By Katia Blackburn and Casey Dilloway
NWEA Marketing/Communications Interns
Candidates, MBA in Sustainable Business
Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Seattle
More than 75 people attended this year’s Northwest Energy Angels holiday party on December 8. It was held at the South Lake Union Discovery Center on Westlake, that unique building at Westlake and Denny that has leaning, floor-to-ceiling windows and captures the imagination of most everyone who walks or drives by. The food, catered by Portage Bay Café, earned a universal thumbs-up.
In a program that was sandwiched between the two networking and eating segments of the evening, Board Co-chairs Byron McCann and Lars Johansson welcomed the crowd of Angel members, entrepreneurs, sponsors, partners, interns and guests, and acknowledged Executive Director Margo Shiroyama and the Angels’ MBA student interns from Bainbridge Graduate Institute and the University of Washington.
They also summed up the Northwest Energy Angels’ 2011 successes to date: Members have heard 27 companies pitch investment opportunities; have been provided with updates from 10 past presenters, some of them seeking additional funding; and have invested more than $830,000 in six of these companies.
The next part of the program featured brief updates from Angel-funded companies, past presenters, and by one company — Indow Windows — that is currently in due diligence with a few Angel members. Here is a high-level recap:
- Green Canopy Homes purchases homes, renovates them to be very energy efficient, and sells them. This year they completed six homes and sold five, garnering a 23 percent annual rate of return for investors and mitigating, over the past two years, the greenhouse gases (GHG) that are emitted by 10 cars over the same period of time. They hope for passage of legislation that would also allow non-accredited investors to invest in their homes, and believe they have a compelling model that is ready to scale up.
- WISErg Corporation converts community food waste into biogas energy and liquid fertilizer, and will place its first biodigesting unit at a customer location during the first quarter of next year. Its process reduces compostable waste by 60 to 80 percent and provides partners access to a renewable biogas supply and an income from fertilizer sales.
- Greenwood Technologies manufactures furnaces that work with existing heating systems and burn a variety of renewable fuels, including wood, with very high efficiency. They believe their timing in this market is excellent because of federal EPA regulations, to be put in place 18 months from now, that they say will eliminate current competition from European companies. Their furnaces reduce heating bills by up to 70 percent, diminish the need for fossil fuels, and will likely benefit from federal, state and local subsidies.
- Bioalgene is developing technology to capture CO2 from concentrated sources, blend it with nutrients from municipal wastewater, and feed the mix to algae to produce clean fuels including aviation fuel. The company holds several patents and anticipates being able to produce glycols from algae in 2012, and biofuels after that.
- Flux Drive, Inc. produces energy saving devices for use with electric motors and was awarded a sole-source contract this fall to create energy-saving coupling systems for the U.S. Navy’s main fleet’s cool and fresh water systems. The devices save fuel and energy, and reduce carbon emissions. The Navy is sponsoring the company so they can power their 50 horsepower devices up to 200 and 300 hp. Meanwhile, Flux Drive’s private sector clientele is also growing.
- Scope 5 formerly called Carbon Salon, provides web-based software services to help organizations better manage their energy and sustainability data. The company’s service replaces inadequate spreadsheet-based solutions, and is much less expensive than non-user-friendly programs provided by large software companies. Two Fortune 500 companies have signed multi-year contracts with Scope 5, which is now hiring sales and marketing people who have enterprise software sales skills.
- EnergySavvy provides a software tool for utilities to manage and track energy efficiency programs so that they no longer have to outsource such programs. EnergySavvy now has 10 companies in eight states as clients, including investor-owned and public utilities that are traditionally hard to crack.
- ShelterKraft Werks takes surplus shipping containers and converts them into living and working spaces. They had a ShelterKraft cottage at the GreenFest in Seattle last May and said the response from the public was tremendous. Five residential projects are in various stages of development — two stock models and three custom — and they are using a lot of standardized, modular components so as to develop an assembly line approach to building. They see a bright future as interest in container buildings — commercial and residential — grows in this country, as U.S. retirement communities also grow, and as 20 million new units of low-income housing are expected to be built in China during the next year.
- Hydrovolts, Inc. makes a “first of its kind in the world” turbine that creates clean energy anywhere where there is controlled flowing water such as irrigation ditches, water canals, and water and waste water plants. Its zero-head, hydrokinetic turbines, which come in three sizes, provide an economical and easy way to generate reliable, local, clean power in millions of locations around the world. Like Flux Drive, Hydrovolts is also getting a contract with the U.S. Navy.
- Indow Windows are thermal window inserts that press into the inside of window frames to give money-saving, double-pane window performance at a fraction of the cost of installing traditional double-pane windows. They block cold winter drafts, reduce noise by 50 percent, and blend so well with exterior windows that they become nearly invisible once installed. Indow Windows, which has won a number of clean tech and sustainability awards in recent months, has installed more than 500 windows over the past ten weeks. They hope to have contracts signed with dealers from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco, Colorado and New Mexico by April, 2012.
During the last part of the Northwest Energy Angels holiday party program, McCann lauded the entrepreneur-angel investor relationship. “I love the fact that… we are working together as investors and entrepreneurs to solve problems and create value,” he said.
He then recognized, by name, a dozen Angel members who have been involved in due diligence this year. “Due diligence is actually a lot of fun,” McCann said. “Where else can you get a deep dive into what’s going on in the market from the manager side… and ask a lot of penetrating questions? This helps the entrepreneur as much as the investor. It’s our responsibility to do it well, and we’re committed as an angel group to improving that process.”
McCann encouraged other members to get involved in the due diligence process. “Join in the fun, learn about a market segment, and learn from your fellow members about how they look at deals,” he said. “You might be surprised by how much value you provide.”