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Cleantech Open Alumni Success Story: ElectraDrive

Posted by at 11:25 AM, 05/12/2010

Winner of the 2008 California Clean Tech Open Transportation category, ElectraDrive is developing a family of plug & play electric drivetrains to expand the availability of electric-drive options to the vehicles that need them most: pickups, vans, SUVs and large sedans

Founded in 2008, ElectraDrive is a company that aims to provide value to truck fleet managers who use their technology to:

1. Reduce costs

2. Meet emissions targets

3. Extend life of service vehicles

Aiming their pilot rollout to Alameda County, the company views state and local government customers who manage light and medium trucks as their initial customers.

Their involvement with Cleantech Open stemmed from a meeting with Jim Robbins organized through the company’s attorneys Cooley Godward in the summer of 2008. Jim, who was at that time the executive director of the Environmental Business Cluster, persuaded CEO Fraser Murison Smith and his co-founder Ray Jenks to enter the competition. Though there was some initial reluctance on the part of the founders, in that competing in the Cleantech Open would distract from launching the business itself, “it wound up being the way we launched our business” according to Mr. Smith. “The Cleantech Open was tremendous value for $250 because we got the equivalent of an MBA crammed into about 8 weeks, without the accompanying student debt. It's a great way to learn how to start a business, irrespective of how well you do in the competition.”

Following their competition win, the company is enjoying increased prestige as it approaches potential investors for funding of future product development. Though CEO Murison Smith cautions that life post-Cleantech Open can sometimes be difficult for alumni companies, he also suggests that support for alumni companies to raise funds, and possibly further business plan mentoring could be helpful. One approach that shows some promise is the spider investment network the ETDC is setting up to bring investors and early stage companies in clean transportation together to provide seed capital to the member companies while spreading the risk to the investors. ElectraDrive is targeting corporate and public investors, suggesting that such untapped funding sources may be additional funding sources beyond traditional Angel/VC funding routes.

For ElectraDrive, the market is enticing: Public fleets spend about $2 billion a year to procure light trucks, and commercial fleets spend about another $7 billion. Potential customers for ElectraDrive include fleets and commercial non-fleets, such as construction companies or dealerships. At present, there are few other credible market entrants. Other systems for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle applications will be developed by ElectraDrive in conjunction with established drivetrain partners in those sectors.

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