RockPort Flexes New Cleantech Fund to Back Sustainable Spaces in $6M Round

9/26/08

RockPort Capital Partners of Boston and Menlo Park, CA, has made an early bet with money from its new $450 million cleantech fund, co-leading a $6 million investment in San Francisco-based “home performance services” firm Sustainable Spaces.

Sustainable Spaces provides energy audits and environmental tests such as carbon monoxide checks for the home market. The four-year-old company’s services, which have been provided to 400 homes in the Bay Area, are geared toward helping consumers control the energy use and environmental health of their homes.

There’s some powerful competition in offering at least some of the services Sustainable Spaces provides. For instance, British utility giant National Grid (NYSE:NGG) offers home energy audits to U.S. customers. Yet RockPort, which invested in the company alongside Menlo Park-based Shasta Ventures, sees an opportunity to build Sustainable Spaces into a national player in the market for its comprehensive and integrated home performance services. “We believe that there is an opportunity to create a trusted name in this field on a regional and national basis that doesn’t exist,” says Charles “Chuck” McDermott, a general partner at RockPort, who manages the firm’s new investment in Sustainable Spaces. (Read Bob’s post about McDermott’s rocking career prior to RockPort.)

McDermott says the investment in Sustainable Spaces is also tied to RockPort’s plan to invest in businesses that help consumers control their spending on increasingly expensive electricity, natural gas, and home heating oil. Indeed, one of the primary focuses of RockPort’s new cleantech fund—which firm general partner Janet Burrows James billed as the largest of its kind when she spoke to Wade back in June—is to invest in companies that help to control energy use at the edge of the grid.

Sustainable Spaces, McDermott explains, makes money by either charging for its energy audits and environmental inspections or through a fee for serving as a general contractor of sorts on projects to retrofit or build homes with energy-efficient heating systems, lighting, and appliances. He notes that there’s also an opportunity for the company to generate recurring revenues from customers who want to regularly monitor the energy efficiency of their homes. The company’s new financing from RockPort and Shasta is its first institutional round of investment, he says.

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