Author: Clare Le

LACI Announces Creation of $5 Million Early Stage Impact Investment Fund

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator Announces Creation of $5 Million Early-Stage Impact Investment Fund, Opens Call for Startups to Apply for New Cohort-Based Incubation Program

Impact Fund announces first two investments into LACI portfolio companies Seatrec and Freewire; Renewed startup incubation program offers $20,000 for pilot deployment, focuses on transportation electrification, clean energy, and circular economy


Los Angeles, January 15, 2020—The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) has launched a LACI Impact Fund for early-stage cleantech startups. As the Los Angeles-area continues to strengthen its position as a global leader in cleantech innovation and sustainability, the Fund will invest in a diverse slate of entrepreneurs ready to bring innovative and scalable cleantech technologies to market.

“The urgency of the climate crisis demands accelerated action – that’s why we are thrilled to announce the LACI Impact Fund, which will help scale innovation from startup entrepreneurs to help meet our region’s bold zero emissions transportation goals as well as solutions for clean energy and the circular economy,” said LACI President and CEO Matt Petersen. “As we relaunch our first cohort based startup program, the Fund provides a new tool to give our portfolio companies the opportunity for investment that aligns with their commitment to environmental, diversity and social impact.”

LACI’s first two investments in LACI portfolio companies Seatrec and FreeWire Technologies represent the organization’s commitment to accelerating the transportation electrification and 100 percent clean energy revolutions.

“Monitoring deep ocean areas with a device that uses no fuel is a key step in the fight against climate change,” said Seatrec Cofounder and CEO Dr. Yi Chao. “The LACI Impact Fund enabled Seatrec to scale and accelerate product development.” 

“We’re enabling the rapid transition to zero emissions transportation revolution with ultrafast EV charging technology that also minimizes impacts on the grid,” said FreeWire Founder and CEO Arcady Sosinov. “The LACI Impact Fund is crucial because it will help us focus our social and environmental commitments as we scale.”

The $5 million LACI Impact Fund invests in LACI portfolio companies as a follow-on investor in active seed, Series A, and Series B rounds. LACI President and CEO Matt Petersen, California State Senate emeriti President pro Tempore Kevin de León (as a volunteer), and representatives from Emerson Collective, a social change organization, will lead the Fund’s Investment Committee. 

The Fund considers a range of criteria when making investments, including: 

  • Economic Impact – Including the number of employees from traditionally underrepresented communities and participation in workforce development initiatives;
  • Environmental Impact – Including the current and potential for GHG emissions avoided, water savings, and waste diverted;
  • Diversity Impact – Including founder, leadership team and board makeup; and
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) & Community Impact – Including supply chain sustainability, volunteerism, & giving.

Led by Emily Bjorkland Drake, SVP of Unlocking Innovation, LACI’s renewed, cohort based Incubation Program is now recruiting for Cohort 1. In addition to eligibility for the Fund, LACI startups also benefit from the partnership with City of LA and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power through access to the world-class, 61,000 square foot La Kretz Innovation Campus (LKIC).

Participating startups will also benefit from:

  • Advanced startup curriculum and hands-on advisory services from executive coaches;
  • Eligibility for up to $20,000 for small-scale pilot deployment, and financing opportunities from the LACI Debt Fund; and
  • Access to $160,000 in business services and perks, and other program benefits.

The launch of the Fund comes as part of a breakthrough year for LACI which released of the Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap in November 2019 with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and others.  The Roadmap is a result of the unprecedented Transportation Electrification Partnership led by LACI, City of Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, County of Los Angeles, LADWP, SCE, CARB, & LA Metro, and includes private partners like Audi, BMW, Proterra, Amply (a LACI portfolio company). The Roadmap sets the nation’s most ambitious transportation electrification targets—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while addressing equity and growing the regional economy—by the time the world arrives in Greater Los Angeles for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

In December 2019, LACI also announced the publication of the Cleantech Cities: Accelerating Climate Action Through Startups and Corporate Innovation report at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25). The report, issued by LACI in partnership with C40 and with in-kind research and analysis from PwC, outlines the critical role collaboration between cities and cleantech entrepreneurs will play in accelerating climate action and securing a 1.5°C future for our planet. The reports recommendations shows that if followed, there is an opportunity to create a $5 trillion market while further reducing GHG emissions by another 35 percent.


