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Blog Entries With Tag "Micromidas"

Micromidas Wins $3.6 Million – An Interview with CEO John Bissell

Posted by at 3:15 PM, 05/03/2010

Micromidas, the 2009 Air Water & Waste category winner and a runner-up for the national prize, recently scored $3.6 million in a Series A funding round. The Davis, California-based company converts carbon from wastewater into strong bioplastics. While the company participated in the 2009 competition, they steadily progressed with their technology and building out their company. With this new funding from Alex Millar and other angel investors that represent the plastics and packaging industry, the company is keeping very busy. I caught a few moments with CEO John Bissell to ask him about how things are going.

Katie Roberts: How did this funding opportunity come about?

John Bissell: We were approached by our investors out of the blue. It wasn’t through our extended network. It was basically a marketing driven find -- they found us through various articles written about us and by talking to people. They heard about what we do and contacted me directly. I’ve put in a lot of work to build a network in Silicon Valley and it surprised me that they weren’t part of our network. That’s rare though; obviously the network still matters.

KR: What's the biggest thing you've learned about trying to get funding, as a startup?

JB: Every investor is different. Frequently investors are thought of as just the venture capitalist side, taking an equity slice. They’re thought of as having all the same expectations. If you have a pitch, then you create it to be whatever a generic VC would want to see. But individual VCs have different strategies for their 5 and 10 year funds. They have different expectations, different domain expertise, [and] different ways of working with their partners. So you need to have an understanding of the strategy of the investor. You can hone the pitch perfectly for what they’re looking for. It’s all about that one conversation. Getting that hook really matters.

KR: What advice would you offer to other companies that are startups looking for funding?

JB: It’s really easy to forget about everything else when you’re raising money. My family always says that having money is like breathing -- when you have it you don’t notice it, but when it starts to get short, it’s the only thing you ever think about. When you’re a startup raising money it feels like that’s the only thing that matters. In reality it’s not. I was personally raising money full time for six months. I didn’t do anything else. If my team had frozen for any time during that period then we wouldn’t have made it. We wouldn’t have been able to keep going as a company. But we would be way behind if we hadn’t been able to raise money. So having at least one a partner [beyond yourself] is critical. You need one person to run and develop the business with the technology. And you need one person raising money, because it’s a full time job.

KR: What's next for Micromidas, with this funding? Any interesting plans for the next few months?

JB: We just put a kilo scale unit online that’s 50 to 100 liter. It demonstrated the process, which was exciting and we got really good results. In the next two months we should have a pilot scale unit up and operating. That’s our core focus right now.

KR: Are you hiring anyone with that new funding?

JB: We are hiring! We just gave out and signed five offer letters in the last two weeks, and we’re going to sign three more in the next month. We’re hiring at a relatively rapid pace. We were looking at our headcount and determining that we had to fill 8-12 slots, and that meant we had to find seven people not currently in our network. That just sounded so brutal. It takes time to find talent. And it matters not just how good the person is and what their experience is, but how they fit into the team. We were really lucky because four [people] popped up with exactly [the skills] we were looking for, so that was really great.

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"We need to have a clear vision, aim high, and keep our eye on the ball."

Posted by at 10:48 AM, 12/17/2009

Cleantech Open volunteer Carole Low contributes this wrap-up report from the 2009 Cleantech Open Expo and Awards Gala. Thanks Carole!

EcoFactor Award

"We need to have a clear vision, aim high, and keep our eye on the ball."

Bill Weihl Green Energy Czar, Google 

Black blazers coupled with pressed shirts. Ready smiles accompanied handshakes aplenty. A steady buzz of 3,000 well-heeled cleantech fanatics that included investors, entrepreneurs, sponsoring companies, corporations, members of academia, press, and others interested in hearing clean-technology ideas and getting involved, convened yesterday at San Francisco's Masonic Center. On a day filled with sparkling sunshine, clear blue skies, and cold, crisp air, you could almost momentarily forget concerns of global warming, while meeting for the "2009 Academy Awards of Clean Technology." 

Nevertheless, speakers made it clear that combating the economic downturn and global warming remained two key challenges facing us all. Fittingly, the event coincided with Global Entrepreneurship Week, in which 88 countries participated this year. 

The competition section of the day's proceedings kicked off with the Global Cleantech Open Ideas competition. In tribute to the power of global ideas, startups worldwide had a chance to compete for bragging rights and $100,000 in services as the "People's Choice" Award recipient for the best global idea. Videos from New Zealand, Israel, Italy, China, Denmark, and the United States sought to dazzle the audience with ideas ranging from Danish Danfoss IXA's sensors for industrial environments to New Zealand's Nova Eco Tech's clean fuel conversion solution for vehicles. In the end, Puerto Rico-based Replenish Energy Enterprises secured the "People's Choice" Ideas Award with its micro-algae biofuels in a text invitational for the in-house audience reminiscent of Dancing with the Stars. 

To liven up the stage, entrepreneurs shared demos along with well-timed 3-minute pitches that didn't fail to entertain and at many times, delight. On entertainment alone, EcoFactor and LivinGreen Materials drew numerous laughs like no others. At the end of the day though, EcoFactor's residential energy solution of software-as-a-service (SaaS) that sits in the cloud and returns thermostat adjustments to take advantage of waste in a hands-free environment won the grand prize. 

