Sixteen cleantech startups from around the Northwest gathered in Portland this week to learn which lucky three would represent the Pacific Northwest in the national Cleantech Open business competition in November.
The Cleantech Open Tuesday night named the three startups that will move on to compete with other North American teams at the Cleantech Open Global Forum this fall. Here are the three Northwest regional finalists and what they have to say about their spoils:
Regenergy365: of Hillsboro, Oregon, uses wind power technology to recapture energy from the exhaust vents of non-residential air-conditioning and heating systems. Big buildings with Regenergy365′s equipment can regenerate part of the electricity they use to heat and cool their spaces.
“The win means acceptance of our technology and validation of our business model,” says co-founder Jeff Gilbert. “Personally, it makes me proud of our team and puts a tremendous amount of wind in my sails to keep moving forward with confidence and determination.”
“We made it our goal to become a Cleantech Open success story,” says co-founder Mike Gilbert, “and we’re ready for the next chapter.”
Vyykn Water: The Eagle, Idaho company makes water purification machines that are networked. Facilities with Vyykn water dispensers can reduce their carbon footprint from bottled water by refilling reusable containers. Vyykn was also given the region’s Sustainability Award for most effectively incorporating a triple-bottom-line approach to scaling its business.
“It’s a big moment for our company,” says Garrett Carney, who served oxygen-infused water to attendees at the event. “Being selected as a finalist is validation that we’re onto something big.”
Vyykn is self-funded and will soon start raising its first round of outside financing. “It’s been an amazing journey for us,” Carney says. “We entered the Cleantech Open with the intention to go all the way to the finals. The Global Forum will put us in front of the right group of people to raise that capital.”
GR Green Building Products: The Burnaby, B.C., has a proprietary process for manufacturing roofing and siding materials from recycled plastic. Its cradle-to-cradle process uses discarded polyethylene — mostly milk bottles and grocery bags — and eliminates the waste associated with roofing.
“I’m really excited,” founder Geoff Wensel said as we rode the train home. GR Green has raised $1.2 million in equity and received another $500,000 in grants from Canada’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development program. Wensel is looking to raise a further $2 million in equity to step up from a pilot plant to a full-scale production facility. Whether or not his company wins the national competition, he says, “just being in the finals will give us recognition and help us line up financing.”
Each of the three finalist teams wins a combination of in-kind services and cash worth up to $20,000. Vyykn wins an additional $10,000 with the Sustainability Award.
The Cleantech Open is billed as the world’s largest cleantech accelerator, designed to find, fund and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges.
More than 40 cleantech entrepreneur teams entered the competition from across the Pacific Northwest. Judges pared the list down to 16 semifinalists in June. Those 16 presented their pitches to judges in Portland this week, and three will advance to the final stages of the competition.
Finalists from seven regional competitions will compete for $250,000 in services and cash. “Our 2012 finalists are exceptionally well-positioned to succeed as profitable companies advancing the newest and most innovative technologies in the sector,” says Byron McCann, Pacific Northwest regional director of the Cleantech Open.
Despite a good showing by startups from the Evergreen State in past years, notably no Washington companies made the cut in this year’s competition.
Several Northwest “alumni” exhibited at a mini-expo before the awards were announced. Some have made more progress than others. Beaverton-based Puralytics, the 2010 winner of the national grand prize, now sells its personal water purifiers through Amazon.com and other retailers in multiple countries. Arcimoto, of Eugene, which had a prototype of its electric vehicle when it competed in 2011, is now starting manufacturing on its first production run of 15 trial units. Portland-based e~Tech is trying to raise $250,000 to build the first prototype home using its Lego-style sustainable building components.
The 581 companies that have competed in past years’ Cleantech Opens have reportedly raised a combined total of $660 million in equity.
“Cleantech sectors are not nice-to-have industries, they’re must-have industries,” says Ron Pernick, founder and managing director of research and advisory firm Clean Edge and author of several books on the sector. In his keynote address to the contestants he emphasized that the sector is growing and attracting capital. “In 2000, cleantech had a one percent share of U.S. venture capital investment, and last year it had a 21 percent share,” he said.
Finalists from across the United States will convene in San Jose, California, on November 8, 2012, for final judging at the Cleantech Open Global Forum.