About LACI

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), a private nonprofit organization, is creating an inclusive green economy by unlocking innovation (through working with startups to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies), transforming markets (through partnerships in transportation, energy and sustainable cities) and enhancing communities (through workforce development, pilots and other programs). Founded as an economic development initiative by the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water & Power (LADWP), LACI is recognized as one of the most innovative business incubators in the world by UBI. In the past seven years, LACI has helped 108 portfolio companies raise $221M in funding, $220M in revenue, create 1,750 jobs, and deliver more than $393M in long term economic value. Learn more at


Media Contact:

Sunshine Sachs

Blog – Applications Now Open for Founders Business Accelerator Cohort 2

Just a few months ago, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the first 13 participants in Cohort 1 of the Founders Business Accelerator (FBA) program. Today, we celebrate the successful completion of the program for our inaugural business participants and the launch of the application process for our Cohort 2 2020 program. 

The FBA is a small business and startup acceleration program designed to assist underrepresented small business and startup founders in low income neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles grow their businesses. The FBA program recognizes the potential of small business owners and gives them the tools they need to succeed and grow their enterprises.

Prompted by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and the strong support of Council Members Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Monica Rodriguez, the FBA program is part of a city-wide initiative for cultivating a more equitable economy for all Angelenos. “Small businesses are the beating heart of our economy—job creators that share Los Angeles’ innovative spirit with the world,” said Mayor Garcetti regarding the FBA program. “Working together with LACI, we’re ensuring small business owners have the tools they need to reach new markets, grow their bottom-line and thrive.” 

The long-term goal of the FBA program is to create a collaborative innovation center for small business owners and facilitate future generations of change agents dedicated to making a positive economic and social and environmental impact here in Los Angeles. 

FBA participant NanaEfua Afoh-Manin is the CEO of Shared Harvest Fund. Shared Harvest is the first student loan repayment benefit and rewards program that is mobile and available for independent workers. Nana shared that “the most valuable part of the FBA program was definitely the cohort, the family of people that would support what you’re doing and validate that yes, you are the person to get it done. The way I see my business making an impact in Los Angeles to significantly lower the number of student loan debt overall compared to most of the major cities. The real problem right now in Los Angeles when we’re talking about equity in an urban sector is that African American women still have the largest percentage of student loan debt. And we’re also the ones that are most impactful in volunteering and social enterprises. So this is an opportunity to take the shackles off and allow us to dream big and recreate what we want last time just to look like without that.”

LACI’s FBA program is helping Nana and the other 12 dynamic business leaders selected in Cohort 1 by providing invaluable mentorship as well as legal, human resources and marketing consulting services. Each cohort member was paired with a seasoned business mentor to help refine goal setting, manage finances and provide successful growth strategies.

Do you or someone you know have a small business that is dedicated to making social economic or environmental impact in their community? Applications for the Cohort 2 2020 FBA Program are currently being accepted. 

Learn more about the FBA program, Cohort 1 or to apply for Cohort 2. 

Blog – Welcome Cohort 4 of LACI Innovators

We just selected our fourth cohort of LACI Innovators and we chose 18 exciting companies to spend one year with us. We are inspired by these dynamic and dedicated founders—many from diverse backgrounds—who are revolutionizing clean energy and the energy-transportation nexus and tackling the climate crisis head-on. Throughout the recruitment process, getting to know the companies and meeting with founders, we saw an interesting trend that we think spells good news for cleantech overall. 

We saw that the cleantech innovation ecosystem in California is growing, thanks in large part to the dedication of the California Energy Commission (CEC), which has funded programs to nurture cleantech like the LACI Innovators Program over the past several years. This year we received 41 applications for the Innovators Program, and accepted 18 companies into the cohort. This is almost more than the past three cohorts combined! We saw an increase in the number, stage and quality in clean energy companies in the region since we began recruiting in 2017. Additionally, this year 27% of the applicants were referrals from partner organizations, programs or funds, further showing that a distinct innovation ecosystem has developed in Southern California. 

Many of the startups in this cohort work with our network partners, from the CEC, Caltech’s Rocket Fund, CalSEED, other universities and Cleantech Open West. Grants from the CEC are helpful for nascent startups, like Green Light Labs, who has a pilot with LA County employees to personalize car shopping by recording trips and then computing the fuel consumption, costs and charging needs if those trips had been in an EV. Caltech’s FLOW Rocket Fund also supports the ecosystem, and several startups in our new cohort are recipients, such as NeoCharge, which offers a 220 volt splitter plus software for home renters and saves thousands of dollars in energy costs and and enables grid flexibility for utility companies (NeoCharge was also a California Climate Cup semi-finalist!). Many of the startups selected for this cohort also received funding from CalSEED, such as Pronoia, Luminescent Energy, Radii Robotics, SolarFlexes. 

