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Smart green VCs you should know

Ecosummit connects smart green startups, VCs and corporates to accelerate smart green innovation. Since 2010, we got to know many VCs in Europe and the US and have written short fund profiles (last update: 29 January 2015). In the VC food chain, there are investors who love to invest, at lower valuations and higher risk, in early stage startups that are just about to take their technology innovation from lab to fab and to the market. A growing number of VCs prefer backing late stage startups that enable shorter holding periods (time-to-exit) because they already have substantial revenues (€5M plus), experienced management teams and low technology and market risk. The result are different investment strategies and portfolios that startups should know before pitching. Our list presents 35 smart green VCs and selected portfolio companies of which many regularly join our Ecosummit events in Berlin and London.

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Alexander van Os pitches Yellow&Blue

Ecosummit TV: Smart green energy is the only way to go. The energy market is changing rapidly thanks to technological and business model innovation coming from all directions. This creates a lot of investment opportunities for smart green VCs such as Yellow&Blue. Funded with €40M by the Dutch utility Nuon (Vattenfall Group), the Utrecht-based VC looks for capital efficient startups that make the energy value chain cleaner and more flexible with a focus on smart grid and energy efficiency. Alexander van Os and his partners are famous for their successful exit of Entelios to Enernoc in February 2014. At ECO14 Berlin, Yellow&Blue showcased their portfolio company ROMO Wind that optimises the performance of wind turbines and is currently fundraising again.

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Yüksel Sirmasac pitches Rockethome

Ecosummit TV: Smart energy and smart home, empowered by the Internet of Things (IoT), are hot markets that continue to attract a growing number of startups. One of the established German smart home enablers with a strong focus on usability is Rockethome that was founded in 2010 in Cologne. At ECO14 Berlin, Yüksel Sirmasac gives a company update and pitches Rockethome. The startup provides a software platform for smart home services that connects all kinds of devices and applications. The Rockethome solution is already licensed to 40 telcos and city utilities in 6 countries. Rockethome has got 35 employees, doubles revenues every year and is backed by Born2grow, a seed fund managed by Zukunftsfonds Heilbronn, and KfW. Now Yüksel is interested in talking to new financial and strategic investors that can help grow the business.

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Holger Ulland pitches O-Flexx

Ecosummit TV: Waste heat is a very big but rarely used energy resource. Being back at Ecosummit, Holger Ulland pitches O-Flexx at ECO14 Berlin. The smart green startup develops and manufactures in their Duisburg-based 1 MW factory thermoelectric generators that convert heat to electricity. The thermoelectric generators can be used in the steel, automotive and locomotive industries as well as for heating systems and autonomous sensors. The first customers are SMS Siemag (steel plants) and Bombardier (diesel locomotives). O-Flexx is backed by Emerald Technology Ventures and NRW Bank whom they met at ECO12 Berlin. O-Flexx has got a very strong IP portfolio, first revenues and is currently fundraising to accelerate its growth.

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Silvan Rath pitches ParkTAG

Ecosummit TV: Parking is big: every drive starts and ends in a parking space. Moreover, cars are parked 95% of the day and 30% of urban traffic is caused by drivers looking for parking. Having developed a mobile solution to the parking problem, Silvan Rath pitches ParkTAG at ECO14 Berlin. ParkTAG operates a social parking community that enables car drivers to find available parking places with their smartphones. The ParkTAG app uses the built-in sensors of the device to track user movement and learns automatically when the user is parking a car or vacating a parking space and driving away. The Berlin-based early stage startup was founded in 2014 and is backed by High-Tech Gründerfonds, Germany’s leading seed investor. ParkTAG’s capital efficient business model is to license its smart parking technology to partners that market it to their customers.

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Paul Leibold pitches Adaptive City Mobility and its City Etaxi

Ecosummit TV: Paul Leibold pitches Adaptive City Mobility and its City Etaxi at ECO14 Berlin. The capital efficient strategy for developing a new electric vehicle is a value web of strong partners that contribute technology, people and capital to co-develop a new car and co-create a new market. That’s exactly what Paul did when he brought together Vispiron, Roding, BMZ, Heinzmann and Fraunhofer ESK in 2012 to work on his dream of an electric taxi optimised for smart green cities. The partners jointly invested €10M and received funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The City Etaxi is a lightweight 3 seater that supports battery swapping and reaches 80 km/h. Now Paul looks for investors and ambitious city managers that want to support pilot projects with connected etaxi fleets.

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WeSustain raises €4M Series B from VNT Management, HTGF, KfW and MBG

Ecosummit TV: Every company in every industry has to go green and make and sell sustainable products. At the same time, smart green investors take sustainability reports very seriously when making investment decisions. In September 2014, the EU Commission issued their long-awaited directive for mandatory sustainability reports for companies with more than 500 employees that has to be translated into national law within 2 years. Now Enterprise Sustainability Management (ESM) software providers like WeSustain are en vogue. CEO Manfred Heil expects the market to triple within the next 4 years. Customer references like Daimler, Commerzbank and Allianz as well as reseller Telekom will help the well positioned German startup and its team of 20 employees to grow even faster than the market.

