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Lilliputian Systems, a Wilmington, Mass.-based company developing fuel cells for cell phones, laptops and other consumer electronics, has raised $28 million in venture-capital funding. Mouli Ramani, vice president of business development, told us Friday that the company plans to use the money to help integrate its fuel cells into customers’ products and to upgrade a pilot facility into a “small-volume” manufacturing plant, as well as for business development. He wouldn’t disclose the size of the planned factory, but said Lilliputian plans to hire some 100 new employees, mostly to run the factory, in the next two years.
In this capital-poor environment — the Cleantech Group reported earlier this week that first quarter venture investments fell 41 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008 — Lilliputian’s funding is the latest sign that energy-storage startups seem to be making out pretty well, especially those targeting the consumer market. During the first three months of 2009, lithium-ion battery startup Boston Power raised $55 million, lithium-ion anode technology company Nexeon raised $14 million and ReVolt Technology raised $13 million for its zinc-air battery technology. Meanwhile, Bloom Energy is reportedly near to closing a $150 million round.
Lilliputian claims its ceramic solid-oxide fuel cells deliver five to 10 times more energy, for the same size, as lithium-ion batteries and weigh 20 to 40 times less. Of course, fuel cells have been long on promises and short on products for decades, with a history of delays and missed milestones. And some fuel-cell companies are definitely suffering in the sour economic times: Medis Technologies laid off some 50 workers last month.
According to Lilliputian’s web site, the company had already raised “more than $60 million” before this round. Investors include Stata Venture Partners, Altira Group, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Atlas Venture, Fairhaven Capital and Rockport Capital.