We found that this growing ecosystem is particularly distinct in Southern California, in part because Southern California has some of the most dynamic utilities which are exploring new programs and investing in transportation electrification and clean energy. For example, SCE’s Clean Power and Electrification Pathway bold vision and LADWP’s announcement not to replace three gas-fired power plants in the region and instead replace them with renewable energy sources and storage send clear signals to the market that there is opportunity for innovation. This is part of the reason that Green Light Labs, a software platform to accelerate EV adoption, and SolPad, a battery with microgrid capabilities for solar, both Cohort 4 Innovators, have relocated to Southern California from Northern California. 


The full cohort is listed below: 


Alacharge is an auto-lock charging station for electric scooters to serve as a charge point as well as pick-up located at private parking structure and lots. Stations will cut charging costs for the scooter companies, an added source of revenue for property owners, and provide a scooter management solution for cities. 

Camus Energy

Camus is building a three pronged cloud system to orchestrate distributed grid resources; deploying the first two products – situational awareness/real-time analytics- $300k /year and orchestration platform/optimization engine first; smaller vendors (CCAs) then to utilities; eventually will incorporate marketplace aspect and reach out to ISOs; will partner with device aggregators like Chargepoint and Nest.


CrossnoKaye retrofits existing HVAC-R systems and enables them to dynamically modify their load profile in response to grid needs. They create algorithms and models for HVAC-R processes and shift energy around peak pricing. This balances the system’s efficiency with grid needs to both reduce and reshape building loads.

Through current pilot projects, their system has proved a two year ROI and typically saved between 25-40% on initial electricity bill with increased savings over time. 

Drought Diet Products

Drought Diet Products turns irrigation into a grid management asset through AI. The system’s AI responds to overcapacity on the grid from renewable energy generation by pulling short intervals of power to power irrigation system. Their overall goal is to smooth grid load during the day through powering irrigation.

Currently, they are testing their energy concept and working with multiple universities on developing the technology. Because a part of the product, the irrigation component, is tested and manufactured, they are focusing on the energy aspect of their final product.

EVE Energy 

Eve Energy Ventures is a smart charging scheduling platform that allows drivers to find and reserve a shared charger in offices and apartments. The platform also is optimized to provide key benefits for the property owners through increased revenue and reduced costs. 

Their technology is an app sold to property managers or owners to enroll existing charging infrastructure. In pilots to date, they have seen EV drivers gain twice the number of opportunities to charge, leading to benefits for the owners of the chargers. Currently, they are selling systems to multi-unit dwellings. Through a partnership with Schneider Electric they have established pilot systems to feedback on their beta platform for further development. 

Green Light Labs 

Software platforms to accelerate EV adoption. MyGreenCar app personalizes car shopping. It automatically records trips in your current car, then computes the fuel consumption, costs, or EV range viability and charging needs if those trips were made in any vehicle you’re considering to buy. MyFleetBuy solution provides analytics for greening and electrification of fleets who are purchasing hundreds of vehicles at a time. It identifies the cost savings, range viability, and charging needs to deploy EVs across entire fleets.

Jump Watts

Jump Watts is developing a mobile charging solution for electric bikes  and scooters. Through their three unique products, a trailer, van and bicycle unit, Scooter Chargers can lease Jump Watts products to charge LEVs on-the-go. 

They are currently in product development of two products: the trailer and van concepts. The trailer prototype is finishing testing and will be close to an MVP by Q4 – they hope to launch a final product at the beginning of 2020. The van prototype is still early in its prototyping phase. 

Lilypad Energy 

Lilypad Energy is currently building a method of relaying curtailment requests from aggregators through a software that simplifies the enrollment and operation of EVs, home batteries, and other IoT. Lilypad Energy can streamline the enroll of ‘assets’ into DR / GS ‘programs’, and monitor curtailment by reading an asset’s energy consumption. In doing so, they are looking at building infrastructure for a microgrid in the Santa Barbara region. 

Currently, Lilypad is working on their beta product through development of the equipment facing API and the API for scheduling coordinators/grid service providers. They have two pilots currently deployed in Santa Barbara. 

Luminescent Energy

Luminescent Energy is developing power-generating windows featuring both power generation and thermal energy management. It uses micro-solar cells embedded into the window technology while maintaining high visual acuity and quality. The main value of this technology is a 5% higher power conversion efficiency of other luminescent devices while remaining cost competitive and reliable over time. 

The technology was developed at Caltech through an ARPA-e grant. The team is now finishing durability and lifetime testing while concurrently building out their business and market strategy. 


NeoCharge has developed a 220 volt splitter that provides easy EV charging access at home. It is a solution for both home renters and owners, and enables grid flexibility. The technology includes software with smart functionality that allows owners to save money and use clean energy from the grid. 

With 31 units sold through early adopter channels, NeoCharge is engaged in getting their UL certification and tracking current deployed units for product development.

