollution to waste streams, with redefinition of disposable waste as re-usable, often by way of a service business model. For, if you don’t throw an asset out, it must be managed as a service.
For instance, one of this year’s startups provides sustainable to go containers (delivery services would partner with them). Another startup will process toxins away from landfills for eventual recycling. Another startup will process mixed waste plastic for reuse. Another adds an innovation to water treatment systems for manufacturing that greatly reduces waste water pollution. Another cleans up the dirty production of advanced cathode materials for Lithium-Ion batteries. One reuses brown grease to make biodiesel, another uses AI to manage medication waste streams, another offers a switch that filters petroleum out of waste water streams, and yet another startup seeks to repurpose EV batteries for second life applications.
In their production, cleantech technologies acknowledge the challenge of climate change, of environmental degradation, and of negative externalities by adapting technologies away from these outcomes. Some corporations are differentiating themselves by practicing climate change mitigation measures. Two of this year’s startups concentrate on carbon capture and reuse. Another startup offers low carbon beef. Yet another offers a CO2 credit-based consumer reward/loyalty plan.
Just as startups are responding to our plastic and electronics waste crisis, they are also responding to new limits on carbon dioxide emissions. In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, California will have to kick its natural gas addiction. California is going to need to replace its preponderance of natural gas water heaters with heat pump water heaters (HPWH) to increase clean electricity use.
But this change increases customers’ utility cost and grid imbalance because of substantial inefficient heating operation during periods of high electricity cost and low renewable energy generation. CTO startups are responding: one offers a smart control solution to avoid grid imbalance and another uses a process that increases the power density and efficiency of air conditioning heat pumps.
Energy, Energy: Everywhere! Water, Water, Everywhere!
As clean energy and water increase in value, more clean energy and water will be harvested from heretofore unexplored niches. Many of this year’s startups either create and harness or simply harness mechanical energy from moving liquid. One offers “hydropower in a tower,” another harvests renewable power from river and ocean resources. A third uses the flow of waste water through a treatment system and exhaust gas for electricity production. A fourth using the flow of gas through a pipeline to harvest electricity. A fifth harvests clean electricity from the flow of water in new and existing pressurized water pipelines.
This year’s cohort includes a handful of modular energy storage solutions: modular hydro electrification, gravity-based mechanical energy storage technology, and modular compressed air energy storage. One harvests atmospheric water for drinking, another for urban food production. One startup offers rainwater harvesting units.
Cheap Retrofits, Fads, and Old Tech New Terrain
As consumers seek to switch to sustainable lifestyles, not all are flush enough to purchase a brand new “Smart” house, “Smart” car, etc. Therefore, affordable retrofits are needed. Enter CTO’s 2019 cohort startups: One offers a scalable hybrid retrofit solution for conventional automotive internal combustion engines. Another startup offers an electric panel that loadsheds to avoid costly service panel upgrades usually called for when installing an EV charger. A third startup offers a low cost retrofit solution for fluorescent lights to switch to LED Technology
On top of the desire to derive value from what was once too cheap to save, tech-based fads are also represented in this year’s startup cohort: Three startups are in the E-Scooter space. Two startups offer drone-based analytics. Software has always been a safer bet than hardware in the cleantech space and this year’s cohort contains its share. One startup offers software-based analytics for aneorobic digesters; another solar energy prediction analytics, a third offers a software solution for structural inspection of wind turbine blades.
Two agtech startups offer takes on test-tube agriculture. One offers a personal “Keurig for plants,” and another creates plant stem cell cultures optimized to grow high value products without all the weather, dirt, and roughage.
Another class of this year’s CTO startups includes those that translate known technologies into new terrains. One startup translates technology developed in the automotive electrification revolution into electric marine propulsion systems. Another brings small wind energy, “the successor to propeller-based wind energy technology,” to commercial buildings. A third brings Solar to residential siding tiles.
2019 CTO Cohort Starts Toward #CTOAlumniSuccess
This month’s National Academies marked the beginning of this year’s startup accelerator. At this point in our program, each company has been matched with one or more of our over 180 clean technology mentors. The startups will make their way through CTO’s accelerator toward Cleantech Open’s Global Forum on November 11-12, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. Save the date and see you there!
Cleantech Open's Global Forum
Nov. 11-12, 2019, Los Angeles, CA
Investor & Partner Connect Morning of November 12.
By Emily Lundberg on in