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Eternal Sun raises €2M Series A from Vermec

How can you guarantee the performance of solar panels over a long period of time, let’s say 20 years? By simulating sunshine and testing the solar panels in a controlled lab environment with powerful and energy efficient lamps, e.g. Heliospectra LEDs. Chokri Mousaoui (CEO) and Stefan Roest (CTO) co-founded Eternal Sun in 2011 after they developed their first solar simulator prototype at Delft University of Technology. As their second and third prototype were already paid by pilot customers, the founders managed to reach product/market fit very quickly and bootstrap their smart green startup to €1M revenues in 2014 while keeping a clean 50:50 cap table until their Series A. In July 2011, they moved into the incubator YesDelft where they are still located. The role of TU Delft and its ecosystem cannot be overestimated as 9 out of 11 employees were educated at the university. We first saw Chokri pitching in front of the Climate-KIC accelerator jury at Utrechtinc on 5 July 2012. 2 months later, we went together on the first Climate-KIC USA Startup Tour to Silicon Valley, Washington and Boston. Then Stefan came to Ecosummit Düsseldorf 2012 in November to look for investors.

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Alex Farcet pitches Startupbootcamp and its smart transportation and energy accelerator

Ecosummit TV: Alex Farcet pitches Startupbootcamp and its smart transportation and energy accelerator at ECO14 Berlin. While corporate accelerators are mushrooming in the US and Europe, Startupbootcamp is an independent accelerator founded in 2010 that runs 3-month programmes focused on verticals in several cities including Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin. The idea is to give startups the best possible start by providing €20K for 8% equity, intensive workshops with mentors on product and customer development and a final pitch in a room packed with investors. SBCBerlin‘s smart transportation and energy demo day was a big show and featured 11 young startups raising seed rounds from angels. Sunride, Comodule, Rokka Solutions, Houseahedron and Mybus have great teams that are ready for closer inspection. According to Alex, a good accelerator acts like a co-founder and adds a lot of measurable value in a short period of time. The startups we met all confirmed that Startupbootcamp and its mentors delivered on their promises. However, for smart green startups 3 months are rather short to reach product/market fit. It may be worthwhile to double the programme length in future editions.

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George Hanna pitches Qinous

Ecosummit TV: George Hanna pitches Qinous at ECO14 Berlin. Qinous develops smart energy storage and management systems for offgrid and ongrid applications starting at 30 KW and going up to the MW scale by combining a large number of battery systems. Qinous acts as a solution provider that makes the system in Berlin and then ships it to the customer ready for installation. Being independent of the underlying battery technology, there is a strong focus on thorough battery testing as part of the design and production process. Founded in Q4 2013, the smart green startup raised their seed round from Investitionsbank Berlin in Q1 2014 and sold the first system in Q2 2014. That’s what we call fast execution. Next year, Qinous plans to raise their Series A from strategic investors and is very interested in getting to know the best smart green VCs in Europe.

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Stephan Schulze and Konstantin Hanssen present Investitionsbank Berlin

Ecosummit TV: According to Stephan Schulze of IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Berlin is a smart green business location for startups that has changed tremendously during the last 25 years. In fact, we count more than 30 fundable smart green startups in Berlin of which 5 are backed by IBB: Ubitricity, Thermondo, Geo-en, ECF Farmsystems and Qinous. IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft was founded in 1997 as a 100% subsidiary of Investitionsbank Berlin, the business development bank of Berlin. Next to venture capital, IBB provides a lot of support to SMEs including grants, public loans, bank credits, guarantees and mezzanine capital. IBB is a well-connected local business partner that always keeps their door open for ambitious founders based in Berlin or planning to relocate.

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Sonnenbatterie raises €7.5M Series B from Munich Venture Partners, Chrysalix SET and Ecapital

Sonnenbatterie raises €7.5M in their Series B financing round from the co-investors Munich Venture Partners, Chrysalix SET and Ecapital. The Bavarian startup sold over 4.000 smart energy storage systems and is one of the fastest growing smart green startups in Germany. We like Sonnenbatterie since their first pitch at Ecosummit Düsseldorf 2012. In January 2013, Ecapital invested €3M in the Series A. At ECO13 Berlin, Sonnenbatterie won Ecosummit Award 2013 Bronze and Philipp Schröder, now at Tesla, performed a great pitch. Sonnenbatterie also joined our first Ecosummit London 2013. In March 2014, we co-hosted our first Ecosummit Advisor Workshop in the energy village Wildpoldsried. Among our advisors were Martin Kröner (MVP) and Rene Savelsberg (Chrysalix SET) and, as you can see, they went home more impressed than ever before. At ECO14 Berlin, Sonnenbatterie won Ecosummit Award 2014 Gold and Benjamin Schott jumped on stage. At ECO14 London, Christoph Ostermann pitched again after we enjoyed an incredible sponsor dinner at Home House and then got lost in London’s taxi underground. Now it is time to celebrate before doubling annual production and revenues in the years to come. Long live Sonnenbatterie and very big the exit shall be.

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