Open Source Strategies

Open Source Strategies’s “Opentaps SEAS Platform” monitors the energy assets of a property to centralize all data connected to the status of energy equipment and infrastructure. Based on an open source software developed by the DOE for smart grid and building efficiency, this cloud-based software integrates the data to optimize the energy efficiency of a building and calculate the real-time value of that energy. This creates a data stream to securitize energy efficiency projects and renewable energy investment. It’s like a home equity loan for installed equipment. 

Currently, Open Source Strategies has a large pilot project with a major East Coast municipality to enroll 60 buildings onto their software. With this pilot they are working on algorithms to tag and analyze the data.


Pronoia is developing a new type of battery that utilizes a proprietary Quantum-Dipole technology. This innovation has a 10-100x increase in energy density compared to existing storage technologies. Given the high density, they predict their system will have the lowest kWh price worldwide.

The technology has been in development by Dr. Wooyong Lie for over 15 years. Currently, they are 8 months away from their prototype and are expanding their team to finish the R&D.

Radii Robotics

Radii Robotics has designed a drone robot to inspect wind turbines with game changing hardware and software components. 

  • With a unique robotic arm, the drone can use ultrasonic testing to detect structural problems and perform basic maintenance. Ultrasonics can detect up to 85% of issues for a turbine where as visual inspection detects 15%. 
  • Their software has 1) special positioning technology 2) collection and reporting capability and 3) a discussion board for drone operators, asset owners, and OEMs to collaborate on infrastructure problems. 

The team is currently building upon their foundational platform and looking to test and pilot in Q2/Q3 of 2020. 

Ranier Solar Panel

Ranier Solar Panel is developing a proprietary bifacial solar panel on a proprietary mount and frame. They predict that their unique configuration can offer 20% more power per ft² than traditional panels by producing power longer in the day. The main value proposition offered by their technology is a higher power output over time therefore lowering the lifetime cost.

They are currently deep in R&D to develop a final technology through a partnership with ASU’s Solar Power Lab. Ranier plans on developing 10 prototype units at the APC to test at the ASU facility. 


The SolarFlexes rapidly-installed PV array is a ground-mounted system that delivers cost-savings through process innovation to reduce all inputs for ground-mounted PV array installations. The majority of the system’s manufacturing value is added in a factory setting where lean, six-sigma processes maximize manufacturing efficiency and quality control while ensuring the system’s structural integrity and durability. The prefabricated array is transported to the project site in sections using standard shipping containers and rapidly installed using only a car/truck, trailer, and hand tools.

Currently, SolarFlexes is finalizing the CAD designs and looking for funding to begin engineering and testing. The team is interested in using the APC for prototyping efforts.


SolPad provides solar storage and management solutions, Renewable Solar + Storage + Intelligent Management, for small scale home and commercial energy systems. Their cloud application and mobile app control system allows it to function on and off the grid. 

By selling through residential installers and developers, SolPad seeks to provide cost-effective and flexible power alternatives to people living in expensive power regions around the world. This mission has led to a $61M PO in Puerto Rico through the largest solar developer in the area. 

Currently, SolPad is finishing up UL certification and expect to complete it by Q4. Once UL is in place, they will install pilots in Palo Alto then deploy in Puerto Rico.

Substance Power & Mobility

Substance Power & Mobility seeks to build industrial-grad, lithium-ion based, energy storage hardware pieces to be deployed interchangeable between buildings and fleets. Their “hardware ecosystem” deploys the components through creating modular lego-like batteries for both stationary and mobile applications.

The goal for the technology is to create a comprehensive sustainable energy solution for industrial facility & fleet operations. Currently, they are in very early stages of CAD design and look at continuing product development until Q3 of 2021.

TBM Designs

TBM Designs has invented the Invert Self-Shading Window installments using smart thermobimetal. By installing their product inside the cavity of a standard Insulated Glass Unit (IGU), it can dynamically reduce heat gain at the surface of the building envelope, thereby reducing air-conditioning by over 15%, while maintaining light quality. Invert Windows operate autonomously and don’t require any power; it “uses no energy to save energy”.

The innovation was developed by an architecture professor at USC. Through partnering with window manufacturers, they see their product to have the biggest impact on large scale buildings with large window surface.

Currently, they are in the final stages of product development, and are now shifting towards a final commercial product development.

Blog – Tackling Trucking: How to Get Zero Emissions Trucks at Ports and on Freeways in Los Angeles

Originally published on ACT News

How to Curb Emissions From Trucking 

Did you know that the greatest single source of air pollution in Los Angeles comes from the trucks, trains, and ships that bring goods in and out of our Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, that 40% of all the goods that come into the US come from these ports, and that one out of every six jobs in the region is related to goods movement? 

