Seven cleantech companies Silicon Valley just learned about

As a reporter and analyst, I wrote about hundreds of cleantech companies. As a managing director of the Cleantech Group, I spent years listening to hundreds of pitches, coached companies on presenting to investors and helped facilitate cleantech deals around the world. Just last month, I served on a committee at the request of the Canadian consulate in San Francisco to evaluate companies to present at a cleantech investor event.

So I’ve seen a lot of cleantech companies pitch well, and some not so well.

Last week, I had the privilege to help present seven strong cleantech companies actively seeking capital to investors in Palo Alto. And the two-dozen venture and corporate cleantech investment firms in the room liked what they saw.

All of the companies below, selected from hundreds in the Vancouver, BC area, left with investor business cards. Some even left with appointments to meet firms’ partners later that afternoon, or to meet directly with the firms’ investment committees.

The companies included, in alphabetical order:

  • Aquavive Technologies has developed nanoscale encapsulants that it says trap and remove suspended and dissolved solids in water larger than 15 Angstroms in a simple mixing process. In other words, it claims to have developed a vastly more effective flocculent than currently available. The company says pilot tests show it can remove pollutants, including bacteria, for much less energy than other approaches. And because it can remove dissolved salts from water, its same technology promises desalination at 30 percent the energy costs of today, without the performance limitations (like fouling) inherent in membrane-based reverse osmosis. The company persuasively fielded hard questions from skeptical investors.
  • Awesense Wireless has developed a sensor system to help power utilities improve their transmission grid efficiency and reduce theft. Unlike other grid sensor networks, the company’s sensors snap on to today’s transmission lines in minutes using existing tools instead of hours, employ their own mesh network that doesn’t rely on cellular infrastructure and are priced competitively. The company identified utilities participating in its beta program and described the type of savings they’re realizing. On average, Awesense says, utilities experience $3 million of recoverable loss per 100,000 homes, and in the U.S., $10 billion of recoverable revenue is lost every year.
  • Mantra Energy Alternatives says it has the highest ROI for any CO2 reuse technology. Its Electro-Reduction of Carbon Dioxide (ERC) system converts CO2 from industry emissions into valuable chemicals. In a bid to “out-Calera Calera,” the company’s first product is formic acid (HCOOH), for which there’s currently a $1 billion market. ERC technology has passed the lab stage, according to the company, which is now raising money to have it tested wider in the field. Unlike Calera, which needs access to seawater, Mantra says it’s system is not bounded by geography and can be co-located wherever an industrial emitter generates significant CO2.
  • NxtGen Emission Controls has developed a syngas generator that, when installed on a diesel vehicle, dramatically reduces its emissions and boosts its fuel efficiency. Today, diesel engines underperform, have excessive fuel penalties and/or require frequent maintenance, according to NxtGen, which solves these issues by optimizing the engine through the use of a miniaturized onboard syngas generator. The generator creates hydrogen for use in engine aftertreatment systems to facilitate active regeneration of diesel particulate filters, increase nitrogen oxide reduction capabilities and thermally manage selective catalyst reduction systems. With EPA approval days away, the company says it’s already built a significant pipeline and anticipates a huge global market.
  • REV Technologies develops electric-vehicle-to-power-grid technology (V2G). Its fleet market solution features drive systems that enable electric fleet vehicles' stored energy to power industrial equipment, buildings and even the utility grid itself. Thus, using existing fuel budgets and requiring no additional subsidies, the company says its technology can assist tens of millions of fleet vehicles in becoming a platform to protect against the $100 billion a year lost caused by power outages. CEO Jay Giraud, a former professional snowboarder, offered convincing answers to investors’ difficult questions about range anxiety of vehicles used in the system, battery fatigue and more.
  • S2G Biochemicals is producing bio-chemical glycols, the building blocks of many materials, from waste sugars. The company is building commercial plants based on its patented hydrotreating process that generates valuable propylene and ethylene glycol from a range of abundant feedstocks like byproduct sugars, glycerine from biodiesel plants or cellulosic biomass (straw, woodchips, etc.) Glycols today are a $20 billion market, and virtually all are derived today from petrochemicals. A $100 million 200,000 ton per year plant using the company’s technology is already online in China. And S2G already has an offtake agreement for all the bio-glycol it can generate.
  • Tekion, a fuel cell maker, thinks it’s going to be the first portable fuel cell company to finally make the big time. With $400 million in revenue forecasted from an agreement with one of the world’s leading battery companies, the company—helmed by former executives from fuel cell giant Ballard—has apparently forged the sweetheart deal dozens of portable fuel cell companies sought half a decade ago. Tekion is seeking a new round of working capital, with half already committed by a lead investor.

These companies above presented as part of an inaugural Northern Cleantech Showcase event. Clean technology companies based in the Vancouver, British Columbia area were invited to apply to present, and were evaluated against criteria including innovation, market opportunity and ability to execute. Companies weren’t charged to participate, and were selected by a committee that included local cleantech investors.

The event was produced by Kachan & Co., in partnership with the Greentech Exchange Vancouver and with support from Deloitte, the national Canadian law firm Gowlings and the Province of British Columbia.

Why such a strong crop of companies? On one hand, Canada is doing a good job of fostering early cleantech innovation. The country has long had a culture of R&D, and has reasonable federal and provincial funding programs that cleantech entrepreneurs can draw on for early stage development. On the other, Canada's cleantech sector desperately needs capital and customers for widespread commercialization. Those gaps were the inspiration for the Northern Cleantech Showcase event series, aimed at helping Canadian cleantech companies connect with investors and customers worldwide. Watch for more.

A former managing director of the Cleantech Group, Dallas Kachan is now managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm that does business worldwide from San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. Its staff have been covering, publishing about and helping propel clean technology since 2006. Kachan & Co. offers cleantech research reports, consulting and other services that help accelerate its clients’ success in clean technology. Details at