All the stage presentations are on Cleantech Open's YouTube channel. Or watch this great video overview on 

For details on all of the finalists in the three regions from attending media, take a look at what earth2tech's Josie Garthwaite and Cleantech Group's Lisa Sibley had to say, or see Cleantech Open's official press release


2009 National Prize Winner: (valued at $250,000, including $100,000 in seed capital) — EcoFactor 

(1st runner-up - Alphabet Energy 2nd runner-up - MicroMidas)

2009 Alumni Award Winner Adura Technologies 

2009 National Sustainability Award Prize: $20,000 in startup services HydroVolts 

2009 People's Choice Global Cleantech Ideas Award Winner Prize: $100,000 in startup services Replenish Energy Enterprises Watch the video here

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Cleantech Open Announces Finalists in California Regional Competition

Posted by at 2:00 PM, 10/23/2009

On Tuesday, we at the Cleantech Open announced the winning teams in the California region – the suspense in the air was palpable!  The list of the 6 finalist teams is below…

In March of this year, 278 teams submitted entries — the most ever in the four-year history of the competition. 158 of those teams made it through to the California competition, of which 49 were selected as semifinalists. Last week, those teams presented to the Cleantech Open judges, who selected six finalist teams (one for each category) to compete in the national competition next month.

“This is the first year that we have run a California-only competition, and we saw a remarkable increase in the quantity and quality of the contestant teams,” said Rex Northen, our executive director.  “These California finalists will convene with teams from two other regions at the Cleantech Open Awards Gala and Expo, which promises to be a showcase of the best in global cleantech.”

The finalists and runners-up in the California competition of the Cleantech Open are:

Air, Water and Waste: Micromidas converts raw sewage into biodegradable plastic. John Bissell, CEO, commented: “The Cleantech Open has proven an exceptional opportunity from which we’ve drawn an amazing network of mentors and advisers. With their help, we are now eager to push into the pilot phase of our plan that allows us to demonstrate our value to our customers. Thank you, Cleantech Open.”
The runner-up in this category is Solum (agricultural sensing to prevent or reduce fertilizer runoff).

Energy Efficiency: Alphabet Energy plans to commercialize a disruptive, low-cost thermoelectric technology (developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) that captures wasted energy and converts it into electricity. Producers of waste heat can use this electricity to power their facilities, or sell it back to the grid. “When you're thrown into a pool like the Cleantech Open, it’s sink or swim! This has been an awesome experience that has pushed us to refine every element of our business,” said Dr. Matthew L. Scullin, CEO.
The runner-up in this category is PowerZoa (smart plug for residential use that monitors and controls energy usage).

Green Building: tru2earth makes the tru2earth Life Cycle Roof Tile — 50+ year-rated roofing materials made from recycled PET (water/soda bottle) plastic that are energy-efficient, and cradle-to-cradle recyclable. They allow for rainwater harvesting and, unlike other sustainable roofing materials, are price-competitive with asphalt shingles. “The Cleantech Open provided the framework, resources, and support to make us successful,” said Brian Pierson, CEO of tru2earth. “We plan on leveraging our win in the Green Building category to drive momentum in product development and fundraising, and we will be able to go to market two quarters sooner — a lifetime in the construction industry.”
The runner-up in this category is GreenPyro (produces enriched biochar, a replacement for compost that grows healthier plants, saves on fertilizer and water and mitigates climate change).

Renewables: Armageddon Energy sells a packaged retail residential rooftop solar energy system that is attractive, affordable, and easy to install. “The Cleantech Open helped Armageddon Energy get off the ground. It brought the founding team together, helped us build our business plan and make crucial business connections. And, by winning the Renewable Energy category, it will undoubtedly help us as a small company gain credibility with crucial customers, supply chain partners and investors,” said Mark Goldman, CEO.
The runner-up in this category is ZERE (Zero Emission Renewable Energy: energy plants powered by biomass fuel).

Smart Power: EcoFactor won for its personalized residential energy management solution for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, which enables consumers to reduce energy costs and save money on utility bills without sacrificing comfort or giving up control. John Steinberg, EcoFactor CEO, said: “This award should help us advance our mission of providing personalized energy efficiency that works for both consumers and service providers. This recognition also confirms the economic and the ecological value of moving beyond one-size-fits-all residential energy management solutions.”
The runner-up in this category is Velkess (grid-scale energy storage technology).

Transportation: FuelSaver Technologies’ real-time, shape-changing technology increases fuel efficiency in long-haul vehicles such as tractor-trailer trucks and buses. Full-body streamlining of the vehicle's aerodynamic profile minimizes drag at the back and underbelly of the trailer, and between the tractor and trailer. “The Cleantech Open helped me evolve from an inventor into an entrepreneur. The wonderful volunteers with whom I worked supported me, challenged me, taught me, and broadened my horizon. It’s an amazing group of people who want to make our world a better place,” said Doron Neuberger, founder and CEO.
The runner-up in this category is itMoves (the car equivalent of a netbook; light, small, easy to use, yet with extended capabilities via connection to the information cloud).

Stay tuned for the finalist announcements from our other two regions.  These finalists from all three regions (California, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Northwest) will convene for a final showdown at the Cleantech Open Awards Gala, held in San Francisco on November 17.

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