In 2019, investors bet big on startups that are promising to transform the energy industry, such as fusion energy company General Fusion. A prototype of its piston technology is pictured here.
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VCs flooded the clean-tech industry with nearly $10 billion in 2019, according to PitchBook. It’s the second-highest investment sum in a decade.While investors are betting big on clean tech, only five startups have reached unicorn status, with a valuation of $1 billion or more, according to PitchBook and reporting by Business Insider. Here are the 21 startups with the highest valuations, based on data from PitchBook, Crunchbase, and our reporting. We didn’t include startups that focus on electric vehicles (EVs), EV infrastructure, or biofuel production.Click her to subscribe to Power Line, Business Insider’s weekly clean-energy newsletter.Click here for more BI Prime stories.Around 2008, clean tech was declared dead. Over the next year, venture investments in the industry tumbled.Now, the industry is bouncing back. According to data from PitchBook, global venture capital (VC) funding in 2019 neared $10 billion, after hitting $14.1 billion in 2018.That’s great news for the thousands of startups in the sprawling clean-tech industry, which has fusion energy in one corner and carbon capture and utilization in another.
VCs flooded the clean tech industry with nearly $10 billion in 2019, according to PitchBook. It’s the second-highest investment sum in a decade.
Ruobing Su/Business Insider
But while investors are betting big on clean tech once again, the industry hasn’t produced many unicorns — or startups with a valuation of $1 billion or more.Why aren’t there more billion-dollar startups? One possible explanation is a shortage of funding, relative to other industries like healthcare. Another is that clean tech companies don’t generate, as one investor calls it, “a network of users.” “In most cases, these companies are not creating the things that cause a lot of social media and other companies to sizzle, which is new networks,” said Tom Blum, a member of the Clean Energy Ventures Group, which funds clean tech startups. “In most cases, you’re actually just replacing commodities that already exist.”There are, however, some noteworthy exceptions.Business Insider compiled a list of the most valuable startups in clean tech, based on data from PitchBook and Crunchbase, and our own reporting. The list reveals five unicorns — three of which make batteries — in addition to several startups with a valuation of greater than $400 million. Startups are listed below by their latest post-money valuations, based on data from PitchBook or company comments, except for where marked with an asterisk. The list doesn’t include startups that make electric vehicles (EVs) or scooters, EV infrastructure, fuels from biomass, or those that provide services to highly localized markets. Unless otherwise noted, the data come from PitchBook.
Ecobee — $155 million*
The buzzy startup Ecobee, a competitor of Nest and Tado, sells a smart thermostat.
Year founded: 2007HQ: Ontario, CanadaWhat it does: Ecobee sells a smart thermostat for residential and commercial customers. The company claims its products can help customers reduce their heating and cooling costs by up to 23%. Funding: $155 million, according to a company spokespersonLargest deal: $98 million; May 31, 2018Notable investors: Amazon Alexa Fund; Energy Impact Partners; Australian energy giant AGL *Total raised, per a company spokesperson. The company declined to comment on its valuation and the figure was not available in PitchBook.
Carbon Lighthouse — $183 million
San Francisco-based startup Carbon Lighthouse promises commercial clients savings by making their buildings more energy-efficient.
Year founded: 2010HQ: San Francisco, CAWhat it does: Carbon Lighthouse, a smart-building startup, charges commercial customers a fixed monthly fee to make their buildings more energy-efficient, guaranteeing specific cost savings. The customers can typically cover the monthly fee with those energy savings and pocket the difference. And if they come up short, Carbon Lighthouse will write them a check for the difference. Valuation: $183 million, according to PitchBookFunding: More than $70 million in venture funding, per a company spokespersonLargest deal: $65 million; July 25, 2018Notable investors: Utility giant National Grid; Generate Capital; global media conglomerate Cox Enterprises; and Tesla cofounder and CTO JB Straubel
Oxford PV — $195 million
Oxford PV, a solar-panel technology startup, spun out of the University of Oxford in 2010.
Year founded: 2010HQ: England, UKWhat it does: Oxford PV, a University of Oxford spin-out, develops a solar panel coating with a material called perovskite that increases the efficiency of traditional silicon solar cells. In 2018, the company broke the world record for efficiency — measured in the conversion of sunlight into energy — for a certain type of solar panel called a silicon junction solar cell. Valuation: $195 million, according to PitchBookFunding: More than $140 million, per a company spokespersonLargest deal: $94 million; July 30, 2019Notable investors: Energy giant Equinor; and Shell Springboard, a funding program operated by Shell
General Fusion — $200 million*
An early-stage prototype of General Fusion’s unique piston technology, which is designed to compress hydrogen plasma and spur fusion.