Answering the question of how we get more zero emission trucks on our freeways to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and clean the air is particularly important for the Los Angeles region. The unintended consequence of this economic activity is hurting communities living near the ports and along the freeways that are disproportionately affected by poor air quality. At the same time, the goods movement industry is vital to the region’s economy and represents a large portion of vehicles on the road. Medium- and heavy-duty trucks comprise the second largest categories of GHG emissions in the transportation sector and goods movement represents the region’s largest source of air pollution. 

Lowering GHG emissions and air pollution from goods movement is a key focus of the Transportation Electrification Partnership—an unprecedented multi-year partnership among local, regional, and state stakeholders, convened by LACI, to accelerate progress towards transportation electrification and zero emission goods movement in the Greater Los Angeles region in advance of the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In 2018 the partnership developed its first 2028 Zero Emissions (ZE) Roadmap, which set goals for regional transportation electrification and statewide ZE goods movement—goals like 25-50% of all medium-duty delivery trucks in LA County to be electric, and 10-40% of heavy-duty regional drayage truck to be ZE, all by 2028. 


Where Are We and Where Do We Need to Go 

To understand where we are with ZE goods movement, from the manufacturers making ZE trucks, the trucking companies buying them and utilities and charging infrastructure companies installing chargers, LACI first needed to level set on the state of the complex needs of the whole goods movement ecosystem. 

Together with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the California Energy Commission (CEC), LACI issued a Request for Information (RFI), asking medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturers, EV supply equipment manufacturers, EV charging station networks, fleet operators, and fleet charging companies about their ZE goods movement plans, in order to:

  • Understand the current state and future plans for ZE heavy duty truck technologies. 
  • Understand needed infrastructure, like chargers, and concepts for pilots.
  • Understand where synergies and partnerships might exist between organizations for ZE truck deployment, infrastructure, and concepts for pilots.
  • Inform CARB, the CEC, and other policymakers on how to design future incentive programs to help, for example, manufacturers commercialize ZE truck models.


What We Learned 

LACI received 39 responses from a wide variety of companies including multinational corporations that have led the industry for decades as well as California-based startups innovating from the ground up. 

We learned that:

  • For medium-duty vehicles, the respondents are offering and/or have planned five times as many battery-electric vehicles as fuel cell vehicles.
  • For heavy-duty vehicles, the respondents have planned increases in both battery-electric and fuel cell offerings in the next 1-3 years.
  • The top barriers for battery-electric and fuel cell trucks alike are the high upfront capital costs and limited availability of charging infrastructure. Respondents focusing on battery-electric technologies also pointed to supply chain limitations, the long and unpredictable timeline for installing and connecting charging infrastructure to the electricity grid, and the lack of EV knowledge among potential customers. Fuel cell technology specialists identified the long timelines needed to develop and certify hydrogen trucks and fueling stations.
  • As trucking companies plan to transition their operations to ZE, many fleets that use hub-and-spoke distribution methods will need to coordinate their medium-duty solutions with their heavy-duty solutions based on site needs and operational challenges. This means that we can’t just focus on medium-duty (like vans for deliveries in cities) or heavy-duty (like large trucks moving containers across the region), but we need to focus on medium- and heavy-duty trucking at the same time in order to transition the whole goods movement system to ZE. 
  • 7 (6 battery electric; 1 fuel cell) truck manufacturers said they would be ready to participate in a future pilot program to deploy 50-100 ZE trucks in the greater Los Angeles region.
  • Several exciting pilot project concepts were suggested to ensure that adequate charging infrastructure is available to truckers traveling from the ports to the distribution hubs in the Inland Empire, a region east of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.


Where Do We Go From Here? A Seamless Corridor Approach

Based on the findings, LACI and the Transportation Electrification Partnership members recommend a holistic approach to accelerating ZE medium- and heavy-duty trucks and infrastructure. The partners suggest a pilot framework to establish heavy-duty drayage routes supported by medium-duty distribution hubs serving as both cargo points and charging stations. Additional charging options would be established at third-party logistics yards, truck stops and/or via mobile zero emissions charging solutions, adding up to a seamless electrified corridor along the lower I-710 freeway and providing truck operators with the confidence needed to invest in zero emissions solutions.

Given the market share of goods traveling along the 710 freeway, concentrating investment in this type of comprehensive pilot would not only enable the Los Angeles region to meet its ZE goods movement goals, but could serve as the linchpin to transitioning the regional movement of goods at ports and cities across the country. LACI is working now to identify funding for this pilot project from a number of potential sources.

