3 Smart Grid Fundings This Week

Despite some reports, we haven’t seen smart grid firms struggling to raise money — particularly not this week. I’ve seen three investments in the smart grid space — from smart grid network infrastructure, to in-home energy displays — over the past couple of days, bringing in a total of more than $20 million for the three deals.

Investments included $14 million raised by smart grid communications player Tantalus, $6.73 million raised by home energy management player ecobee, and $1.5 million raised by long time building energy management firm Lucid Design Group.
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Commercial Buildings + Energy Management = $6.8B-a-Year Market

While the debate over how — or if — consumers will want to manage their home energy consumption makes a lot of headlines, commercial buildings suck up 18 percent of the total energy consumption in the U.S. and represent one of the biggest opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and carbon reduction. According to Pike Research, the market for energy management systems — stuff like wireless sensor networks, lighting controls, and heating and cooling management in buildings — will turn into a $6.8 billion-a-year market by 2020 and will generate investment of $67.6 billion between 2010 and 2020.
Startups know those metrics pretty well already. Lucid Design Group, for example, has been selling its energy management system for years to the commercial sector, as well as governments and universities. But while the company has always discussed plans to eventually work in the residential market, Lucid Design has yet to make a big push into homes. As Michael Murray, Lucid Design’s CEO, has maintained in conversations with me over the past couple of years, the energy management market for large commercial buildings is much more accessible compared to energy management in homes.
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Clean Tech Open Names 6 Cali Finalists: Low Cost Is King

cleantechopen-logoThe party’s over, for now, when it comes to raising private capital for carbon-reducing technologies with a long onramp to profitability — and it shows in the array of regional finalists announced this morning for the Clean Tech Open, a business plan competition that has helped Aurora Biofuels, Lucid Design Group Systems and more than a hundred other startups raise nearly $125 million over the last three years (today’s six finalists are in the running for the national awards next month). Entrepreneurs at today’s event emphasized cost-cutting technologies and low capital needs for their next phase. Here are the six finalists and what their founders let slip about their strategy, cost-cutting efforts and technologies:

Category: Air, Water & Waste
Finalist: Micromidas

Founded by a group of chemical engineers (and a microbiologist) from the University of California at Davis, Micromidas is developing a biodegradable plastic made from the carbon in wastewater. “We’ll easily come in at a price parity with petroleum plastics right off the bat,” CEO John Bissell said today. The company says it needs $1 million for a pilot plant, and has already raised a third to one half of that. The major breakthrough? Applying chemical engineering principles and believing in the “ability to industrialize the process,” said Bissell.
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Lucid Aims for the Cheap and Easy of Commercial Energy Monitoring

Despite Google’s talk that energy data should be free and accessible to everyone, at this point it’s mostly owners of commercial and industrial buildings that have been investing in often expensive and complex energy monitoring systems. But startups like Lucid Design Group, a 5-year-old company that was founded out of research from Oberlin College, are trying to make the technology a bit more “entry-level,” as Lucid puts it. This morning the company is touting a starter version of its standard product — a wireless energy-monitoring network and software called the Building Dashboard — that is cheaper and easier to install.


Lucid, which was a winner at the California Cleantech Open business competition in 2007, has been working on bringing down the cost and ease of installation — and even creating a more consumer-oriented version — for awhile. Back at the end of 2007, Lucid CEO Michael Murray explained to us that he could see Lucid one day selling a system that the buyer could install for roughly $200 through a distribution channel like Best Buy, and then charge $3 or so per month for a service subscription.
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5 Energy Monitoring Startups to Help You Cut Home Power

The 81 million buildings in the U.S. consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy, including transportation and industry, says the U.S. government. Here’s five startups that are building software and hardware to help consumers and businesses cut down on power consumption. The more building owners know about the power they use, the easier it is to cut energy and carbon-emissions — a case of knowledge equals less power (used).

Lucid Design Group: The four-year-old startup was the result of research at Oberlin College; it sells a software and sensor service that monitors the real-time use of electricity, natural gas and water. The sensors collect data on electricity and other resources consumed, then use a dashboard to display the amount of money both spent and saved. The company won the California Cleantech Open’s Green Building prize in 2007 in the “Smart Power” group and in 2008 convinced Yahoo to use its dashboard for its corporate offices. Last we heard, Lucid was looking for funding, but they haven’t gotten back to us with details yet.

GreenBox: The founders of energy monitoring software startup GreenBox –Jonathan Gay and Robert Tatsumi — are also the creators of the well-known interactive web technology, Flash. The duo is using their technology know-how to build software to measure a home’s energy consumption and create an interactive system to help homeowners cut down on energy use. (Our coverage here.) The one-year-old startup is based in San Bruno, Calif, and is backed with an angel round from the former CEO of Macromedia, Rob Burgess, and former Macromedia CFO Betsey Nelson.
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Open Registration at Evernote

ScreenshotEvernote (which we looked at a few weeks back) is still in closed beta, despite all the good press you’ve probably seen. But in celebration of their first million saved notes, they’ve quietly announced a special deal for today only: open registration without waiting for an invitation.

So, if you’re interested in kicking the tires and haven’t managed to wrangle a beta invite yet, click here and sign up. The offer expires at 9PM California time tonight.

HP wants to sell you a Tablet PC

We always give OEMs a hard time for not trying to promote their Tablet PCs to the consumer so when they do so it’s only fair to give them a plug.  HP wants to sell you a 2710p and have produced a nice video to help do so.  Kudos to you, HP.