The Daily Sprout

Old Wind Turbines Get Second Life on the Farm: Massachusetts-based Aeronautica Windpower recycles mid-sized wind turbines from aging wind farms by refurbishing them and selling them to farmers – Press Release.

Redwood Systems Raises $4M for Building Energy Conservation: The Danville, Calif.-based startup has raised $4 million in Series A funding from Battery Ventures and U.S. Venture Partners. We don’t know much about the company but it’s reportedly focused on commercial building energy conservation and is run by former Cisco executive Dave Leonard – PEHub.

EcoMotors Raises $5.25M for Fuel-Efficient Diesels: Troy, Mich.-based EcoMotors, developer of next-gen diesel engine technology, has raised $5.25 million in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures – PEHub

ConocoPhillips CTO Talks Cleantech: ConocoPhillips has doubled annual technology spending in the last few years. So what does the oil giant have up its sleeve for renewable energy? – Cleantech Blog.

Ocean Power Technologies Receives $2M DOE Award: The New Jersey-based startup has gotten $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy which it will use to build a PowerBuoy, a wave energy generator, to be installed off the coast of Reedsport, Ore. in the second half of 2009 – Press Release.

Thoughts on the mobile tech in use at Mobilize 08

Mobilize_logoI have only been back home for a few hours after the whirlwind trip to San Francisco to attend the Mobilize 08 conference.  It was a fun trip that was even more fun as I returned to Houston to a home with electricity working after Hurricane Ike.  Attending the Mobilize 08 conference was especially gratifying to a mobile tech lover as the attendees were all folks with heavy involvement in the mobile sector.  This gave me a good opportunity to observe what tech these folks were using during brief lulls in the action at the conference.

I wasn’t surprised to see many laptops in use throughout the venue of the conference.  It was almost comical at times to see folks using a notebook precariously perched on any flat surface at hand.  I was convinced that one guy’s laptop was going to fall over the edge of a second floor divider and crash resoundingly on the floor below.  Thankfully that didn’t happen.  There were a lot of ThinkPads in use all over the conference which is not surprising given that a lot of the attendees were business folks.  ThinkPads are still in use by a lot of companies and they were everywhere, from super small ones to large 15-inchers.  There were a lot of Macs in use too, I was surprised to see so many everywhere I went.  In years past I don’t think we would have seen so many Macs in a business focused event like Mobilize but they were everywhere too.

One notable observation was how many smartphones I saw in action.  In years past during events like this when a break occurred I’d see a lot of laptops pulled out of bags as attendees checked email and got online to check news.  This event it was more common to see folks pulling their smartphone out to do the same.  I saw a lot of Windows Mobile phones and Blackberries which I expected but I also saw more iPhones than I I thought I would.  I don’t believe I’ve seen as many iPhones in one place as I saw at Mobilize as they were everywhere I went.  No matter what phone was being used during breaks it was impressive to see how many business people are now using them to keep in touch.  It was a common sight to see dozens of people in one place, all tapping away frantically to reply to email during the five minute break.  It makes more sense to do that than to pull a computer out of a bag to do the same and it is clear there has been a shift in the mobile space.

I was expecting to see a few netbooks in the crowd given that Mobilize is the type of conference to attract mobile aficionados but I only saw one the entire day.  That was Kevin’s MSI Wind.  The netbook form factor makes it perfect for quick usage during events like this but I just didn’t see any.  I’m curious if we will see that change as netbooks sales start rising.

My HP 2710P got heavy usage during the conference as I carried it everywhere.  I used it in slate mode to make notes for all of the interviews that I conducted throughout the day and it never failed to impress those who I came in contact with.  As practical as the Tablet PC was for my usage it was not surprising that it was the only one I saw the entire day.  It was clear from the conversations I had with a lot of people who asked about the Tablet that no one knew anything about them.  No marketing = no informed customes = no sales.  Some things never change.