In September 2019, LACI will announce the 2028 Zero Emissions (ZE) Roadmap 2.0, with revised target ranges for goods movement by the time the world arrives in Los Angeles for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 


Good to Know: Other ZE Transportation Pilot Projects

In addition to the potential pilot project for goods movement along the lower 710 freeway, LACI and the Transportation Electrification Partnership are working on a last-mile solution—the Zero Emissions Mobility and Community Pilot Project Fund—to ensure that every community benefits from the green economy, and neighborhoods that are disproportionately affected by poor air quality can work to clean the air around them. The path to a ZE future means addressing community needs as well as key technology, business model, and educational challenges. Pilot projects as part of the ZE Mobility and Community Pilot Project Fund will be deployed in late 2019 and developed hand-in-hand with selected disadvantaged communities. Lessons from these projects will be shared and used to inform new projects and policy recommendations going forward.

Blog – Attracting Veteran and LGBTQ Founders to the Cleantech Entrepreneur Pipeline


In our mission to create an inclusive green economy, LACI is working to diversify the entrepreneurs and business founders in our programs and competitions—while also working to diversify our LACI staff. We want our LACI ecosystem and the broader innovation ecosystem to look like the rest of Los Angeles, which is a melting pot of people and cultures. We also believe that the lack of diversity in the green job market leads to missed opportunities in new idea generation and wealth creation. 

In our efforts to diversify the entrepreneur ecosystem, we held a series of events and workshops to hear from entrepreneurs about their experiences and what they think the challenges and opportunities are for entrepreneurs from different backgrounds. Most recently, we held an event called Taking the Lead 2.0, which looked specifically at barriers for founders from veteran and LGBTQ communities.   


Veterans Face Challenges in Building Networks and Accessing Capital

More than 75% of veteran entrepreneurs report encountering challenges as they start and grow their business. The top three challenges veterans face are access to capital, limited networks, and difficulty developing relationships with mentors. Of the 200,000 service members transitioning off duty annually, 25% are interested in starting a business while only 4.5% end up pursuing entrepreneurship according to research from Bunker Labs, a non-profit helping veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses find the quickest route to a successful business. A Small Business Administration report found that veteran-owned businesses typically obtain less financing and see lower approval rates than non-veteran owned businesses. Overall, veterans report facing many obstacles to accessing capital and generally lack financial management resources

Another obstacle facing veteran entrepreneurs is the lack of access to professional networks and mentors. Studies show that 50% of veterans relocate to a city other than their hometown after their military service, and while new locations can offer many opportunities, they also present challenges of establishing new networks and mentorships for veterans.


LGBTQ Entrepreneurs Face Challenges Being Authentic in the Workforce  

LGBTQ entrepreneurs face challenges raising capital, building trust in the workplace, and accessing networks outside of LGBTQ peers. In research conducted by StartOut, an organization focused on LGBTQ entreprenruship, LGBQT-founded companies raised 11% less capital than their non-LGBTQ peers. In many ways this is connected to the fact that 37% of LGBT startup founders do not come out to their investors—founders can’t form personal and professional connections if they don’t feel they can be their authentic selves at work. This can additionally lead to stress, anxiety and health problems at work. Research from advocacy group GLADD found that LGBTQ employees who are not openly out in front of their colleagues are less likely to remain in their current position than the ones who are. The number of LGBTQ founders or team members in early-stage companies is often small, which makes it difficult to create a strong network and ecosystem of LGBTQ entrepreneurs for advice, opportunities and connections.


Solutions to Build Key Networks for Veteran and LGBTQ Founders 

LACI is helping overcome these challenges to Veteran and LGBTQ entrepreneurship in two ways—directly recruiting LGBTQ and Veteran founders into our incubation programs and competitions, and coaching the founders in our current portfolio on how to build a more diverse and inclusive company culture.  

We also partner with organizations focused on capacity and networking building for diverse founders such as Bunker Labs (focused on veteran founders) and StartOut (focused on LGBTQ founders) for networking events and forums such as Taking the Lead 2.0 to kickstart conversation and bring challenges to light. 


About Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at LACI 

LACI’s has set diversity, equity and inclusion goals for both its staff and the companies it works with through our suite of entrepreneurial services. We are working to have a higher percentage of women founders in our startups, which is the broader economy benchmark.  We are also working to have the makeup of the LACI team and startup founder staff match the Los Angeles County demographics at 48% latino, 26% white, 14% asian and 8% black. 

