LA’s CleanTech Startups Tackle Climate Change

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

LA’s CleanTech Startups Tackle Climate Change

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator's (LACI's) second annual Power Day was planned long before heavy smoke blanketed the West Coast for weeks, forcing tens of millions of residents to shelter indoors. But the noxious air provided organizers of Thursday's pitch competition for startups a visceral reminder of climate change's danger and the need to act on the sort of innovations that will be on display.

"We've gone from the cleanest air L.A. has seen in decades in April to the dirtiest air in five months," said Matt Peterson, who was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti as L.A.'s first Chief Sustainability Officer and is now CEO of the nonprofit LACI. "We know we want to have that cleaner air and safer neighborhoods that we enjoyed during the lockdown."


LACI was founded by the city and the Department of Water & Power as a public private partnership in 2011 to promote the growth of the clean energy industry and has helped 72 portfolio companies raise $159 million in funding.

This year's Power Day, which will be virtual, will showcase 14 companies, such as Sparkcharge, which makes a portable high-speed EV charger and Xeal, which uses predictive AI software to maximize the profits of electric vehicle charging stations.

"It really gives an opportunity for smaller startups like us to share with what we're doing and meet strategic partners," said Xeal co-founder Nikhil Bharadwaj. (The company closed a seed round last month led by Rocket Fund, LACI Impact Fund, Pasadena Angels, Emerging Ventures, and Ramez Naan Ventures.)

The showcase comes a week after Governor Gavin Newsom's landmark announcement that the sale of all gas and diesel power vehicles will be banned in California starting in 2035. The landmark order aimed at cutting greenhouse emissions will likely fuel demand for the very types of businesses that LACI helps build. "It's enormous," said Peterson. "It's a big deal."

He says solving climate change will require a combination of government help and commercial innovation. "It really takes a collaboration," he said. "And it's not just Elon Musk and Tesla. There are alot of amazing entrepreneurs coming forth with pieces of the puzzle."

Rose McKinney-James, managing principal at McKinney-James & Associates and Energy Works LLC, will provide the keynote address. Other panelists include MetroLink CEO Stephanie Wiggins and Metro CEO Phil Washington.

Startups participating in Power Day also include: NeoCharge, ePave, Substance Power & Mobility, TBM Designs, Alumina, SEED, Noria, JumpWatts, ChargerHelp, Maxwell Vehicles, Green Light Lab and Camus Energy

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Courtesy of Amanda Groves.

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