Paranoid startup update:
Alta Devices, the secretive solar startup that seems to be working on thin-film solar cell materials, has also received funding from Technology Partners. Alta is listed in the firm's portfolio catalog, but the link goes to a dead end. Nothing to see here, boys. Put the cameras back in the car. Kleiner, Perkins – that gabby bunch of guys – has also invested in the company, according to sources.
We first wrote about Alta back in March. It was founded by Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Material Science at Caltech (not to be confused with the Howard Hughes Professor of General Craziness and Fingernail Saving). Atwater’s group investigates silicon but also group IV materials such as germanium. They also look at lattice and strained structures. Straining silicon lattices with germanium was a big deal in processors in the middle part of the decade as a way to improve electron mobility. A couple of startups are looking at straining techniques for solar cells, although the straining techniques can vary.
Employees include senior scientist Gregg Higashi, who used to work at Applied Materials and Intel before joining Alta in 2008. Applied and Intel — those two names pop up with scary frequency at solar startups these days. Many other employees hail from Caltech.
Atwater also founded Aonex. both Aonex and Alta are described as thin-film material solar energy companies here.
Speaking of Technology Partners, the firm was one of the first in greentech. A tour of its portfolio shows it has made some pretty good bets, and also nabbed some major clunkers. On the plus side, the firm invested in Tesla Motors, Solicore (a water company that ultimately got bought by GE) and PowerGenix, makers of a zinc battery. On the other hand, it also put money into Imperium Renewables, the dead-as-Latin biofuel maker, and Polyfuel, one of the leaders in the long-awaited, long-suffering methanol fuel cell market.