EnerG2, a University of Washington Startup, Raises $8.5M for Energy Storage, Led by OVP

Xconomy has learned that EnerG2, an advanced materials company in Seattle, has closed an $8.5 million round of Series A financing, led by Kirkland, WA-based OVP Venture Partners and Palo Alto, CA-based Firelake Capital Management, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal. The news suggests that energy venture deals could be hot, even in the midst of a cold recession.

EnerG2 was founded in 2003, with technology from the University of Washington. The company is developing novel materials—synthetic carbon powder, carbon monoliths, nanocomposites, and others. It intends to use the stuff for applications like natural gas storage, hydrogen storage, more efficient solar cells, and “ultracapacitors” to replace traditional batteries, according to its website. EnerG2 is targeting customers in industrial, consumer electronics, and automotive sectors who need more efficient energy storage.

The startup is led by CEO Rick Luebbe, chief operating and financial officer Chris Wheaton, and vice president of research and development Aaron Feaver. Feaver did his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (always nice to acknowledge a fellow Illini alum), and came to the Seattle area in the late 1990s to work at Boeing. He co-founded EnerG2 while pursuing his Ph.D. at the UW, working with Guozhong Cao, a professor in the materials science and engineering department.

Feaver and Cao’s work included research on material-processing techniques to create new electrochemical properties at the nano scale (billionths of a meter). In 2004, EnerG2 formed a partnership with Cao to study carbon-based nanomaterials for storing energy and other applications. The work was initially funded by a $240,000 grant from the Washington Technology Center, a state-supported economic development agency that finances applications of university research. EnerG2 has also been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the UW Center for Nanotechnology.

The EnerG2 venture deal speaks volumes about the commercial promise of energy storage technologies, and the vibrancy of the local energy startup scene—particularly for technologies coming out of the UW. It also strikes me as a very smart deal for OVP, which has at least four cleantech companies in its portfolio—Carbonflow, Coda Genomics, M2E Power, and Tigo Energy—but none in the Seattle area until now. The 25-year-old venture firm has a couple of nanotech investments as well, but they are more on the biology side. OVP couldn’t talk about their latest deal just yet, but I hope to follow up with them in-depth soon.

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