Year founded: 2002HQ: British Columbia, CanadaWhat it does: General Fusion is among a handful of startups in the race to commercialize fusion energy. With its recent injection of funding, the company is building a commercial-scale device that compresses hydrogen plasma inside a metal device by firing hundreds of pistons in order to spur fusion. Fusion is the reaction that powers the sun and could produce a clean source of energy on Earth. Funding: $200 million, according to a company spokespersonLargest deal: $65 million; December 16, 2019Notable investors: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings; and Braemar Energy Ventures*Total funding, per a company spokesperson. General Fusion declined to comment on its valuation and the figure was not available in PitchBook.
Agilyx — $213 million
The Oregon-based startup Agilyx turns plastic waste into crude oil.
Year founded: 2004HQ: Tigard, ORWhat it does: Agilyx is one of a handful of clean tech startups that convert waste — in this case, hard-to-recycle plastics — into fuel and other chemicals. The startup, which has partners including GE and Delta, produces synthetic crude oil and styrene oil by recycling the carbon found in plastics. Valuation: $213 million as of November 1, 2012, per PitchBook. The startup has not raised VC funds since 2012. Funding: $86 million Largest deal: $25 million; December 20, 2011Notable investors: Kleiner Perkins; Richard Branson; Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures, the venture arm of energy giant Total; Waste Management; and Chrysalix Venture Capital
Arcadia — $240 million
DC-based startup Arcadia is trying to make it easy for residential customers to opt into clean energy.
Year founded: 2014HQ: Washington, DCWhat it does: Arcadia is a consumer-energy startup that’s trying to make it easier for residential customers to opt for clean energy in lieu of the default service their utility provides. Once you sign up, Arcadia manages your utility account and hooks you up to low-cost renewable energy, whether or not you live near a solar or wind farm. The company says its members reduce their carbon footprint by 50% just by signing up. Valuation: $240 million, according to PitchBookFunding: $66 millionLargest deal: $30 million; December 10, 2019Notable investors: Energy Impact Partners; Kleiner Perkins spinout venture fund, G2VP
Tado° — $255 million
The German startup Tado sells smart thermostats, which can reduce your heating bill by up to 31%, according to the company.
Year founded: 2005HQ: Munich, GermanyWhat it does: Like Ecobee, Tado° sells an internet-enabled thermostat that helps consumers cut energy costs. The technology automatically adjusts the temperature when you leave home or are about to arrive.Valuation: $255 million, according to PitchBookFunding: $102 million, according to a company spokespersonLargest deal: $51 million; October 25, 2018Notable investors: Amazon Alexa Fund; Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures, the venture arm of energy giant Total; utility company E.ON; and the European Investment Bank
Solidia Technologies — $261 million
The NJ-based startup Solidia Technologies makes low-emissions cement.
Year founded: 2008HQ: Piscataway, NJWhat it does: Solidia Technologies has taken aim at the cement industry, which generates 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The startup’s cement requires less energy to produce. Plus, it uses recycled CO2 in the curing process, thus permanently sequestering the greenhouse gas. Solidia says it can cut emissions of cement and concrete by up to 70%, while producing a material that is higher-performing and cheaper. Valuation: $261 million, according to PitchBookFunding: $118 million Largest deal: $31 million; July 31, 2018Notable investors: BP, Kleiner Perkins, and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an investment fund led by CEOs from top oil and gas companies
Enevate — $265 million
California startup Enevate says its battery technology can charge EVs in the same time it takes to refuel a car.
Year founded: 2005HQ: Irvine, CAWhat it does: Enevate spun out of the University of California-Irvine and it’s among a trove of energy storage startups developing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). The company claims its battery technology will be able to charge EVs in five minutes or less. Valuation: $265 million, according to a company spokespersonFunding: Over $100 million, according to a company spokesperson Largest deal: $36 million; August 1, 2018Notable investors: Lenovo; Alliance Ventures, a VC fund operated by Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi; Samsung Venture Investments; and LG Chem, the largest chemical company in South Korea
Phononic — $289 million
The clean-tech startup Phononic developed a solid-state semiconductor for heating and cooling that use 30% less power than traditional conductors, the company says.
