Growing a successful and highly competitive cleantech incubator requires some tough decisions. Luckily, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) ecosystem includes some tough—and well-informed—decision makers. IN2 boasts two external advisory boards (EABs), one comprised of industry experts in commercial buildings, the other of experts in agriculture. Both groups bring years of experience in their fields as well as a belief in entrepreneurs and a commitment to helping the Wells Fargo Foundation achieve its goal of a low carbon future. Most key, the EABs play a decisive role in the IN2 company selection process.
Selecting the Best of the Best
IN2 applicants go through a robust down-selection process to be invited into the program. First, they must be referred by an IN2 Channel Partner in order to apply. After applications are received, three different boards participate in the selection process.
A technical review is conducted by subject matter experts, technical review boards, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) or the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, depending on the technology focus of the cohort. Next, the Wells Fargo Board of Directors, which represents diverse lines of business and perspective within Wells Fargo, assesses applicants on their go-to-market strategies and value propositions. Then the industry and academic experts of the EABs make the final determination of which cleantech startups are accepted into the program.
Building on a Solid Foundation
IN2’s first EAB is made up of industry and academic experts in buildings technologies. Over the past five years and four application rounds, the Buildings EAB has selected 25 companies for IN2. The Buildings EAB members:
Cara Carmichael – Manager, Buildings, Rocky Mountain Institute.
AJ Dye – Vice President, Technology Banking, Square 1 Bank.
Michael Groppi – VP, Energy and Sustainability Programs, CBRE.
Holley Henderson – LEED Fellow, Founder, H2 EcoDesign.
Luke Leung – LEED Fellow, Director of Sustainable Engineering, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP.
Heidi Lubin – Co-Founder, Modula S.
Kevin Powell – Green Proving Ground Program Manager, General Services Administration.
Adam Semel – Managing Director, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP.
Meital Stavinsky – Partner, Holland and Knight.
Brian Steel – Co-Director, Cleantech to Market Program, Energy Institute at Haas, University of California, Berkeley.
Michael Turner – Director, Commercial and Industrial Energy Services, Colorado Energy Office.
Planting the Seeds of the Future
Based on the success of the cohorts focused on building technologies and the Buildings EAP that selected them, in 2018 IN2 expanded into the nexus of Food, Energy, and Water (FEW). One of the first items of business: select the FEW EAB. The recently selected agtech specialists that make up the FEW EAB are:
Roy Beckford – Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Leader, North Carolina A&T State University
Nicholas Brozović – Director of Policy, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Vonnie Estes – Vice President of Technology, Produce Marketing Association.
Chad Frischmann- Vice President and Research Director, Project Drawdown.
Scott Fullen – Owner, Mid-South Family Farms; