The Cleantech Open (CTO) continues to pump out companies with aspirations to change the world, and many of them are from our area. I was fortunate to be a part of the effort earlier this year, as a judge for the western regional finals in Oakland. The winners—Apeiron Technology, Sepion Technologies and South 8 Technologies—are going on to compete in January at Cleantech Open Global Forum for a national grand prize.

From its founding in 2006, this cleantech startup accelerator program has aimed to find and foster the top cleantech ideas in the country. Advances and innovations are happening at a furious pace, as evidenced by the companies I judged. They included the following cleantech niches:

  • Batteries that operate at cold temperatures
  • Personal solar systems for homes
  • Modular electric car-charging stations
  • Solar heating for water
  • Compliance software for reporting environmental compliance
  • Software to accelerate battery designs
  • International solar efficiency system

To be sure, to become a “promising startup” in the eyes of the CTO, the participating companies need more than a niche and a standout idea. To make it, these startups need to have a solid base—and that’s something as judges we were expected to explore. In fact, the judging process starts months prior with an initial screening of companies that involved reading business plans, analyzing financial models and seeing if the companies can execute on their vision. The judges included sustainability and business experts, investors and technologists.

The three western regional winners will compete with other emerging environmental and energy technology companies for $100,000. Although every company has their eyes on the big prize, there’s a lot of mentoring, small prizes and contacts that are made just by being in the competition. The team that runs the regional event was very professional and fun to work with, and I recommend anyone who wants to get involved to give them a call.

The quality of presentations was outstanding as the CEOs of each company spent 7-10 minutes clearly articulating their visions. Following the Q&A sessions, the judges had a spirited debate about the presentations and then entered their scores in a calculator to get a weighted average for each presentation. The process was clean, transparent and fair.

The great news is that all the contestants are working on real plans, have clear expertise in their fields and have created excitement within the cleantech community. Aperion, for example, has come up with a process for converting carbon from methane or natural gas into products like graphene sheets and graphite, and the process is emission-free. Congratulations to the winners and the following companies that were also recognized:



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Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads business development for our finance and accounting consulting firm’s cannabis, high tech and cleantech practices. Chris can be reached at [email protected], or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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