Author: Paul Ulukpo

LACI Announces First-of-Its-Kind Debt Fund

 

Revolving Debt Fund helps startups scale, with a focus on under-resourced founders

Pilot program results validate need for early-stage cleantech debt solutions

Second funder in fund, Union Bank, marks shift beyond pilot stage

 

LACI’s mission of creating an inclusive green economy involves helping cleantech founders access the right capital to scale their startups, ultimately resulting in revenues, job creation and environmental impact. Over the past decade of incubation, LACI realized that debt needed to play a role in scaling cleantech startups much earlier than conventionally understood

Most early-stage startups rely almost exclusively on equity investment, primarily venture capital (VC). This reliance often leads to:

  • Founder dilution, with the median founder owning 15% of their company at exit. 
  • Recourse to risky and expensive alternatives. No early-stage startup is able to accurately forecast all of its expenses. As a result, many founders avail themselves of credit card debt when unexpected business opportunities arise or provide personal collateral for loans, a practice that prevents under-resourced but talented founders from scaling their ventures.
  • Lack of capital for founders of color. Over the course of five years, Crunchbase found that just 2.4% of total VC funding went to Black and Latino/Hispanic founders, despite the Black and Latino/Hispanic population equalling roughly 31% of the population. LACI founders are even more diverse, with approximately 33% of incubation program founders coming from the Black and Latino/Hispanic community.

Finding a way to prudently and cost-effectively layer in debt earlier in the process would:

  • Allow funders more choice about how much equity investment to take on, and when, plus enable founders to reduce their ownership dilution.
  • Prevent founders from taking on risky alternatives, such as personal credit card debt.
  • Allow founders of color greater access to capital to grow their startups. Although debt funders such as banks need to improve their track record in terms of lending to Black and Latino/Hispanic founders, they often fare better than their VC counterparts.

To address this problem, LACI won a grant from the Department of Energy’s Capital Access Program in 2017 to research and structure a debt fund to support LACI’s early stage cleantech founders. This research was initially shared at a Clinton Foundation economic conference in November of 2019, with private-sector lenders and public-sector officials validating the model to create a revolving debt fund focused on working capital and business expansion, with capital coming from philanthropic or program-related investment capital. LACI’s research revealed that private banks and other financial intermediaries clearly see the need and demand for such lending, but struggled to find their path to cost effectively serve the market, other than by having founders use traditional products, such as second mortgages and credit card debt.

In 2020, Wells Fargo invested the first loan capital into the LACI Debt Fund, an initial $110,000 contribution to pilot the concept of providing loans of $20k-$40k with interest rates at or below market for LACI companies who do not yet qualify for traditional loans. 

Today, LACI is pleased to exit stealth mode operations of the LACI Debt Fund by announcing that it has approved the 10th loan of the LACI Debt Fund. While the Debt Fund is modest in size, initial recipients of loans from the LACI Debt Fund have subsequently raised close to $100M in follow-on funding from both equity and debt sources, validating the crucial role that early stage debt can play as part of a comprehensive incubation experience.

 

With the number of successful loans entering the double digits, LACI has opened up the Debt Fund to other funders. Last week, Union Bank cemented its participation in the LACI Debt Fund, increasing the fund loan capital by almost 50% to $160k. The increased capital marks the end of the pilot phase and commencement of expanded operations, including being able to regularly support more LACI founders with additional loans.

Prospective startups interested in learning about the Debt Fund as part of LACI’s overall incubation services should reach out to pipeline@laci.org. Funders interested in supporting the LACI Debt Fund via philanthropic or program-related investment capital should reach out development@laci.org.

CA State Budget Support for Zero-Emission Vehicles and Infrastructure

The Honorable Gavin Newsom, Governor
State of California
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Toni Atkins, President Pro Tempore
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Anthony Rendon, Speaker
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Nancy Skinner, Chair
Senate Budget Committee
State Capitol, Room 5019
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Phil Ting, Chair
Assembly Budget Committee
State Capitol, Room 6026
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: State Budget Support for Zero-Emission Vehicles and Infrastructure

Dear Governor Newsom, President Pro Tempore Atkins, Speaker Rendon, Chair Skinner, and Chair Ting:

We applaud the emphasis that each of your offices has placed on taking concrete steps and making bold investments to address dirty air and climate change. The need for state investment to accelerate zero-emission (ZE) vehicle adoption has never been more urgent, nor has the state ever had the means, as it does today, to enact change. The state surplus presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to lay the strong foundation for an accelerated and equitable transition to a zero-emission freight transportation system.

