Mississippi Lures Khosla's Stealthy Soladigm for $130M Plant

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Soladigm, a tight-lipped startup working on energy-saving electrochromic windows, announced plans this morning to invest $130 million by the end of 2016 to set up its first large-scale plant in Olive Branch, Miss. The Khosla Ventures-backed startup will be helped along by a $40 million government loan and $4 million in other incentives.

While declining to specify planned production volumes for the Olive Branch project, CEO Rao Mulpuri told us in an interview that the 3-year-old company currently has a pilot facility in Milpitas, Calif. for producing 30-inch-wide windows. At the Olive Branch facility (a 300,000-square-foot, LEED Silver certified building originally designed as a warehouse near the multimodal transportation hub of Memphis, Tenn.), Soladigm will start cranking out windows 60 inches in width. The glass is designed to change from clear to tinted (but still transparent) on demand to control how much light and heat enters a building.

Previously the company has raised about $30 million in venture capital from Khosla Ventures and Sigma Partners, and scored a $3.5 million grant from the Department of Energy, Mulpuri said. Soladigm is “definitely not” going to request a loan guarantee from the DOE this year, but it’s considering applying next year. Right now, said Mulpuri, criteria for the program is “written well for renewable energy,” but is “not ideally suited” for energy efficiency.

So the company is pursuing private funds to meet its $130 million pledge — Soladigm has to invest that amount by 2016, and create 300 jobs, in order to access the full incentive package from Mississippi. This will be be a period of swift and ambitious growth for the company, which currently has 50 employees, up from just 25 around this time last year.

At this point Soladigm has completed research and development work on windows that Mulpuri says can cut electricity costs by 40 percent, and the company is now using the 30-inch lines to “get with key architects, builders,” and other channels for installation. Most of the $130 million investment in Olive Branch will be for equipment similar to what Soladigm already has up and running at pilot scale in Milpitas.

Image courtesy of Soladigm

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