Over the past couple of years the venture capital arm of chip giant Intel, Intel Capital, has been investing small sums into promising cleantech firms, from solar manufacturing startups, to companies building energy efficiency technology for semiconductors. Today Intel Capital indicated that it will continue that strategy, and announced $10 million worth of investments into five cleantech startups that it finds promising and will likely help its core business of selling communications chips.
Four out of the five investments were follow-on investments and one was a new investment. Here’s Intel’s lineup:
1). CPower: CPower is one of the largest demand-response providers in the country, and it helps utilities avoid outages and control the grid by reducing energy users’ electricity demand at critical times. Utilities pay for the unused megawatts, and energy customers get a cut of the cash. CPower targets large commercial, industrial and institutional power users, as well as some residential clients, in New England, New York, the mid-Atlantic region, Texas, California and Ontario, Canada. In April CPower announced that it had raised $10.7 million in its second round of venture funding to expand into new geographies and market segments, including some energy-efficiency programs beyond demand response.
This was Intel Capital’s first investment in CPower, and it’s a little bit outside of their comfort zone. But Steve Eichenlaub, managing director of platform technologies, cleantech and digital health for Intel Capital, said in a statement that Intel’s investments are “focused on accelerating adoption of Smart Grid technologies” — a bigger smart grid tech market will only boost Intel’s ability to sell its communication chips to utilities and smart grid vendors.
2). Grid Net: Like CPower, Grid Net is another way for Intel to invest in smart grid tech. Intel Capital invested in Grid Net back in 2006 and the funding announced today is Intel Capital’s third follow-on investment. Grid Net builds smart meter software based off of the wireless network standard WiMAX — Intel has supplied Grid Net with WiMAX-based chips and GE has developed a WiMAX-based smart meter. If Grid Net is able to get utilities to embrace WiMAX, it could create a massive market for Intel’s WiMAX chipsets. Grid Net’s founder and CEO Ray Bell says that Grid Net’s ecosystem is one of the first truly open-standards based approaches to building a meter.
Intel Capital is just one of the investors in Grid Net’s Series C funding. Braemar Energy Ventures led the round which also included Catamount Ventures, and GE Energy Financial Services.
3). Convey Computer: Convey Computer makes something called “hybrid-core computing,” which is software and hardware that helps high performance computers run faster with less energy. Intel likes the technology because it comes integrated with an Intel multi-core processor. Intel Capital’s investment was its second funding of Convey and was part of Convey’s $24.15 million Series B round, which also included Braemar Energy Ventures, CenterPoint Ventures, InterWest Partners, Rho Ventures and Xilinx.
4). iControl: iControl makes a home monitoring and energy management product. Earlier this month the company announced that it has raised $23 million in a series C round from Intel Capital, Cisco, Comcast Interactive Capital, GE Security, Tyco International’s ADT Security Services, Charles River Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ iFund. This was a follow-on investment from Intel Capital. While selling chips for “the digital home” (connecting entertainment, media, communications and work via screens and networks in the home) has been a hot space for years for Intel, the addition of energy management to the package could be a significant way to make the connected home a reality.
5). Powervation: Last but not least is the company I know least about. Perhaps because they’re based in Limerick, Ireland. The company is three years old and makes technology that helps electronic manufacturers create computing gear with better power performance and energy efficiency. Back in 2007 the company raised a Series A round of $10 million from Scottish Equity Partners, Intel Capital, Venture Tech Alliance, 4th Level Ventures and Enterprise Ireland. This latest funding was Intel Capital’s follow-on round.