LACI aims to build a more inclusive ecosystem to integrate more underrepresented groups into the cleantech sector. Thanks to the generous support of JPMorgan Chase & Co., we launched our efforts in 2016 focused on diversifying our entrepreneur pipeline. In June 2017, we hosted an event called Taking the Lead 1.0: Growing Women and Minority Entrepreneurship and then in May 2019 LACI hosted a follow up event, Taking the Lead 2.0, focused on better engaging LGBTQ and veteran founders. 

Diverse teams and inclusive work environments lead to increased innovation, higher employee retention rates, and better financial performance.  Only by exploring challenges and kickstarting the conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion can we truly build an inclusive green economy. 

Blog – Four Takeaways on Early-stage Innovation from the California Climate Cup

California’s policy makers are setting some of the boldest climate policies in the world—such as SB100 on 100% clean energy, Executive Order B-48-18 on electric vehicle charging infrastructure and vehicle targets, and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Green New Deal LA’s Sustainable City pLAn. 

Corporate and startup innovators from around the world are responding to these market signals and demonstrating to California’s policy makers how their visionary work is resulting in real action around clean energy and smart grid infrastructure, the urban energy-transport nexus and zero emissions transportation. 

In 2018, in the run up to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018, LACI CEO Matt Petersen and New Energy Nexus Executive Director Danny Kennedy decided their organizations should join forces to create the California Climate Cup. This year, we held the California Climate Cup again to highlight the startup entrepreneurs who are responding to these market signals and to demonstrate to California policy makers the results of their bold action. The California Climate Cup is one of the many ways we are unlocking innovation—we have a suite of programs and competitions to help startups grow, access capital and build networks. This year’s competition helped us identify a number of important trends in early-stage cleantech innovation, including: 

  1. Innovation is happening globally and being drawn to California.
    Of the nine semi-finalists, two-thirds are headquartered out of the state or out of the country, but have focused on California as their target market. This includes WeTrott, e-scooter charging infrastructure, from France, which felt compelled to enter the competition and explore the California market because of the proliferation of scooters in California’s cities. Also the 2019 Climate Cup Grand Prize winner, SparkCharge is based in New York but is focused on California because it is their beachhead market for product and service deployment.   Optimal Solar, based in North Carolina, is expanding to California to bring their novel concentrated solar technology to access a market hungry for advanced solar.
  2. The fundamentals of energy storage technology and the way it is deployed are both being directly challenged.
    The core science underlying batteries is changing before our eyes, with SurgePower Materials bringing to market a plant-based, graphene anode. If scalable, their graphene anode would improve battery safety and performance using sustainable materials.  AC Biode is upending the entire incumbent DC battery platform by developing the first-ever AC battery. SolPad and Hygge Power are challenging the status quo in the residential energy storage market by changing not only the footprint of energy storage but also pushing it to the true grid edge.  SolPad is deploying scalable DC-coupled batteries behind PV panel on rooftops to avoid taking up space in a garage or on the side of a house. Hygge Power is bridging the price and performance gap between UPS systems and traditional home energy storage by providing smart plugs with built-in energy storage to plug into your connected devices.
  3. Startups are bringing solutions to market that are removing barriers to consumers adopting EVs.
    SparkCharge is directly addressing “range anxiety” by offering a product and service where users can order miles of range from their phone and have that charge delivered directly to their EV.  NeoCharge is allowing consumers with garage access and a 220V outlet to smartly split that outlet and share it with their EV, dryer and/or water heater without the cost and complexity of an electrician and permitting.  RideSVP  is opening the option for inter-city travelers to book seats on EVs as part of a green carpool network.
  4. Diversity of industry, knowledge, gender and race from our judges brings critical thinking and different viewpoints.
    In our mission to create an inclusive green economy, we are working to diversify the entrepreneurs and business founders in our programs and competitions. As part of this effort, the California Climate Cup saw a judging review panel made up of someone from a federal research agency, a startup accelerator, a venture capital firm, a corporate automotive, an international energy developer and a startup who was also last year’s Climate Cup 2018 Grand Prize winner. In a traditionally non-diverse sector as cleantech, the panel was also evenly represented by 50% females and 50% people of color.  This led to not only the best overall technologies and products winning their respective categories, but a Category Winner pool of 100% people of color awardees.

At LACI we are building an inclusive green economy by focusing on three interwoven threads: innovation, markets and communities. To unlock innovation we help startup companies and entrepreneurs find solutions to accelerate climate action. At the same time we work to unlock innovation, we are transforming markets through partnerships with policymakers, innovators and market leaders in transportation, energy and sustainable cities and we are enhancing communities through workforce development, pilots and other programs, to ensure that the future green economy works for everyone. 

Keep in touch with LACI to apply for next year’s California Climate Cup or apply to one of our other programs or competitions to unlock innovation.

