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Austin Technology Incubator Graduates Six Clean Energy Companies: Atonometrics, Dorsan Biofuels, Firefly LED Lighting, Ideal Power Converters, OpenAlgae and RRE Solar

Tonight, at a special graduation and alumni event, the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), a not-for-profit part of the IC2 Institute of The University of Texas at Austin (UT), will graduate 21 companies.  Of those 21, six companies were part of ATI’s Clean Energy portfolio, including Atonometrics, Dorsan Biofuels, Firefly LED Lighting, Ideal Power Converters, OpenAlgae and RRE Solar.  These companies have collectively achieved remarkable business successes and have created hundreds of jobs for Texans.

Over 20+ years, ATI has developed and refined industry specific capabilities, currently organized into Information Technology, Wireless, Clean Energy and Bioscience sectors. In each industry sector, ATI brings its portfolio companies deep domain expertise and market- and technology-specific networks of advisors and investors. Tonight’s graduation event showcases successes in all four sectors, including six remarkable companies in clean energy.

Founded in 2001, the ATI Clean Energy Incubator (CEI) is one of the longest-established clean energy incubators in the United States and has a privileged position since UT does more energy research than any other university in the world. Through a strong partnership with the local electric company, Austin Energy, CEI has historically focused on electricity-related startups and is continuing the leadership role as a founding participant in the Pecan Street Project, which is running a $30 million smart grid/smart premises demonstration project in Austin. Currently, CEI is working successfully across the clean energy and clean tech spectrum with companies in the important spaces of water, energy management & efficiency, transportation, and green building technologies.

CEI has always invested in building the clean energy/clean tech ecosystem in Central Texas.  With Austin Energy, CEI hosts the annual Clean Energy Venture Summit, the premier clean energy investment conference in Texas.  The team also partners with the CleanTX Foundation to host CleanTX Forums and Solar Energy Entrepreneur Networking (SEEN) events in Austin. CEI is supported by the City of Austin, the Texas State Energy Conservation Office and the US Department of Energy. The six Clean Energy graduates include:

Atonometrics is a leading supplier of test and measurement technology for the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry.  The company has a worldwide presence with customers in Europe, Asia and North America.  Germany’s leading PV national laboratory, Fraunhofer, has adopted Atonometrics’ products in their PV lab.

Dorsan Biofuels was an early-stage biotech company with a proprietary technology for creating fungal biocatalysts capable of producing advanced biofuels and chemicals from agricultural, municipal and industrial waste materials.  Dorsan Biofuels raised enough angel money and SBIR funding from the US DOD to perform the research required to secure the IP and successfully completed a sale of those assets to Novozymes A/S, a large multinational producer of high-value chemicals, in December 2011. Dr. Kay Hammer returned to ATI as CEO of Dorsan Biofuels after also being the co-founder, along with Robin Curle, of one of the very first portfolio companies for ATI 20+ years ago. In 1991, Hammer co-founded Evolutionary Technologies International (ETI) – the first spin-out from MCC – to commercialize the results of a 3-year research project to build an enterprise solution to data integration management.

Firefly LED Lighting, founded in 2009, provides patented Firefly LED lighting to numerous commercial properties and residences with long life and high efficiency, using only 10% of the electricity versus incandescent lamps. With up to 60,500 hours of light output, Firefly LED lamps are the brightest, most energy efficient LED lights on the market. Made here in the USA in Texas, Firefly lighting is in large hotels, government buildings, restaurants, commercial properties and universities. Notably, the Texas-based, revenue generating company received a $3 million ETF grant and is bringing manufacturing jobs to the state.

Ideal Power Converters (IPC) makes electric power converters critical to clean energy installations, especially commercial-scale solar. Its PV inverter, as one example, reduces the weight and size of conventional inverters by 90%, disrupting this multi-billion dollar market. Recognized by the State of Texas with a $1 million ETF investment, and $2.5 million from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, production of these lightweight systems will also create thousands of clean tech jobs in Central Texas.

OpenAlgae enables low-cost recovery of oils from algae – a solution that requires novel technologies and disciplines ranging from biology to engineering, physics to water management. Algae processing requires a series of difficult separations. The difficulties lie not in the separations, but in doing each separation in a cost-effective, scalable way. OpenAlgae efficiently and cost-effectively concentrates algae from water and recovers oils from algae without using solvents or drying. Founded in 2008, OpenAlgae is owned by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas at Austin and Organic Fuels Holdings, Inc., Houston, Texas.

RRE Austin Solar develops large-scale solar farms and plans to become a 500MW+ solar developer within 5 years. It is developing the largest solar energy farm in Texas, the Pflugerville Solar Farm, where it will produce 60 MW. RRE wants to provide renewable energy through solar PV and become a change agent of clean energy perception.

“It is amazing to be part of ATI during a phase of explosive growth of clean energy and technology companies here in Central Texas.  It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with these six early-stage clean energy companies and assist in getting them to the point of where they are today,” said Mitch Jacobson, Clean Energy Co-Director. “We are very proud of these six companies who are helping to solidify Austin’s and ATI’s leadership in the clean energy and clean tech industry. We look forward to watching their continued success and helping more companies prosper in this very exciting industry.”


Laura Beck for ATI