GreenStart’s Fall 2012 Demo Day Launches 4 Cleantech Companies

GreenStart is a force to be reckoned with – a digital technology force for good, that is.  Good which disrupts, democratizes and improves nearly every aspect of life on earth.  With a focus on energy and transforming the way humans generate, transport, consume, and buy energy is the challenge GreenStart has chosen to tackle.

With their mission to evangelize the growth of digital cleantech and finding more sustainable energy sources, GreenStart provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to change the world.  They believe that entrepreneurs, with their creativity, vision, and tenacity are the drivers of digital cleantech growth.  They exist to help  entrepreneurs change the world.  Here’s how it happened at Demo Day on October 30, 2012.

The day opened with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee launching CleantechSF.  This is a brand new initiative which allows cleantech startups to pilot their technology on city assets such as buildings, buses, and street lights.  From there the following four companies wowed over 200 investors by unveiling the dynamic growth and progress they’ve achieved in the past 90 days.  They are:

KIWI –   A residential solar power company.  While Solar electricity may be cleaner, that attribute alone is often inadequate enough to entice consumers to buy and install a set of solar panels on their roofs.  Kiwi believes that it’s come up with a game plan which makes solar attractive to homeowners.  Denver is its first market.

KIWI takes orders from homeowners, then it works with solar equipment manufacturers to assemble solar electric systems, ships the systems to the homeowners, and then arranges for installers to set the systems up on the rooftops.  The name itself is meant to evoke something “juicy and intriguing,” says CEO, Nick Yecke.  A solar electric system from Kiwi is called a “Juice Box” and comes in three sizes ranging from 3 kilowatts to 5 kilowatts.

From its website: The company is kicking off the new brand and business plan which launched in Denver in October.   The website is the vehicle to educate consumers about solar energy and then Kiwi plans to use social media campaigns and face-to-face sales to build word of mouth recommendations and win over consumers.

Prices range from $12,000 to $24,000.  For a homeowner in Denver, the value added by using solar energy can be as much as $80,000 over 25 years (the length of a typical solar panel warranty) – this factors in electricity savings, the increase in home property value, and the federal and local tax breaks and rebates for installing solar equipment.

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LIQUID – This start-up bills itself as the AirBnB for bicycles – complete with their own mobile app.  The main problem Liquid (formerly known as SpinLister) is trying to solve – and its inspiration for the name – is the illiquidity of the bicycle market.  “There are 100 million bikes in the U.S. and over a billion in the world, but only about 0.3 percent of them are being ridden on any given day, so  there is a huge oversupply. At the same time, you see rental shops and public bike-sharing systems that are very expensive. We help people find a higher-quality bike at a more affordable price,” says co-founder Will Dennis.

Liquid started when Dennis and his technical co-founder Jeff Noh, a Berkeley graduate, coded up a website and launched a bike-sharing service in New York and San Francisco in April.  By September, they were able to go national.  The three types of renters Liquid appeals to are – 1) People who have visitors who need a bike, 2) serious cyclists getting in a ride on a business trip, and 3) travelers wanting to explore a city by bike.  Prices range from $5/day for a cruiser to up to $130/day for a titanium cyclocross bike with rental periods ranging from hours to days to weeks.

Learn more about the quality and quantity of Liquid’s bicycle stock here:

ROOT 3 TECHNOLOGIES – Providers of cloud-based software for energy plant managers.  There are a number of large universities, hospitals, and corporations which are off the grid – electrically speaking.  They have their own energy plants which generate heating, cooling, and electricity for their campuses.  The challenge is that smaller energy plants can waste lots of money as they typically are not equipped with the same caliber of predictive analytics and management software the big utilities have.

Root 3 Technologies Archisman “Archie” Gupta has come up with a solution for this quandary.  Gupta provides software which allows universities, hospitals, and corporations to figure on precisely how much energy to generate and which machines to leave on or leave off.

Gupta developed the idea for Root3 while he was working towards an MBA at Chicago’s Booth School of Business.  A former systems engineer, regional planner, and grid analyst at the Michigan-based transmission company ITC Holdings, Gupta says that companies like ABB, General Electric, and Siemens have been supplying energy system management software to large utilities for years—at a cost of tens of millions of dollars per utility. “We found a better way to do it for less.”

For now, the software doesn’t actually control a campus’ energy systems, but instead feeds operators advice about which systems to activate and which to shut down based on weather predictions, historical usage patterns, and other factors.  Root3’s first beta test site is the University of Chicago.  “After running the beta for a month, they saved nearly 10 percent on their overall energy costs.”  Gupta also points out that “they recently converted into being a full customer, and Root3 has three other sites which have signed up. “  In his mind, that means that “out of the 22,000 central-energy plants in the U.S.,  Root3 has 21,996 to go.”

Find out more about Root3 here:

PEOPLE POWER – Powering people with interfaces and mobile apps which make products that are smart, connected, and remote controllable.   People Power is a company which is creating software to help companies manage a huge panoply of devices which are gradually being hooked up to the Internet.   Founder Gene Wang states that “we’re shifting from a world of 5 billion computers to about 50 billion devices of every shape and use, from thermostats to door locks to smart cars to healthcare equipment to small plugs and beyond.”  Wang calls this the ‘Internet of Things’ and believes that “the ‘Internet of Things’ will be comprised of all these connected objects  . . . . .our job is to turn these everyday objects into apps that you can control.”

His thinking is that nearly every piece of hardware that’s sensing or acting upon the world will, sooner or later, be connected to the Internet and controlled from some kind of mobile interface, but that not every manufacturer will want to learn all of the tricks needed to build friendly, engaging, usable apps to control these devices.  People Power is the solution to handle the networking and application layers so that manufacturers don’t have to.

Wang says that “we’ve built this whole open-source API [Application Programming Interface] so that with any type or flavor of device, even ones we’ve never heard of before, their manufacturers can easily connect up to the People Power cloud and gain the benefits of mobile access.”

Future apps from People Power are planned which can address areas such as home security and monitoring, energy management, and home healthcare and wellness.  “The commonality is that you connect up a device, surf in on a mobile phone, apply analytics, and take a variety of actions which add convenience and comfort or reduce spending and add efficiency.”  This is what Wang calls the ‘Internet of Things.’

Here is how to get in touch with the creators for the ‘Internet of Things,’

Now that Demo Day has been a huge success,  it’s time for all of these start-ups to “hit the road, Jack” and criss-cross Silicon Valley, meeting with dozens of Angels and VCs over the next few weeks.

So, Colorado – I challenge you in getting our very own GreenStart going.  Any takers?

About the Author

I am a soccer mom, musician, Beatles fanatic,dreamer, chocolate chip cookie maker, and passionate advocate and evangelist for cleantech and cleanweb causes, organizations, and companies that make the planet better in all ways.
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