Money moves

Houston renewable energy company closes $10M series B

Houston-based Quidnet Energy has closed a $10 million series B round and secured a big contract with the state of New York. Getty Images

Houston-based renewable energy company that focuses on clean energy storage closed its $10 million series B financing round and secured a major contract.

Quidnet Energy announced its latest round and the execution of a contract with the New York State Energy Development Authority. Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Canada-based Evok Innovations, which both previously invested in the company, contributed to the round. The round also featured new investors Trafigura and The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.

"Long-duration electricity storage is critical to the energy transition. It's exciting to see how Quidnet is bringing this viable long-duration solution to the market," says Mike Biddle, managing director at Evok Innovations, in a news release. "Because they are leveraging long understood geologic principles, we are confident that they can scale rapidly. We are pleased to support the Quidnet team through its next phase of commercial growth."

According to the release, the company will use the funds to grow its team and scale up its operations in order to be able to deliver commercial-scale projects across the country's electric grid.

"Integrating renewables and replacing retiring thermal generation require cost-effective long-duration electricity storage at an immense scale," says Quidnet Energy CEO Joe Zhou in the release. "While traditional pumped hydro has provided over 95 percent of the world's grid-scale storage, that approach faces significant siting and cost limitations going forward. Quidnet unlocks these constraints to fundamentally change the economics and deployment profile of long-duration storage."

Quidnet's deal with NYSEDA is a part of the organization's efforts to reduce the state's carbon footprint while also lowering the cost of traditional energy storage.

"Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is investing in the technology research and development needed to advance a 21st electric grid that can support the State's growing influx of renewable energy," says Alicia Barton, president and CEO of NYSERDA, in the release. "Congratulations to Quidnet on this opportunity to develop and demonstrate the value that this innovative technology can bring to New York as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a 100 percent clean electric grid."

Last month, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Energy Tech Venture Day online, and Quidnet was among the Houston energy companies to pitch virtually.

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Building Houston

 
 

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

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