The Energy Excelerator program brings The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and DENSO together with the Office of Naval Research, the US Department of Energy, the Hawaii State Energy Office, and Hawaiian Electric Industries.
The program supports innovative energy solutions with up to $1 million of nearly non-dilutive funding to demonstrate their technology in Hawaii’s real world test bed. Investors, both private and public, are seeking new ways to vet companies and fund innovation. Partners see the program as an extension of their due diligence process when working with innovative companies. “The Energy Excelerator is unique because it enables startups that can solve tomorrow’s energy and transportation challenges to vet their technologies in a real-world test bed,” said Tony Cannestra, director of Corporate Ventures at DENSO International America.
The Energy Storage–Transportation Nexus
As Tesla makes itself known in the energy storage market, partnering with SolarCity and announcing plans for its battery factory, the energy storage, grid, and transportation markets have converged. Global automotive supplier, DENSO, has recognized this and is partnering with PICHTR’s Energy Excelerator to help accelerate the commercialization of technologies in this nexus.
“In addition to DENSO’s extensive internal R&D efforts, DENSO is also very committed to fostering and supporting external innovation in key areas such as transportation and energy efficiency,” adds Cannestra.
Where Investors Become Community Builders
Entrepreneurial ecosystems often thrive in areas where there is an abundance of investment capital, Silicon Valley being the most prominent example. In Hawaii, a new and unique community of “investors” is helping to spur growth in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Let’s take the Energy Excelerator program for example: funding from the US Office of Naval Research (ONR), US Department of Energy (DOE), Hawaii State Energy Office, and investments from Hawaiian Electric Industries, and now DENSO and Blackstone have created a public-private partnership that is supporting a portfolio of 32 companies that have raised over $55 million of follow-on funding since 2013. Each year, the Energy Excelerator selects 15 startups to fund from a pool of over 250 applicants.
“These partners are not just logos on a website; they are actively involved in the success of our companies and the growth of our ecosystem,” says Dawn Lippert, Director of the Energy Excelerator. “They’re partnering with our companies and each other to vet solutions in Hawaii’s real-world test bed.”
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, founded by the global investment and advisory firm Blackstone, awarded the Energy Excelerator $100,000 to further build a community of entrepreneurs oriented toward transforming our energy system.
“Through our Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Foundation is committed to strengthening and supporting entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystems globally through programs that enable the most promising new companies to remain and grow in their local economies,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.