Five Intriguing Green Startups Seek Angel Bucks on Earth Day

4/23/09Follow @xconomy

[[Updated 9:30 am Pacific with winners]] I wasn’t around for the first Earth Day back in 1970, but I figure it’s safe to say there weren’t any investment forums celebrating the capitalist pursuit of opportunities in the green revolution.

It occurred to me, on Earth Day 2009, that it’s pretty remarkable to see how far we’ve come as a society and yet how far we still have to go in environmental awareness. I watched a dozen hungry entrepreneurs deliver 7-minute pitches to investors about how they plan to get rich while making the planet more sustainable. The occasion was the third annual Zino Society Green Investment Forum, held yesterday at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

Yesterday’s eclectic lineup of presenters showed how many opportunities have emerged in this megasector, including companies that aim to produce hydropower from canals and streams, (HydroVolts), electric scooters (American International Motors), more efficient alternatives to neon signs (TeslaVision), and cheaper solar panels for homes (MSR Innovations). They were among the competitors vying for a $50,000 investment from the Zino Society, to be awarded a month from now, and angling for more capital than that. The room was packed with 120 people, making it hard for me to find a seat. So apparently some investors think they still ought to keep hunting for opportunities during the recession.

The award for best investment opportunity went to HydroVolts, and best presentation went to Wend Media. Finalists for the angel investment were TeslaVision, HydroVolts, and Springstar, says Mary Holmes, Zino Society’s vice president of business development.

Here were five companies that caught my attention:

Clarian Technologies. This Seattle-based company was founded by Chad Maglaque, who starts off his pitch with an intriguing question. What if an individual consumer could buy a renewable energy production unit, plug it into a wall outlet, and have it pump energy into his home? Clarian’s idea is to market a wind turbine called Jellyfish you can install on your roof, a home solar power production unit called Sunfish, and backpack storage units.

These would be equipped with Wi-Fi so Clarian can track and monitor the power output of these devices and sell the capacity to utilities. The devices would sell for $199 to $399 at places like Costco and Home Depot. By putting these kinds of devices in front of consumers, Clarian says it can carve out a new market segment, and possibly generate $160 million a year in U.S. sales by 2015. It’s about allowing individuals to do their part to make the planet greener. “Renewable energy is out of the reach of most consumers now,” Maglaque said.

One possible fly in the ointment—an investor asked Maglaque if the wind turbines kill birds and tick off environmentalists. He avoided the question, saying that Clarian doesn’t wholly depend on wind turbines for its sales. Oops.

Eco Carpet. This Seattle company … Next Page »

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