Year founded: 2009HQ: Durham, NCWhat it does: Phononics is trying to disrupt an industry that has a big carbon footprint — refrigeration. Its flagship technology is a solid-state semiconductor that removes heat without the need for compressors and other moving parts. The company, which is trying to expand into commercial and residential cooling, claims its products use up to 30% less energy than traditional alternatives and don’t require inputs like chlorofluorocarbons, which are a potent greenhouse gas. Valuation: $289 million, according to a company spokespersonFunding: $189 million Largest deal: $71 million; February 1, 2017Notable investors: UBS; Venrock Capital; and Oak Investment Partners
LanzaTech — $418 million*
Illinois-based LanzaTech uses bioreactors filled with microbes to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol and other useful chemicals.
Year founded: 2005HQ: Skokie, ILWhat it does: LanzaTech is one of many startups trying to turn the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into products of value — in this case, largely ethanol. Its technology captures CO2 directly from industrial sites, such as steel mills, and then pipes it into a bioreactor filled with carbon-loving microbes. Those microbes eat through the CO2 and, as a byproduct, produce ethanol — an alcohol that can be sold and blended with gasoline to create fuel. Funding: $418 million, according to a company spokesperson Largest deal: $188 million; November 1, 2014. Notable investors: Khosla Ventures, Indian Oil Corporation, Siemens Project Ventures, Suncor Energy*Total funding, per a company spokesperson. The company declined to comment on its current valuation and the most recent figure on PitchBook, which has the company valued at $460 million, is from 2014.
Romeo Power — $443 million
Battery startup Romeo Power was founded by engineers formerly employed at Tesla, SpaceX, and Samsung.
Year founded: 2015HQ: LAWhat it does: Founded by former SpaceX, Tesla, and Samsung engineers, Romeo Power is an energy storage startup that’s developing battery packs for trucks, buses, and — through a new joint venture with automotive giant BorgWarner — high-performance vehicles.Valuation: $443 million, according to PitchBookFunding: $123 million Largest deal: $89 million; May 20, 2019Notable investors: HG Ventures, BorgWarner, and OpenDoor Venture Capital
GlassPoint Solar — $450 million
GlassPoint’s technology concentrates sunlight onto water-filled pipes to produce steam without the use of carbon-emitting fuels.
Year founded: 2009HQ: Fremont, CAWhat it does: This startup developed a technology to generate heat and steam for industrial applications in the oil and gas industry without fossil fuels. Instead, it uses mirrors inside a greenhouse to concentrate solar energy on water-filled pipes, which generate steam. Valuation: $450 million, according to PitchBook, as of September 26, 2017Funding: $103 million Largest deal: $35 million; September 8, 2014Notable investors: BlackRock, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chrysalix Venture CapitalA company spokesperson confirmed the funding figure, above, is “in the right neighborhood,” but declined to comment on the company’s valuation.
Bulb — $462 million
The startup Bulb is trying to transform the way consumers buy energy.
Year founded: 2016HQ: EnglandWhat it does: Named Britain’s fastest-growing private company, Bulb is a consumer-facing energy provider that allows customers to buy renewable energy and carbon-neutral gas at a cost competitive to traditional utilities. The startup has more than a million customers in the UK, and it recently announced that it’s expanding to Texas, in addition to Spain and France. Valuation: $462 million, according to PitchBookFunding: $86 million Largest deal: $79 million; August 1, 2018Notable Investors: DST Global, Magnetar Capital, and JamJar Investments
Amprius — $487 million
California startup Amprius recently partnered with Airbus to scale up production of its advanced lithium-ion batteries.