The entities listed below represent a broad coalition of stakeholders that firmly believe a major investment in zero-emission goods movement vehicles and supporting infrastructure must be made in the 2021-22 budget. We urge you to dedicate an additional $2.25 Billion towards the state’s transition to zero- emissions for drayage trucks and cargo handling equipment. This aligns with Executive Order N-79-20, our urgent need for clean air, the Transportation Electrification Partnership’s target for 40% ZE drayage trucks by 2028, and our ambitious yet achievable shared goals of achieving 100% ZE cargo handling equipment and drayage trucks. State investment, coupled with supporting regulation and policies can ensure establishment of a strong market for ZE freight vehicles. Investments are needed in vehicles, supporting infrastructure, workforce training to operate and maintain zero-emission equipment and infrastructure, and a means to offset the insurance costs for these new vehicles. Specifically, we are asking for the 2021-22

California budget to include:

  • $1 Billion for the California Air Resources Board’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP), Zero and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF), and Clean Off-Road Equipment (CORE) programs to fund human operated zero-emission drayage and cargo handling equipment;
  • $1 Billion for the California Energy Commission to fund charging infrastructure that supports EO N-79-20 implementation at California’s container ports;
  • $100 Million for expanding the availability and affordability of zero-emission drayage truck insurance for truck owners/drivers; and
  • $150 Million for workforce training to maintain and operate zero-emission goods movement vehicles and supporting equipment.

In addition to investment in equipment and infrastructure, we believe complementary investment to ensure that the jobs associated with our transition are captured here in California, especially in underserved and frontline communities. Creation of green jobs must be supported by this level of investment; so too should the transition of incumbent workers into the new, greener goods movement system. The existing supply chain workforce is comprised of millions of middle-class Californians. The state must play a stronger role in funding the transition to zero emission heavy duty trucks and equipment and building the supporting infrastructure to build strong local economies while fighting climate change and cutting air pollution.

We share your goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and public health, and transitioning to zero-emission vehicles and cargo handling equipment. Our commitment to this goal is evident in our collective global leadership to innovate and implement cutting-edge emission reduction practices. To continue this trajectory, it is imperative that the state’s policy leadership be accompanied by major fiscal investments to achieve these goals. We look forward to continuing to work with your offices and stakeholders on additional policy issues accompanying fleet transition; however, we believe the time is now for the State of California to embrace its unique role in making bold “market maker” investments. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the essential steps towards stemming climate change with new, clean technologies.

 

Thank you for your consideration,
A3PCON (Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council) Environmental Justice Committee
Bay Area Council
BYD
California Association of Port Authorities (CAPA)
California Business Alliance for a Clean Economy
Communities for a Better Environment
EarthJustice
East Bay Community Energy
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Harbor Trucking Association
International Longshore and Warehouse Union – Locals 13, 63 and 94
Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma (LBACA)
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn
Los Angeles County Truck and Bus Coalition
Los Angeles IBEW/NECA Labor Management Cooperation Committee (or LMCC)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino
Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator (LACI)
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)
PCS Energy
People’s Collective for Environmental Justice
Port of Hueneme
Port of Oakland
Port of Long Beach
Port of Los Angeles
Port of Richmond
Port of San Francisco
San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition
Sierra Club
Southern California Edison
Union of Concerned Scientists
Urban Movement Labs
Warehouse Worker Resource Center
XOS Trucks

View The Official Letter Here: 

Xeal introduces a new paradigm shift by taking connected devices offline

Blog by LACI Portfolio Company Xeal 

In the dot com era, we used to hear about garage startups running local servers to deploy services and products by having to spend significant amounts of capital to just test out their ideas. On the other hand, large companies would spend extraneous amounts of time and resources managing on-premise data centers in a closed environment to operate all business processes. Every file and click was processed or accessed by large computers dedicated for this in isolated, well cooled, and dimly lit rooms on the premises of the business.

However, in the late 2000s we started seeing a massive migration to public servers far away from the users with AWS launching their cloud services to allow businesses of all sizes to scale as they needed without having to worry about operating the servers. In fact, salesforce was one of the first successful early adopters of cloud computing. The onset of cloud computing allowed for remote access via the internet to shared or dedicated servers thousands of miles away for the purpose of accessing computation power at lower costs with the ability to scale with growth as needed so businesses could focus on their core product while the cloud providers took advantage of the arbitrage opportunities made available by pure economies of scale. This model has and will continue to work for traditional SaaS based and modern day applications where data is processed and accessed over the internet.

While the cloud computing use case was getting the spotlight a new technology was evolving in the 90s; the internet of things with connected devices and equipment that allowed for remote monitoring, tracking, and predictive analytics. One of the first demonstrations of the Internet of Things was a Coca-Cola vending machine in 1989 that reported temperature and availability of cans to a far away computer in Carnegie Mellon University. With billions of connected devices emerging over the last decade, generating copious amounts of data that needed fast decision making, people started seeing gaps in the pure cloud computing model. The gaps could be summarized as limited bandwidth availability, poor latency where real time processing was needed by these devices, and a requirement for highly reliable and available internet connection for processing wherever the smart devices were deployed.

