Greenstart Targets Cleantech Software Startups in Second Round
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angel investors as a result of their participation in Greenstart. “But there are some business models where you can iterate and learn more quickly,” Lowe says.
Here’s a quick rundown of the five companies taking part in Greenstart’s spring 2011 program. The details, at this point, are understandably sketchy.
Ridepal. Big Silicon Valley firms like Genentech and Google offer daily shuttle buses to get employees who live in San Francisco to their offices in the valley. In a previous job as a product manager at Google, founder Nathalie Criou wondered if the idea could be scaled up. That’s what Ridepal is about.
Growing Energy Labs. Founder and CEO Ryan Wartena, a PhD in chemical engineering, worked on the team at MIT that invented the battery technology behind A123 Systems. Growing Energy Labs is building a Web-based communications and control system that could help users turn small energy storage systems into “micro-utilities.”
SmartGridBilling. Some states are enacting legislation under which businesses can earn payments from utilities for shifting their energy use to off-peak hours. But to qualify, businesses have to provide evidence in the form of power-usage data. SmartGridBilling is creating automated demand-response software for small and midsized companies.
KWhOURS. This company is developing an iPad app to help commercial building managers collect and manage the data gathered during energy audits. It’s a replacement for the old clipboards-and-spreadsheets approach, Lowe says.
Scoot Networks. This one is in near-stealth mode. The startup is focused on lowering the overall carbon footprint from urban commuting—that’s all Lowe can say at the moment.
The five companies will have 12 weeks to marinate in Greenstart’s incubator space in the Financial District. As with all accelerator programs, there’s a high priority on seeking out potential customers, getting feedback, and rejiggering the product to meet the market.
But there’s one more new element at Greenstart: an increased emphasis on design. Lowe says the accelerator has hired David Merkoski, formerly the executive creative director at renowned product innovation firm Frog Design, as its full-time creative officer. His job will be to tutor the Greenstart companies on how to improve the user-facing aspects of their products. “The challenge for a young company is that you are trying to compete in an established space,” says Lowe. “There is so much going against you that if you can deliver a great experience, it stands out. Think of Facebook versus MySpace, Apple versus PC, or Virgin America versus anyone.”
Lowe says mentors advised the four startups in Greenstart’s first class to spend more time thinking about design. “All four companies said ‘Yep, we got it, we need to raise our bar, but how do we find the time and money?’” Lowe says. To fix the problem, Greenstart decided to bring in Merkoski, who had left his position as the head of Frog Design’s energy practice last year but remained “super passionate” about helping companies transform the energy industry, in Lowe’s words. That makes Greenstart “the first accelerator to build a design practice in-house,” Lowe says.
Greenstart’s spring 2012 demo day will be on May 2; stay tuned to Xconomy for updates.