Year founded: 2008HQ: Fremont, CAWhat it does: Amprius is yet another energy storage startup competing to develop the most energy-dense lithium-ion batteries for the automotive industry. The company — which say it’s the first in the world to introduce 100% silicon anodes to market — recently partnered with Airbus to scale production. Valuation: $487 million, according to PitchBookFunding: $172 million, not including the undisclosed Airbus investment Largest deal: $60 million; February 8, 2018 Notable investors: Airbus; Eric Schmidt, the fomer CEO of Google; and Kleiner Perkins
Enerkem — $751 million*
Enerkem’s waste-to-fuel plant in Alberta, Canada
Year founded: 2000HQ: Quebec, CanadaWhat it does: Enerkem turns household waste into a gas that can be refined into chemicals and fuel. It does so through a process known as gasification, which recycles the carbon molecules inside garbage like food waste and plastics and repurposes them as other carbon-based products. Funding: $751 million, according to PitchBook. The company confirmed that it has raised “over $750 million.”Largest deal: $279 million; April 17, 2019Notable investors: BlackRock; BNC Bank; Valero Energy; Braemar Energy Ventures IPO Note: The company filed to go public in February 2012, but it withdrew the offering in April of that year, citing “unfavorable market conditions.” *Total funding, per PitchBook. The company declined to share information on its valuation.
Fulcrum BioEnergy — $1 billion
The startup Fulcrum BioEnergy turns trash into a gas that can be refined into fuel.
Year founded: 2007HQ: Pleasanton, CAWhat it does: This startup has a suite of technologies that turns household trash into a chemical called syngas, which can be refined into jet fuel. Among the company’s partners is United Airlines, which owns a $30 million stake.Valuation: $1 billion, according to PitchBook Funding: $387 million Largest deal: $75 million; January 25, 2011Notable investors: United Airlines; Cathay Pacific; and BP IPO note: The startup filed to go public with an offering of up to $115 million in 2011, but it withdrew the offer the next year citing poor market conditions.
Sila Nanotechnologies — $1 billion
Founders of the buzzy battery startup Sila Nanotechnologies. From left; Gleb Yushin, Gene Berdichevsky, and Alex Jacobs.
Year founded: 2011HQ: Alameda, CAWhat it does: Sila Nanotechnologies is another battery materials company that promises to improve the energy storage of lithium-ion batteries for use in cars and electronics, using silicon anodes. The startup says it has the potential to improve the energy density of traditional lithium-ion batteries by up to 40%.Valuation: $1 billion, according to PitchBook Funding: $340 million, according to a company spokesperson Largest deal: $219 million; November 25, 2019Notable investors: Automotive giant Daimler, Samsung, and Amperex Technology Ltd, China’s largest lithium-ion battery producer
Northvolt — $1.6 billion
Battery startup Northvolt recently secured $1 billion to build a massive battery plant in Sweden. Here, a rendering of the plant.
Year founded: 2016HQ: Stockholm, SwedenWhat it does: Northvolt is Sweden’s largest battery startup that manufactures lithium-ion cells. With funding from Volkswagen and others, the company recently announced that it’s building Europe’s first battery gigafactory in northern Sweden, which it says will eventually reach a capacity of at least 32 gigawatts. Valuation: $1.6 billion, according to PitchBookFunding: “Well above $1 billion,” according to a company spokesperson Largest deal: $1 billion, June 12, 2019Notable investors: Car-makers BMW and Volkswagen; Siemens; Goldman Sachs; and IKEA
QuantumScape — $1.8 billion
Volkswagen poured $100 million into solid-state-battery startup QuantumScape in 2018.
Year founded: 2010HQ: San Jose, CAWhat it does: Stanford spin-out QuantumScape is trying to develop solid-state batteries — which, unlike lithium-ion batteries, rely on solid-not-liquid electrolytes — in partnership with Volkswagen. Volkswagen says solid state batteries would more than double the range of its electric e-Golf care.Valuation: $1.8 billion, according to PitchBookFunding: $296 million. Largest deal: $100 million; September 13, 2018 Investors: Volkswagen; the Bill Gates-led fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures; Khosla; and Kleiner Perkins
TAE Technologies — $2 billion
Head-on view of TAE Technologies’ Normal fusion reactor
Year founded: 1998HQ: Foothill Ranch, CAWhat it does: Topping the list is TAE Technologies, another startup hoping to bring clean fusion energy to market. TAE’s approach to fusion is unique in the industry, in that it uses boron and hydrogen particles for the reaction, in lieu of hydrogen isotopes. The firm, which partnered with Google a few years ago, plans to bring fusion energy to the grid by 2030. Valuation: $2 billion, according to PitchBook, as of May 20, 2016. The company has not raised VC capital since 2016. Funding: More than $700 million, according to a company spokesperson Largest deal: $376 million; May 20, 2016 Notable investors: Google’s parent company, Alphabet; Goldman Sachs; Vulcan Capital; and Italian energy giant Enel
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