Aclima, a San Francisco-based company which builds Internet-connected air quality sensors and runs a software platform to analyze the extracted intel, has closed a $24 million Series A to grow the business including by expanding its headcount and securing more fleet partnerships to build out the reach and depth of its pollution maps.
The Series A is led by Social Capital which is joining the board. Also participating in the round: The Schmidt Family Foundation, Emerson Collective, Radicle Impact, Rethink Impact, Plum Alley, Kapor Capital and First Philippine Holdings.
Though it has actually been working on the core problem of environmental sensing and intelligence for about a decade at this point, according to co-founder Davida Herzl.
“What we’ve really been doing over the course of the last few years is solving the really difficult technical challenges in generating this kind of data. Which is a revolution of air quality and climate change emissions data that hasn’t existed before,” she tells TechCrunch.
“Last year we announced the results of our state-wide demonstration project in California where we mapped the Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles. And really demonstrated the power of the data to drive new science, decision making across the private and public sector.”
Also last year it published a study in collaboration with the University of Texas showing that pollution is hyperlocal — thereby supporting its thesis that effective air quality mapping requires dense networks of sensors if you’re going to truly reflect the variable reality on the ground.
“You can have the best air quality and the worst air quality on the same street,” says Herzl. “And that really gives us a new view — a new understanding of emissions but actually demonstrated the need for hyperlocal measurement to protect human health but also to manage those emissions.
“That data set has been applied across a variety of scientific research including studies that really showed the linkages between hyperlocal data and cardiovascular risk. In LA our black carbon data was used to support increased filtration in schools to protect school children.”
“Our technology is really a proof point for emerging and new legislation in California that’s going to require community based monitoring across the entire state,” she adds. “So all of that work in California has really demonstrated the power of our platform — and that has really set us up to scale, and the funding round is going to enable us to take this to a lot more cities and regions and users.”
Asked about potential international expansion — given the presence of strategic investors from southeast Asia backing the round — Herzl says Aclima has had a “global view” for the business from the beginning, even while much of its early work has focused on California, adding: “We definitely have global ambitions and we will be making more announcements about that soon.”
Its strategy for growing the reach and depth of its air quality maps is focused on increasing its partnerships with fleets — so there’s a slight irony there given the vehicles being repurposed as air quality sensing nodes might themselves be contributing to the problem (Herzl sidestepped a question of whether Uber might be an interesting fleet partner for it, given the company’s current attempts to reinvent itself as a socially responsible corporate — including encouraging its drivers to go electric).
“Our mapping capabilities are amplified through our partnerships with fleets,” she says, pointing to Google’s StreetView cars as one current example (though this is not an exclusive partnership arrangement; a London air quality mapping project involving StreetView cars which was announced earlier this month is using hardware from a rival UK air quality sensor company, called Air Monitors, for example).
But flush with fresh Series A funding Aclima will be working on getting its kit on board more fleets — relying on third parties to build out the utility of its software platform for policymakers and communities.
“There’s a number of fleets that we are going to be speaking about our partnerships with but our platform can be integrated with any fleet type and we believe that is an incredible advantage and position for the company in really achieving our vision of creating a global platform for environmental intelligence to help cities and entire countries really manage climate risk at a scale that really hasn’t been possible before,” she adds.
“Our technology provides 100,000x greater spacial resolution than existing approaches and we do it at 100-1,000x cost reduction so our vision is to be the GPS of the environment — a new layer of environmental awareness and intelligence that really informs day-to-day decisions.
“We’re really excited because it’s taken really years of work. I incorporated Aclima 10 years ago and started really working on the technology around 2010. So this has taken… a tremendous amount of technical development and scientific rigor with partners… to really have the technology at a place where it’s really set up to scale.”
It finances (or part finances) the deployment of its sensors on the vehicles of fleet partners — with Aclima’s business model focused on monetizing the interpretation of the data provided by its SaaS platform. So a chunk of the Series A will be going to help pay for more sensor rollouts.
In terms of what fleet partners get back from agreeing for their vehicles to become mobile air quality sensing nodes, Herzl says it’s dependent on the partner. And Aclima’s isn’t naming any additional names on that front yet.
“It’s specific to each fleet. But I can say that in the case of Google we’re working with Google Earth outreach and the team at StreetView… to really reflect their commitment to sustainability but also to expand access to this kind of information,” she says of the perks for fleets, adding: “We’ll be talking more about that as we make announcement about our other partners.”
The Series A financing will also go on funding continued product development, with Aclima hoping to keep adding to the tally of pollutants it can identify and map — building on a list which includes the likes of CO2, methane and particulate matter.
“We have a very ambitious roadmap. And our roadmap is expansive — ultimately our vision is to make the invisible visible, across all of the pollutants and factors in the invisible layer of air that supports life. We want to make all of that visible — that’s our long term vision,” she says.
“Today we’re measuring all of the core gaseous pollutants that are regulated as well as the core climate change gases… We are not only deploying and expanding our platform’s availability but in our R&D efforts investing in next generation sensing technologies, whether it’s the tiniest PM2.5 sensor in the world to on our roadmap really having the ability to speciate COC [chlorinated organic compounds].
“We can’t do that today but are working on it and that is an area that is really important for specific communities but for industry and for policy makers as well.”
A key part of its ongoing engineering work is focused on shrinking certain sensing technologies — both in size and cost. As that’s the key to the sought for ubiquity, says Herzl.
“There’s a lot of hard work happening there to shrink [sensors],” she notes. “We’re talking about sensors that are the size of a thumb tack. Traditional technologies for this are very large, very difficult to deploy… so it’s not that capabilities don’t exist today but we’re working on shrinking those capabilities down into really, really tiny components so that we can achieve ubiquity… You have to shrink down the size but also reduce the cost so that you can deploy thousands, millions of these things.”
