The Four Top Northeast Cleantech Open Startups

The Cleantech Open, the world’s largest cleantech accelerator, announced four Northeast Regional Winners on October 19th, each receiving prizes of $20,000 in cash and in-kind services. Twenty seven total companies graduated from the 2015 Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator.

These four winners will also represent the region at the Cleantech Open 2015 Global Forum in San Francisco, CA on November 17th-19th, where they will compete with emerging environmental and energy technology firms throughout the nation for the National Grand Prize of $200,000 in cash and services.

The four northeast winners were selected and announced by a judging panel of top clean tech business leaders at the first-ever NYC Cleantech Summit Awards Night.

Trip O’Shea, Vice President at Encourage Capital, a NYC-based private equity firm focused on impact investing, was one of the judges of this year’s competition.

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Speaking with CleanTechIQ and adding perspective on this year’s competition, O’Shea observed a broader diversity of companies this year focusing on what has been traditionally called clean tech. “I think the definition of clean tech is expanding.”

For example, during this year’s competition, “we’ve seen technologies around water purity testing and nanotubes, which is very different than the types of clean tech startups in 2007 or 2008, which were more traditionally focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency.” And we’re seeing more “capital light” strategies, he points out.

“What struck me more than anything was the diversity and creativity of the business models that we’re seeing coming up.” He points out that several of this year’s clean tech startups are using existing, proven technologies to solve problems by applying new business models.

The Four Winners:

Rapport (Portland, ME)

Summary: Rapport helps small and midsized business reap the rewards of sustainability. We offer simple but powerful tools to capture, analyze, reduce and report corporate sustainability metrics. It helps companies drive waste and cost out of their operations. It is an outgrowth of a sustainability consulting firm with over 40 years of collective experience helping company manage, improve and disclose their impact on the planet. Rapport has a total addressable market of $4.3B.

The key driver at large companies, such as Walmart and Home Depot, that are demanding this data from their suppliers is the realization that most of their environmental impact is locked up in their supply chains. They have made lots of progress “cleaning” up their own operations, and now must engage their supply chain in doing the same, says CEO John Rooks, who has 20 years in the environmental and sustainability space.

“I think it is more about the realization that sustainability offers an opportunity to increase efficiency, drive down cost, discover operational risks, and, yes, get a bit of a halo from doing good,” says Rooks.

Earlier this month, it won a $100,000 investment from Steve Case, co-founder of America Online, after a pitch competition held in Portland as part of Case’s Rise of the Rest tour, a series of visits to highlight the burgeoning startup communities that exist outside Silicon Valley.

It also raised $75,000 in a friends and family round, won $39,000 in grants from the Maine Technology Institute and won a $10,000 business idea competition prize from the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.

It’s currently raising $500,000 in seed funding, which will be its first angel investment round.

Evervest (Boston, MA)

Summary: EverVest, founded in 2014 as Cardinal Wind, provides financial risk analysis software for the renewable energy industry. We help Wall Street make better investment decisions when committing capital to wind and solar assets. Our software provides more accurate financial projections, enables faster deal screening, and helps investors manage portfolios of renewable assets. Our system leverages the technical data of a site and applies our proprietary machine learning algorithm technology.

According to CEO Mike Reynolds, the renewable energy industry is not very good at understanding engineering risk, partly because they do all of their analysis in massive spread sheets, which are prone to errors and aren’t easily shared. EverVest developed its cloud-based solution to eliminate this problem and limit errors in large financing decisions being made by operators and developers of wind and solar projects.

It received $105,000 in venture funding in February and $393,000 in debt financing in June. The company is in the process of raising a seed funding round.

Encourage Capital’s O’Shea particularly liked that EverVest is using proprietary software to allow for better analysis, better data and information sharing around the valuation of complicated asset classes. “This is something we’ve seen in other areas, such as in real estate. I do think there’s a real need for something like this in the clean tech space,” he says.

Fluidscreen (Boston, MA)

Summary: Current water-testing methods–including rapid tests–take at least 24 hrs. to deliver reliable results on water contamination. Because of this delay in information, 47 million people in the US contract food or water borne illness every year. Fluid-Screen delivers fast (30 min.), accurate (99%), sensitive (1 bacterium/ 100mL) information on contamination in a portable, automated device for onsite testing of municipal & recreational waters. Fluid-Screen is the next critical step in water safety.

Its current focus is on the US water testing and food safety categories, with an estimated total addressable market of over $1 billion. Longer term, the company plans to expand into medical diagnostics and a range of other related fluid testing applications globally.

Fluid-Screen grew out of the Reed Lab at Yale University and was spun-out as an independent entrepreneurial venture in 2009 by electrical engineering doctoral student Monika Weber.

It took first prize in the 2014 Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize, receiving $25,000 to develop their business plan and received a $50,000 MassChallenge grant in 2013.

Tank Utility (Somerville, MA)

Summary: High delivery costs for delivered fuels are driven by a combination of inaccurate data and the high cost of running out. The Tank Utility solution combines a low-cost, easy-to-install, wireless monitor with secure mobile and web applications that provide realtime status, usage data, pricing, communications and transaction processing.

Tens of millions of people in the US rely on delivered fuel to heat their house, and there’s 24 million propane tanks, says Tank Utility CEO Amos Epstein. However, if their fuel runs out, it costs in the area of $15,000 to fix damage in the home caused by subsequent frozen pipes and there’s no cost effective solution on the market today to monitor fuel levels, he says. This problem prompted the founders to launch Tank Utility in 2014.

They’ve been developing direct sales to both consumer and fuel distributors, and its product allows suppliers to more effectively schedule when they make deliveries, says Epstein.

It makes storage of delivered fuel more efficient, which can eliminate ½ of deliveries currently needed today, which saves fuel, trucking and shipping cost.  And it is building Opower-type reports for consumers to understand their consumption and become more energy efficient, says Epstein.

In just over a year, they’ve been able to finish the hardware and software development and are actively selling their product and are generating revenue, he says.

They’ve raising funding from hardware-focused venture capital firm Bolt in August and won a $40,000 Catalyst grant from MassCEC in June.  And they will be raising a full seed round in the near future, says Epstein.

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