Something was different in the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) parking lot yesterday. The driving behavior seemed much more aggressive. Israel was in town.
The California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC) had its Cleantech Showcase at the hallowed research park. CEOs of ten Israeli greentech companies took their turns giving brief profiles of their company and in some cases, soliciting funds from the many venture investors in attendance.
According to the organizers of the event, Shuly Galili and Eric Weiss, there are 400 cleantech companies in Israel across all sectors. Israel has the highest number of engineers per capita and the greatest number of Nasdaq listings outside the U.S.
Steve Westly, former CA State Controller, Managing Director of The Westly Group and token Presbyterian was the lead speaker and was introduced by a rabbi. This was new and felt a lot like Mr. Westly's bar mitzvah was imminent. Anyway, Westly spoke of the opportunities to make money and improve the world in greentech. He also seemed to hint that he'd be running for higher office, much higher office, in a few years.
Israel's greentech startup ecosystem is vast and not just in water innovation. The presenting companies were from the solar, algae, battery, efficiency, and smart grid sectors. Here's a brief take on the presenting companies:
Unlike the rest of the presenters, Amiad is long-established, traded on the AIM and has 400 employees. The company builds automatic self cleaning screen filters and automatic micro fiber (AMF) filters for a number of water applications. Amiad filters can stand alone to remove solids from irrigation, municipal or industrial water, or make multi-stage water treatment systems more effective by minimizing the use of chemicals and operating on a minimum of water and power.
The firm had $20 million in profitable sales in 2009.
Some of the projects that the firm has worked on include water treatment in Yankee Stadium and a 200 million gallon per day waste water to potable water program in Singapore called NEWater. Other applications include dealing with invasive species in ship ballasts, hotel water, rain-water harvesting, and food and beverage water. According to the firm, Israel recycles 75 percent of its waste water.
Arcadian designs and delivers wireless broadband communication systems to the energy sector. The real-time, two-way communication networks provide the backbone of “smart” energy solutions.
If the electrical grid of the future is genuinely going to be smart, it means there's going to be a lot more data coming at the utility. And utilities tend to have competencies in energy distribution, not in information networking.
Arcadian Networks was founded in 2006 by refugees from the networking, telecom and wireless industries with the help of $90 million from Goldman Sachs, Gilo Ventures and Clal Industries. The startup builds networks that send data to a utility's central office from a variety of devices on the grid -- meters, substations and distribution automation. The secret weapon at Arcadian is their 700 MHz wireless broadband network designed specifically for utilities and renewables. According to Arcadian, the 700 MHz Spectrum is more robust, has better reach than the 900 MHz spectrum and is more suited for large territories and hard-to-reach areas.
This startup has already accomplished something big. They've helped deploy a 66,000 square mile network for Great River Energy in Minnesota that operates 24/7, 365 days a year. There are 2,000 applications and 67 base stations hooked up to the network. In the words of the CEO, "We are the only company that has provided ubiquitous smart grid across such a large territory. Moreover, unlike many project with very public cost overruns, we built our network on time, on budget and as planned based on a 67 site design."
BrightView is a solar process control firm looking to optimize production for thin-film solar panel manufacturing. BrightView’s core technologies span in-line metrology, imaging and data analysis packages specifically designed for thin-film solar manufacturing. The firm claims that it can boost thin-film producer revenues by 10 percent while providing a six month payback for CdTe, CIGs and a-Si thin film manufacturers. The startup already has Signet Solar and t-solar as customers and is seeking a lead investor for their $10 million round B.
Designer Energy is an Israeli biotechnology company dedicated to producing cheap, fermentable sugars to sustainably enable the industrial biology industry. The firm has demonstrated proof-of-concept for two enzymatic hydrolysis processes that exhibit strong performance on a wide variety of biomass and is currently negotiating a multi-year, multi-million dollar research collaboration with a major oil company. The firm has come up with biological mechanisms to break down cellulosic plant matter and convert it into sugar.
Designer Energy has been funded by Musea Ventures, a family angel fund, to reach proof of concept for both of its technologies and is currently seeking to raise its first round of institutional funding.
