It's debatable whether venture capital is the best way to fund cleantech startups at scale. But the reality is that an influential incubator or fund is often the first rung on a cleantech startup's ladder to growth.

With that in mind, Wood Mackenzie updates a list of "Trailblazer" startups each quarter for its Grid Edge clients. These are cleantech startups that have been validated through their association with one or more leading incubators or funds, and which target key grid edge markets, from energy management to electric vehicles.

The incubators and funds that WoodMac partners with to learn about these companies include Powerhouse, Cyclotron Road and Clean Energy Trust.

The full Trailblazers list includes buzzed-about startups such as DandelionLeap and Heliolytics. Below, WoodMac analysts comment on a few additional Trailblazer startups that haven't popped up as much in the news cycle yet ⁠— but which are addressing key challenges in the grid edge space and beyond.

Mysa Smart Thermostats

  • Sector: Home energy management systems, smart thermostats
  • Current investment round: Seed
  • HQ: St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
  • Founded in: 2018
  • Votes of confidence: Pelorus Ventures, Killick Capital
  • Mysa Smart Thermostats (also DBA Empowered Homes) has a smart Wi-Fi-controlled thermostat for electric baseboard heaters, the first of its kind.
  • Analyst take: “Smart thermostats are a ‘gateway’ connected device, often introducing customers to cloud-connected appliances and services. While smart thermostats are the connected device directly linked to energy management, their roles in utility load management programs are far from being maximized and optimized. The issue lies less with smart thermostats’ capability of providing flexibility and more with outdated program design. With the increasing presence of dynamic rates, devices with automation capabilities such as smart thermostats will have more opportunities to deliver customer-side flexibility.” — Fei Wang, grid edge analyst at Wood Mackenzie

Darcy Solutions

  • Sector: Ground source heat pumps
  • Current investment round: Seed
  • HQ: Excelsior, Minnesota
  • Founded in: 2018
  • Votes of confidence: Clean Energy Trust
  • The company offers a new technology for ground source heat pumps.
  • Analyst take: “The adoption of heat pumps, including ground source heat pumps, will be critical to the decarbonization of heat in residential buildings. At present, ground source heat pumps do not make up a significant proportion of heating and cooling solutions.” — Ben Gallagher, carbon and emerging technology analyst at Wood Mackenzie


  • Sector: Building energy management
  • Current investment round: Entrepreneur-financed
  • HQ: Toronto, Canada
  • Founded in: 2018
  • Votes of confidence: MaRS Discovery District
  • ParityGo is artificial intelligence for HVAC systems. Parity’s algorithm-driven platform delivers customers one platform to manage, measure, control and track their building's energy spend performance in real time and see their monthly savings.
  • Analyst take: “Building energy management system vendors have traditionally focused on the cost-saving potential of their products and services. More recently, an additional selling point is the improvement in comfort of the indoor environment. The multifamily-building segment has also garnered more attention, as developers race to build apartment buildings around city centers to accommodate increasing numbers of renters in the U.S., and more partnerships have formed between real estate developers and vendors with energy management offerings.” — Fei Wang

Ensemble Energy

  • Sector: Wind operations and maintenance
  • Current investment round: Seed
  • HQ: Palo Alto, California
  • Founded in: 2017
  • Votes of confidence: Powerhouse, Intellis
  • Ensemble combines data science and AI to provide its customers with accurate information on the health of their wind assets.
  • Analyst take: “The wide-scale adoption of auction systems within the renewable energy global industry is adding strong pressure on operations and maintenance costs. But volume counts in this sector: The ever-increasing global wind fleet will reach more than 1 terawatt by 2028, representing close to $21 billion of annual revenue opportunity.” — Leila Garcia da Fonseca, wind and solar operations and maintenance analyst at Wood Mackenzie

Nikola Power

  • Sector: Energy storage
  • Current investment round: Seed
  • HQ: Denver, Colorado
  • Founded in: 2017
  • Votes of confidence: Clean Energy Trust, Rockies Venture Club
  • Not to be confused with Nikola Motor, Nikola Power is developing software that optimizes and manages energy storage systems in commercial and utility applications.
  • Analyst take: “There is a fast-growing market opportunity for software tools that help optimize and manage batteries. Software is the key to unlocking the full potential of energy storage to provide value simultaneously across frequency regulation, capacity, deferral of wires upgrades, and other services.” — Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie


  • Sector: heating, ventilation and air conditioning
  • Current investment round: Seed
  • HQ: San Francisco, California
  • Founded in: 2017
  • Votes of confidence: Cyclotron Road
  • Treau aims to cut HVAC and refrigeration energy intensity in half using lightweight polymer heat exchangers, compressors and expanders.
  • Analyst take: “Building electrification has been gaining momentum. Globally, extreme temperatures exacerbated by climate change increase heating and cooling needs. In addition to moving away from using oil and gas in buildings, improving the energy efficiency of HVAC systems is also an important step in decarbonization.” — Fei Wang


Wood Mackenzie Grid Edge clients can access the full Trailblazers list within the Data Hub tool.