PICHTR successfully launches Lightning Excelerator with $400K of awards to early stage companies

After reviewing excellent applications from clean tech companies across the country, the newly launched Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) Energy Excelerator awarded nearly $400,000 to eight Lightning Excelerator companies to reach short-term milestones to grow their businesses.

The eight Lightning Excelerator companies, selected from a multinational applicant pool of cleantech startups, worked intensively for seven days in hands-on workshops, one-on-one mentoring, industry networking, and customer discovery interviews in order to develop and commercialize their clean energy technologies. “We selected 4 mainland teams and 4 Hawaii teams so that companies could network and learn together. We love seeing what’s possible when entrepreneurs cross collaborate to build great companies,” says Dawn Lippert, Senior Manager for PICHTR’s energy programs.

Throughout the seven days, companies received guidance and coaching to define and refine business models and presentations from industry professionals, cleantech investors, and experienced entrepreneurs.  At the end of the week they competed for up to $90,000 in grants.

In addition, companies competed for the Hawaii State Energy Office $15,000 prize to fund a market assessment for pre-commercial technologies. The prize was awarded to IBiS Networks of Oahu, Hawaii, an Oceanit spinoff that deploys “intelisockets” to enable remote energy monitoring and control for large enterprises.  “The Lightning Excelerator was incredibly valuable for our company,” says Michael Pfeffer, CEO of IBiS Networks, “We went from a cool technology with big aspirations to an actual company with angel investors, a differentiated value proposition, and real customers – in just one week.”

Companies were selected based on pre-determined criteria, including: quality and experience of team members, commitment to the Lightning Excelerator program, applicability to Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region, technical innovation, commercialization strategy, and potential to scale in Hawaii and globally. The geographic mix of teams from the mainland and Hawaii benefited all participants by bringing together a diverse array of perspectives, experience, and networks for a common goal: furthering the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative through the development and deployment of new technologies in Hawaii and beyond.

Technologies cover a range of key areas for Hawaii and the Asia Pacific, including energy efficiency, clean energy for agriculture, grid integration of renewable energy, data analytics, and sustainable transportation systems. “We are happy with the results so far, but our support continues,” says Jill Sims, Project Manager and Engineer.

In addition to funding, PICHTR supports its Lightning Excelerator companies with:

  • Mentors and Training: Expert mentor teams dedicated to each company to provide support across specific areas (financial, legal, technical, business development, product design, branding, team building, etc.)
  • Alumni network: Collaboration among companies in this and future cohorts
  • Pitch at demo days to top cleantech investors: In Honolulu and Silicon Valley, in partnership with tech accelerator Blue Startups, three months after the completion of the Lightning Excelerator

The grants are not the end goal; they’re just a way to support companies in reaching their next milestone for driving the technology into the commercial market, whether that milestone is a new customer, venture capital investor, or key corporate partnership,” says Sims.

The awarded companies and their technologies are:

Acclimate TN, Physical Tech Inc. (Big Island, Hawaii): Developing innovative technology to efficiently harvest thermal energy from solar panels

Bright Light Systems (Georgia): Increasing energy efficiency through LED lighting fixtures with wireless control and real-time data for industrial customers

Conscious Commuter Corporation (Oregon): Shaping urban mobility by designing and building electric bicycles and bike share systems for commuters

Gen-X Energy Development LLC (Maui, Hawaii): Enabling all-renewable agricultural irrigation systems that couple wind, solar, batteries, and controls to replace diesel pumping stations

kWh Analytics (California): Aggregating U.S. solar data in order to classify the performance of solar assets across various system inputs

Oceanit Smart Socket (Oahu, Hawaii): Connecting electric sockets with wireless capability to enable monitoring and management of energy across multiple platforms

Renewable Water Technologies (Oahu, Hawaii): Developing a desalination process, emulating natural rainfall cycle of humidification/dehumidification using solar energy

Spectrum137 (California): Deploying highly innovative spectral irradiance sensors to optimize locations for agricultural products, photovoltaic placement, and other applications

The next Lightning Excelerator will start accepting applications in Summer 2013. If you are an early-stage company with a highly innovative cleantech prototype (Lightning Excelerator), or a later stage company that is interested in larger demonstrations in the Asia Pacific (Pacific Excelerator), connect with us via Twitter(@Energy_Excel) and LinkedIn  and visit energyexcelerator.com