Press Release – SparkCharge Wins 2019 California Climate Cup, Demonstrating That California Policy Makers’ Bold Policies Inspire World-Class Innovation

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and New Energy Nexus Hold Pitch Competition—Brings Attention and $35,000 to Startups With the Most Promising Climate Solutions

Los Angeles, June 27, 2019. The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and New Energy Nexus announce SparkCharge as the winner of the 2019 California Climate Cup and recipient of the $25 thousand dollar cash prize. The California Climate Cup is sponsored by Volvo Group and the Construction Climate Challenge and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  

California’s policy makers are setting some of the boldest climate policies in the world—such as SB100 on 100% clean energy, Executive Order B-48-18 on electric vehicle charging infrastructure and vehicle targets, and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Green New Deal LA’s Sustainable City pLAn. 

The California Climate Cup highlights the entrepreneurs who are responding to these market signals and demonstrating to California’s policy makers how their visionary work is resulting in real action around clean energy and Smart Grid infrastructure, the urban energy-transport nexus, and zero emissions transportation. 

“The California Climate Cup semi-finalists demonstrate how our state and local policy makers can help unlock innovation to help solve the climate crisis with their bold policy measures,” said Matt Petersen, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. “As states like California and cities like Los Angeles lead the way putting the Paris Agreement goals into action, we need entrepreneurs to help deliver essential climate solutions. Congratulations to Joshua Aviv of SparkCharge and the other semifinalists. We look forward to their continued success.”

“California not only is passing ambitious green policies, we are also coming up with policies we can scale and sell to the rest of the world,” said Ben Allen, State Senator. “This is why holding startup competitions like the California Climate Cup is so important—we are demonstrating California’s leadership on climate change solutions, while  helping to amplify and promote the amazing entrepreneurs like Joshua Aviv and SparkCharge that are responding to California’s market signals.” 

“The Volvo Group, like the state of California, is committed to sustainability, innovation and advancing new ideas that are accepted by society,” said Dawn Fenton, Director of Public Affairs for Volvo Group North America. “Sponsoring the California Climate Cup enables the Volvo Group to support innovation that ultimately will help create a cleaner, improved future for the transportation of people and freight, and we were pleased to help support the competition.”

“California is a world leader in a lot of ways—including experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said Danny Kennedy, CEO of New Energy Nexus. “The good news is we are also demonstrating the solutions, especially in LA. The California Climate Cup is a great platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their most innovative climate change solutions and technologies to California’s policy and business leadership. We will shine a light on the startups that will bring us the clean mobility and electricity we need and speed them on their way to commercial success.”

The three category winners are: 

  • Reginald Parker • Optimal Solar, Clean and Smart Grid
  • Joshua Aviv • SparkCharge, Energy / Transportation Nexus
  • Michael K. Opoku • SurgePower, Zero Emissions Transportation 

The nine semifinalists are: 

Clean & Smart Grid

Energy/Transportation Nexus

Zero Emissions Transportation

We are proud that momentum for 2018 California Climate Cup winner, Uwgem Eneyo, SHYFT Power Solutions (formerly Solstice Energy Solutions), continues to build since last year’s event. This growth demonstrates the California Climate Cup’s track record of picking successful startups and founders.  

The semifinalists pitched their cutting-edge climate solutions in several events across California—on June 25 in Los Angeles to an audience of LA’s innovation ecosystem, on June 26 in Mountain View at the Hub 335, and at Volvo Group and the Construction Climate Challenge’s innovation hub on June 27 in Sacramento at the Capitol Building, with Senator Ben Allen, from California’s 26th district. 

About LACI

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), a City of Los Angeles established nonprofit organization, is creating an inclusive green economy by: unlocking innovation through working with startups to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies, transforming markets through partnerships with policymakers, innovators and market leaders in transportation, energy and sustainable cities; and enhancing communities through workforce development, pilots and other programs. Founded as an economic development initiative by the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water & Power (LADWP), LACI is recognized as one of the most innovative business incubators in the world by UBI. In the past eight years, LACI has helped 78 portfolio companies raise $221M in funding, $220M in revenue, create 1,750 jobs, and deliver more than $393M in long term economic value. Learn more at

About New Energy Nexus

New Energy Nexus (NEX) is a global organization that supports the next wave of entrepreneurs with funds, programs, and connections that reflect emerging trends in the clean energy economy. Since 2004, New Energy Nexus (formerly known as the California Clean Energy Fund) has leveraged $1.5 billion in investment, invested in more than 100 clean energy enterprises, and launched industry leading centers for collaboration. Our network includes more than 100 incubators and accelerators, funders and development organizations from 29 countries around the world. We have offices in California, Shanghai, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Media Contact

Sarah Bryce