NanoH2O Pours On $15M for Cleaner Water Tech

Membranes that take less energy to clean water — that’s the idea behind Los Angeles-based startup NanoH2O’s technology, and why the company was able to announce a round of $15 million from Oak Investment Partners and Khosla Ventures. NanoH2O, which raised $5 million last year from Khosla Ventures, makes nanoengineered reverse osmosis membranes for desalination that are more productive and use less energy than traditional desalination membranes. Read More about NanoH2O Pours On $15M for Cleaner Water Tech

Ron Conway: More Reasons To Go All Angel

Lately we’ve been discussing the many reasons why taking smaller, angel-sized investments instead of larger venture capital stakes often makes more sense for startups in a wobbly, exit-bereft market like the current one.

Today, Ron Conway, the well-known founder of the Silicon Valley-based Angel Investors LP fund, now associated with Baseline Ventures, weighs in with his own assessment of the benefits of the “all angel” investment path.

A former semiconductor executive who went on to co-found Altos Computer Systems, Anchor Intelligence and, most recently, SNOCAP, Conway took up angel investing in 1998. He’s seen his share of both hits and duds, but among the investments that earned Conway his “super angel” status are Google(s GOOG), Digg, PayPal(s EBAY), and Ask Jeeves (now IACI)). He is also an advisor to Facebook. In other words, Conway knows what he’s talking about. So, if you’re seeking funding, you’d do well to consider his advice, dished out below the fold. Read More about Ron Conway: More Reasons To Go All Angel

Segetis Builds Up Green Chemical Cred With New CEO

Green chemistry startup Segetis takes a Lego-like approach to developing its chemicals and materials: Take the right pieces from biomass waste like wood and crop residue, and you can build some really cool stuff. This morning the two-year-old Golden Valley, Minn.-based startup said it had added years of green chemical cred with the appointment of Jim Stoppert as its new CEO. Stoppert was a former exec of bioproduct development at Dow, Cargill and NatureWorks, two chemical giants and a green chemistry joint venture startup, respectively.

With a new CEO and $15 million raised last year from Khosla Ventures, the company is now looking to push its technology into commercialization. Segetis has been focused on research and development for the past year, but plans to move into a demonstration facility in 2009 or early 2010, Business VP Snehal Desai, also a NatureWorks vet, told us.
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CalPERS Could Bet $640M on Khosla

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla is unlikely to retire anytime soon, but he could soon be investing in cleantech with the retirement funds of some of his fellow Californians. Khosla Ventures is in “advanced talks,” peHub reports, with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which as manager of some 1.5 million Californians’ pensions is the largest such fund in the country, to commit up to $640 million to the venture capital firm. CalPERS declined to comment and we are still waiting to hear back from Khosla Ventures.

If this deal moves forward it would make CalPERS the only other limited partner — other than Khosla himself — in the firm. This is unusual as most venture capital firms raise funds from a group of limited partners. Until now, most of Khosla Ventures’ money has come out of the founder’s deep pockets. This collaboration could bring together two bodies known for making controversial and socially conscientious investments. Like hedge funds, pension plans like CalPERS could provide capital-intensive cleantech ventures with the big funds needed to scale up to commercial size.
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CES 2008- Overall impressions so far

We’ve now had two complete days of show attendance at the CES and here’s some further impressions of what we’ve seen and heard so far.  First of all, everyone we talk to is finding that there has been nothing major announced nor displayed at the show.  This is common for this show as it’s not the place that companies tend to launch big stuff.   That doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of things to see though, and that’s what we’ve spent most of our time doing.

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Biofuel Startup LS9 Raises $15M More

ls91.jpgNow that corn-based ethanol is looking more and more unsustainable — and is the latest media punching bag — it’s time to make way for the next generation of biofuel startups. LS9, a San Carlos, Calif-based start-up that touts itself as a “renewable petroleum company” plans to announce on Tuesday that it has closed a second round of funding for $15 million (update: the release was just issued).

The company said in March that it had raised $5 million in a series A round. This series B round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation by existing investors Flagship Ventures and Khosla Ventures.

Being one of Vinod Khosla’s growing biofuel investment portfolio, LS9, has received a lot of media attention, including favorable mentions in the Economist and the WSJ. The company’s biofuel technology does make for an interesting story: use synthetic biology to develop biofuels from traditional feedstocks that contain more energy than current biofuels, require less energy to produce and can be distributed through the existing petroleum infrastructure.
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