Commenting on the funding round in a supporting statement, Jay Zaveri, partner at Social Capital, added: “Aclima has successfully opened up an entirely new market domain with their innovative approach, tackling one of the biggest global challenges of our time. With a proven ability to quantify emissions and human exposure to pollution at global resolutions previously impossible, Aclima creates enormous opportunities for industry, cities and society.”
Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!
The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.
What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.
We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:
Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital
Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp
Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures
Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures
Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel
George McDonaugh, KR1
Candice Lo, Blossom Capital
Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners
Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel
Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker
We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.
Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.
That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.
So you can grab tickets here.
Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!
Awards by category:
The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.
Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.
Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.
• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers
• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network
• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage
• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics
• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking
• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters
• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking
• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene
• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!
That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…
Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325
Dandelion, a clean energy startup that was originally incubated inside Google parent Alphabet, has raised $4.5 million in funding to build out its business — a geothermal heating and cooling system for homes that claims it will drastically reduce its customers’ bills — it claims to cut bills in half (notwithstanding the upfront costs, more on that below) — while also being significantly more friendly for the environment compared to conventional systems that use gas and fossil fuels.
The company opened for business first in Upstate New York — a market with extreme cold and hot spells — where it says it has started to install systems in people’s homes, and it’s going to use the funding to help work through what it says is a waitlist of “thousands” of customers nationally.
“We have been overwhelmed with demand and support from homeowners across the country,” said Kathy Hannun, cofounder and CEO of Dandelion, in a statement. “This round will help us ramp up operations to serve these customers and launch our new and improved 2018 offering.”
The funding was led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation also from new investors BoxGroup, Daniel Yates, and Ground Up, and previous investors Borealis Ventures, Collaborative Fund, and ZhenFund, the Chinese-based VC associated with Sequoia in China. It brings the total raised by Dandelion to $6.5 million, including a seed round it announced when first spinning out in July of last year.
The impressive list of backers — and the fact that Dandelion was originally incubated at Alphabet X, the company’s “moonshot” factory — underscores a couple of trends worth pointing out.
The first is the double maxim that everything is now a “tech” challenge, and that the interests of the tech world touch everything. As legacy businesses continue to try to update their systems or become more responsive to some of the challenges of running their legacy operations, a company like Dandelion becomes a direct threat, or a potential, strategic acquisition target.
The second is the ongoing interest among tech investors and tech companies to expand their horizons and explore companies and ideas that might prove to be disruptive in the same way that tech has been, further down the line; or whose solutions could prove to be a helpful boost to their more direct tech interests — for example by becoming acquirers of data systems to run these services better, or by making the cost of electricity to run other services (like internet, or maybe, these days, bitcoin mining) less expensive. (Dandelion is already proving its role in that wider ecosystem: just earlier this month, it acquired Geo-Connections, a geothermal SaaS startup.)
“Over the next decade, homeowners across America will replace their expensive, conventional home heating systems with Dandelion geothermal,” said Yates in a statement. “I’m thrilled to be part of the team that will lead this transition.” Yates — who had founded the energy efficiency startup Opower, which went public and then was acquired by Oracle — is joining the board as an executive director with this round.
In the case of Dandelion, its challenge and opportunity has been in the world of legacy energy services. Built largely on fossil fuel systems and centralised operation models — you have large plants and generators located in one place that distribute their energy to smaller stations, which distribute to individuals — the idea behind Dandelion has been to build a heating and cooling system that is significantly more decentralised: it operates directly from a person’s home — or more specifically, underneath it — leveraging the ground’s natural state of being 50°F, in order to work.
One big issue with scaling up geothermal energy solutions prior to Dandelion has been the up-front installation costs, both from a financial and practical point of view. As Hannun has described it:
The process of installing ground loops in homeowners’ yards has typically been messy and intrusive, using wide drills that are designed to dig water wells at depths of over 1,000 feet. These machines are unnecessarily large and slow for installing a system that needs only a few 4” diameter holes at depths of a few hundred feet. So we decided to try to design a better drill that could reduce the time, mess and hassle of installing these pipes, which could in turn reduce the final cost of a system to homeowners.
The company’s solution has been to build a system that bores a much smaller hole (a few inches is all that’s needed) at a much shallower depth of hundreds of feet — making the installation something that can be done in less than a day.
So far, the company’s upfront costs might prove to be too much of a gating factor for the majority of homeowners. Installations run between $20,000 and $25,000 in upfront costs alone. For those willing to take the plunge — or dig into the challenge, as the case may be — over twenty years, the company has claimed that savings can be about $35,000.
The company also tells me that homeowners are buying a lot of these using financing and will save around 20 percent annually if they finance. (The savings percentage comes after a tax credit, a spokesperson said. “Here is a real example from one of our homeowners. He needed a 4-ton system, which is the size most homes require. He formerly spent $2,621 on fuel oil annually (832 gallons over the year at $3.15/gallon). To run geothermal, he requires $803 in additional electricity costs. With Dandelion pricing, starting at $115/mo, geothermal heating costs for his home are $1,380 + $803 = $2,183. This is about 20% savings annually for heating alone. His air conditioning will also be over twice as efficient with geothermal than it was with conventional a/c.”)
The savings in terms of using clean versus dirty energy, of course, come from the start.
European mobile device maker Fairphone, which designs modular smartphones with the aim of supporting repairability and encouraging sustainability, has taken in new investment of €6.5 million ($7.7M). It says it’s hoping to use the financing to build wider support for a push towards a circular economy for consumer electronics. Read More