Garage Technology Ventures’ “State of the Art: New Energy Technologies” Conference Highlights Innovations and Investment Opportunities

MENLO PARK, CA–December 15, 2003–A new generation of energy technologies ranging from fuel cells and micro-turbines to cost-effective solar cells and thin-film batteries, as well as grid optimization and network management systems, promises to radically change the way that energy is generated, managed and stored. The environmental, economic and geopolitical implications of these technology developments are huge. They also represent a dynamic new field of entrepreneurial activity that is drawing the close attention of venture investors.

Garage Technology Ventures gathered several leading experts and investors to address the potential of new energy technologies at its latest State of the Art conference, held December 11 at the Quadrus Conference Center in Menlo Park, California.

“The time is finally right for new energy technologies to be commercialized,” said Matt Horton, Garage Technology Ventures director. Over the past decade the market for these technologies has been “perpetually five years in the future, but that is now changing,” he noted in his introduction to the conference. “We are seeing clean energy technologies entering mainstream markets. For example, Toyota’s Prius hybrid has been named ‘car of the year’ by Motortrend and Southern California Edison has announced the construction of the world’s largest solar power plant.”

As an early stage investor, Garage is actively looking for innovative energy technology companies, especially those that leverage semiconductor, nanotech, software, and materials science technologies to achieve breakthrough results, Horton added.

Venture capital investments in the clean energy sector have increased sharply, as a percentage of total venture activity in the U.S., over the past three years, according to Joel Makower, co-founder and principal of Clean Edge, a leading research and consulting firm.

Makower moderated a panel discussion at the State of the Art conference. Also participating were leading venture capital investors in the new energy technologies field:

  • Raj Atluru, managing director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
  • Nancy Floyd, co-founder and managing director, Nth Power
  • Jim Gable, director, Chevron Texaco Technology Ventures
  • Joel Serface, venture manager, Eastman Ventures

“We are very bullish about this sector,” said Raj Atluru. “The level of innovation is enormous. A lot of core technologies that have been developed in laboratories over the past ten years are now ready to come to market.”

Nancy Floyd, whose firm pioneered venture investment in energy technologies, starting in 1992, has seen a marked change. “The quality of management teams at energy startups has improved as seasoned managers are drawn to the field. Markets for their products are developing and the technologies are progressing. So we are now getting serious traction and a good flow of deals.”

Makower urged conference attendees not to equate the new energy technologies revolution with the Internet revolution of the 1990s. “There’s a huge difference. We are not talking about untested entrepreneurs pushing dubious business models for unproven technologies designed for nonexistent market.” Rather, the new energy sector is about “real products and markets designed to address life’s essential needs.”

Also in contrast to the information technology sector, in which entrepreneurial activity is clustered in the Silicon Valley and a few other centers of technology development, energy startups are geographically dispersed around the U.S. and beyond, the venture capitalists said. Moreover, the early markets for many new energy generation, storage and management products will be outside the U.S. said Joel Serface. “The market drivers are global. We see important market opportunities in China, the European Union and Japan.”

At State of the Art: New Energy Technologies Garage also spotlighted three up-and-coming private companies.

  • Dustin Shindo, CEO , Hoku Scientific, described his company’s development of high-efficiency hydrogen fuel cells. The company plans to launch its first product, a unit that will generate electricity and supply hot water for a family home, in 2005. Primary markets for the unit will be Japan and parts of Asia where electricity costs are high, he said.
  • Michael Sauvanie, CEO of VoltaFlex, predicted rapid growth in the battery market. Breakthrough technologies such as the dry solid polymer electrolyte developed by VoltaFlex that can be used to create batteries of any shape and size will drive this growth, he said.
  • Solaicx has developed new manufacturing technology that promises to sharply reduce the cost of solar panels, while also increasing their efficiency and reliability, said Bill Yerkes, Chief Technology Officer. The company is designing advanced equipment for producing crystalline silicon wafers.

Garage provided conference attendees with a “New Energy Technologies Primer” detailing technology segments and the key companies involved in this emerging field.

State of the Art is an ongoing series of invitation-only, industry-specific events hosted by the firm Garage Technology Ventures. Garage’s objective is to bring together private equity investors and industry thought leaders to spotlight emerging technology companies and future technology trends, business models, and investment opportunities.

About Garage Technology Ventures
Garage Technology Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm located in Silicon Valley focusing on emerging technology companies on the West Coast. The firm is currently investing in its third fund, a seed-stage and early-stage fund anchored with an investment from CalPERS. Unlike some venture funds, Garage is happy to support first-time entrepreneurs who are building the next great technology company.

Media Contact:
Krause Taylor Associates
Betty Taylor

All securities and securities-related services are offered by Garage Technology Ventures’ wholly-owned subsidiary Garage Securities, Inc., member NASD/SIPC.

Copyright 2004 Garage Technology Ventures. All rights reserved. Garage Technology Ventures and are trademarks of Garage Technology Ventures. All other company names are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective owners.