During the Covid-19 pandemic, cleantech companies have not had it easy. The energy sector has been losing hundreds of thousands of jobs, not to mention in an area as capital-intensive cleantech, startups are fighting an uphill battle to raise money during an economic downturn. But for Clean Energy Trust, a Midwest-based fund that focuses on backing early-stage cleantech startups, market contraction doesn’t mean capital deployment has to stop.
The company told theRising that it recently added two new cleantech companies to its portfolio, investing $100,000 in each. To learn more about why Clean Energy Trust decided to invest in Renewance, which connects clients with defected or end-of-life batteries with battery recyclers and logistics providers, and Iris Light Technologies, which develops color-versatile lasers for silicon photonics, we sat down with Clean Energy Trust CEO Erik Birkerts, Iris Light CEO Chad Husko, and Renewance VP of Services Dave Mauer.
What got Clean Energy Trust excited to invest, according to its CEO
At a time when significant resources and investment are going towards improving battery performance and discovering new chemistries, there is a huge opportunity to identify the challenges that lifecycle management, stewardship, and end-of-life present to owners of existing energy storage assets, Clean Energy Trust CEO Erik Birkerts tells me.
Renewance was already making significant progress on seizing that opportunity and “the revenue [Renewance] had already generated is evidence that they are onto something big,” Birkerts adds.
Iris Light operates in a different market and is focused on solving the form factor challenge that historically has constrained the bandwidth possibilities presented by optical computing, Birkerts says.
“Rather than gluing single lasers on silicon chips, Iris Light has developed a method for printing 100+ lasers onto individual chips. The dramatic bandwidth improvements translate to significant energy efficiency improvements and allow for more computing within existing physical footprints, lessening the need to build more and more data centers,” he adds.
Next steps for Renewance and Iris Light — and Covid-19 challenges
With the $100,000 from Clean Energy Trust, Renewance VP Dave Mauer says that the company will be able to refine its software platform and end of life battery marketplace as well as invest in “expanding its business development scope.” Despite the revenue slow-down from the Covid-19 pandemic, Mauer believes that the impact will be “very temporary.”
In Iris Light’s Case, “Clean Energy Trust’s funds are a crucial bridge to building out our IP portfolio and a great complement to our technical development where we are currently being supported by the Chain Reaction Innovations at Argonne National Lab,” CEO Chad Husko says.
“The value of the relationship with Clean Energy Trust goes far beyond the investment, as we seek their input as stakeholders and leaders in the space. We’ve already seen an uptick in the number of folks who’ve reached out to learn more about Iris Light, a real testament to Clean Energy Trust’s role in the community.”
Focused on research and development, Iris Light has seen a manageable impact from Covid-19, according to Husko.
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.