ETV develops advanced powertrain technology for EVs -- lithium ion batteries and range extenders that address the automotive industry’s move towards electric vehicles. The company claims that gram for gram, ETVM’s lithium-based cells deliver 50 percent more energy than the best competing cells -- and that batteries built from these cells will be smaller, more affordable, and have twice the driving range of other lithium-ion batteries. ETVM’s innovative microturbine serves as a range-extender for efficient, affordable, clean plug-in hybrid EVs. The company claims that the battery technology is inherently safe and cheap with the highest energy density among and highest specific energy among all EV grade batteries.
Linum is developing a hybrid solar air conditioning technology which provides heat-driven cooling and heating, and switches to electricity-driven mode during off-sun conditions. The energy efficient technology is based on a patent-pending thermodynamic cycle developed and owned by Linum, using mainly standard industry components such as evacuated tube solar tubes and standard low cost refrigerant R-134A.
The company claims that the system is easy to install and operate and is intended for the residential and small office sectors, an enormous market -- as well as potentially reducing customer's annual electric bill by up to 40 percent. Sales will go through existing distribution channels with the goal of an OEM-branded deal with a major AC company.
Linum was seed funded by Terra Venture Partners and is now seeking a $6 million A round.
Panoramic Power is an early stage startup working on energy efficiency for commercial buildings. The firm combines hardware and software to address the enormous commercial building market. Communication is wireless and system power is scavenged from local magnetic fields. The company claims that their technology will change the way enterprises look at their power flow, building a basis for a set of new and innovative applications.
Rosetta Green (Biofuels)
Targeting the market for algal biofuels and seeds for advanced agriculture, Rosetta Green focuses on a set of genes, known as microRNAs that function as main switches for controlling key traits in plants and algae. MicroRNAs stand at the core of gene regulatory networks thus influencing virtually every biological process in plants and animals.
Rosetta Green is a subsidiary of Rosetta Genomics (Nasdaq: ROSG).
Rosetta Green’s has managed to generate algae with increased oil content and plants with improved drought tolerance. The company’s go-to-market strategy relies on developing POCs and prototypes of plants and algae with improved traits and collaborating with strategic partners for scaling up and commercialization.
There are similarities between the electrical grid and the water grid. Both are crucial components of societal infrastructure that are sprawling, aging and haphazardly planned. And in both cases, although there is some intelligence at the nodes, the systems are not very effectively networked.
Israeli startup TaKaDu provides water infrastructure monitoring as a service and acts as the "online eyes and ears" of the network. The firm's software-as-a-service model allows water utilities to reduce water loss and improve operational efficiency with no network changes or capital expenditures. Their system is based on mathematical and statistical algorithms that use readings from existing water metering equipment (flow, pressure, quality, turbidity, etc.). Interestingly, one of the company's investors categorizes TaKaDu as an IT company -- which actually makes sense.
The punchline is that TaKaDu can take sparse and spiky data from existing sensors and fold that in with weather data, acoustic data, and GIS data to enable the smart water grid. The water utility can then improve its ability to plan and forecast, saving money and resources in the process. TaKaDu's water network management can prevent, weeks or months ahead of time, significant events in real-world networks by alerting utilities to the small changes that precede bursts and other anomalies.
TaKaDu is fully operational, with utilities and partners in Europe, Australia, Latin America, Israel and the U.S. The startup sells through partners in the hydrocosm like IBM and Schneider Electric rather than selling directly to water companies. The cost of the software can range from $10,000 to $150,000 per month depending on the size of the pipeline system.
Algae has enormous promise to provide biofuel and animal feed because of its productivity and yield but that promise has existed since the previous energy crisis in the 1970s. TransAlgae looks to domesticate algae as an agricultural pursuit. It took humans thousands of years to domesticate grains and other crops -- TransAlgae is trying to perform the same action on a slightly faster time scale.
TransAlgae is using genetic engineering combined with agricultural, industrial and economic approaches. The company’s scientific team has completed its first generation of transgenic algae with a field research site at a 400MW natural gas power station. In addition to higher productivity, the genetic approach enables rapid increases, multiple high-quality products, bio-safety mechanisms and contamination resistance. "We need a platform of traits," according to Noam Gressel, cofounder.
The firm expects to need $20 million in equity over the next five years.
That's just ten of the 400 greentech companies in Israel.