To counter this or support a more balanced approach, edge computing started rising. Edge computing is a model where information is processed and managed right where the devices are deployed and data is produced. This can be achieved with edge gateways or intelligent embedded systems where decisions are made in real time and only the necessary data is shipped back to the cloud or an on-site local server. This solves the problem of latency and reduces costs by processing data and only storing useful information on the cloud. This hybrid approach allows for the best of both worlds with distributed and local edge computing for real time applications and utilization of the cloud for larger data intensive operations and storage of data as there is only so much data that can be stored and processed on the edge device. An example of this is an autonomous car where the real time decisions of object/accident avoidance sensory data is processed locally but for instance an error or new anomaly is sent to the cloud for further big data analysis.

It is obvious that the future for connected devices is in utilizing an edge to cloud platform where decisions and data are processed locally and the cloud is only utilized for data warehousing and other actions like firmware updates. This is typically achieved by deploying an internet connected device, establishing a network via wifi, cellular, ethernet or more advanced protocols like Zigbee and mesh networks and installing IoT gateways and access points. However, the power of this edge to cloud model is often lost when it comes to shared and consumer facing connected devices that are truly deployed on the edge like smart locks, shared package lockers, shared mobility, electric vehicle chargers, and more. This is because processes like authentication, authorization, payment processing etc. are typically only done in the cloud and edge processing is unavailable due to constraints in computation and memory in devices. As a result, the strength of edge computing where decisions are made locally is lost and uptime becomes a risk due to its dependence on a reliable, fast, and available internet connection to the cloud. Furthermore, when the connected devices are deployed truly at the edge then the availability of an internet connection or extension of it to where the devices are becomes a barrier of entry into markets and can be cost-prohibitive. Biden’s $100B plan to bring the internet to over 30 million people provides further evidence to the lack of coverage from a geographical perspective.

Xeal has developed a new patent pending protocol codenamed NIFT (“No Internet for Things”) to overcome these challenges and to bring the world of shared connected devices to take advantage of edge computing in all environments both online and offline. Functions like access control, data transfer, firmware updates, and payment processing can be done entirely offline with no active internet connection needed and entirely on the edge. The protocol leverages highly secure short range communication technologies to make decisions offline on the edge paired with the power of distributed and portable smartphones that act as the gateway to bring the data back to the cloud after being processed for storage. The protocol has already been commercialized for the electric vehicle charging industry where these devices are deployed in subterranean garages, remote areas, and the data needs are so significant that cellular plans eat away all the margins. You can watch the demonstration video here.

The protocol can be adopted by other industries to go from edge to cloud with connected devices especially if high speed processing, reliability, and optimal experience is critical. Xeal offers an end-to-end platform from hardware to cloud leveraging to go from zero to NIFT in weeks.

To learn more about NIFT and Xeal you can contact us at info@xealenergy.com

LACI-Sponsored Bill To Create EV Authority Makes It Through First Committee In Bipartisan Vote

SB 551 (Stern/Hertzberg) Establishes Enhanced Coordination, Accountability, and Financing Tools To Reach California’s EV Goals 

SACRAMENTO, CA — Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and the Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP) have called for the creation of a California EV Authority (CEVA), a concept developed by TEP members in April 2020 to address the policies and tools needed to achieve the ambitious yet achievable regional targets by the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as accelerate the progress statewide. The creation of CEVA would include the Governor appointing an EV czar in the California Governor’s Office to advance transportation electrification and zero emissions goods movement across state agencies as well as local government and the private sector. 

In response to TEP’s call for CEVA, California State Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) and Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) have introduced SB 551 to create the California EV Authority to build upon the work of the numerous state agencies, local government, labor, and the private sector by providing enhanced accountability and coordination, creating new funding and financing tools to address gaps to help finance the transition, and ensuring equity is prioritized across all programs while enhancing economic and workforce development. CEVA can also help secure the state’s recovery through the equitable deployment of EV programs in the coming years and ensure that California meets its critical zero emissions transportation and climate goals. On Tuesday, SB 551 passed its first committee with a 10-3 bi-partisan vote in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. 

Achieving the goals that Governor Newsom set for California in his September 2020 Executive Order N-79-20 creates enormous potential for economic growth, job creation, and equity. These goals also represent an economy-wide transition to EVs and requires an all hands on deck approach. Given budgets are strained, new and creative financial tools are needed that build on existing funding sources. SB 551 and the creation of CEVA a set of financing tools to support the transition and economic development, including examining where existing sources of financing can be enhanced and leveraged, while identifying new sources that can be used to unlock private capital. 

CEVA would prioritize equity across all investments, deployments, etc. as well as drive forth and leverage economic development and workforce development. Further, with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan that proposes $176 billion for EVs and charging, CEVA will also help California be more competitive for these federal resources when appropriated by the U.S. Congress (you can read more about TEP’s federal stimulus proposal here).

To learn more about the bill read the summary here. Over 60 organizations have signed on in support of SB 551 to create the California Electric Vehicle Authority, including: