Bill Gates backs power grid networking startup Varentec

Startup Varentec, which makes hardware and software that can dynamically control the flow of electrons at the edges of the power grid, has raised a new round of $8 million in funding from Bill Gates and current investor Khosla Ventures. Gates is a limited partner in Khosla Ventures’ fund, and it’s not uncommon for Gates to invest alongside Khosla in promising startups like in liquid metal battery company Ambri.

Internet and telecom networks routinely re-route data when paths get clogged or broken. But for the power grid — which is only just now getting upgraded with digital technology — it’s a different story and this tech is not readily available. This type of technology would be particularly important for the power grid as utilities add in solar and wind power, which is unpredictable in nature (the sun only shines and the wind only blows at certain times).

Varentec is using computing, smart algorithms and wireless tech to help utilities swiftly manage electrons at the edge of the grid. For example, the company has a voltage controller that it says reacts 100 times faster than traditional voltage controllers.

Varentec was founded in the Summer of 2010 and we wrote about them in early 2012. The company is also using a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program (for high-risk early-stage research) to develop its technology.

Khosla is well known for helping fund and revolutionize Internet infrastructure with Juniper networks. It would be interesting if he could do the same for the dated power grid.