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DOE & Venture Firms Headhunting Together

Sand Hill Road and Capitol Hill have joined forces to spin businesses out of three of the DOE’s National Laboratories. Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner unveiled the three venture firms selected to participate in the newly established Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program, which will place venture-sponsored entrepreneurs in the labs to identify technologies for commercialization, this afternoon at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco.

The firm-lab partnerships are as follows: Kleiner, Perkin, Caufield & Byers will be working the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), ARCH Venture Partners will be teamed with Sandia National Laboratory, and Foundation Capital will place its entrepreneur at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The program is part of the DOE’s increasingly business-oriented mindset, Karsner said, noting that he himself is the first businessman to hold his post and that Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman helped found Fidelity Venture Associates.

Representatives from the venture firms and the labs were on hand to echo the sentiment. “We plan to use this program as a starting point for a cultural change and push the entrepreneurial spirit,” said a representative of NREL’s Office of Technology Transfer.

Steve Vassallo of Foundation Capital told us that their entrepreneur is fired up and ready to go. “He called me yesterday to ask if he could quit his job,” Vassallo said.

Karsner stressed that contrary to what the press release says, this isn’t a pilot, and that all of the necessary paperwork and infrastructure have been vetted, approved and are in place.

The DOE will provide $100,000 for each entrepreneur; their venture sponsor will then match that funding. Each firm will have one entrepreneur in residence at their assigned lab at a time. According to the DOE’s Michael Bruce, the hope is that the entrepreneur will be able to spin a company out in three to four months. At that point, the venture firm will put into residence their next entrepreneur to begin the process all over again.

Once an entrepreneur has identified a technology for commercialization he or she, in concert with the sponsoring venture firm, will negotiate a license for the technology. To speed this up, the DOE has created a Standard License Agreement. The template, vetted by the venture firms, would allow the EIR to offer partial ownership of business to pay for the license. Once licensing is done, the EIR and venture firm would form and finance a startup business based on that technology.

Vassallo said their entrepreneur will be looking for technologies related to energy efficiency, green building material, renewables, and nuclear power, “in that order.”

So if you’re an entrepreneur looking to poke your head into some national labs, give one of these firms a call. That’s how Foundation Capital found their first EIR, Vassallo said.

8 Responses to “DOE & Venture Firms Headhunting Together”

  1. Green energy is definitely the best solution in most cases. Technology like solar energy, wind power, fuel cells, zaps electric vehicles, EV hybrids, etc have come so far recently. Green energy even costs way less than oil and gas in many cases.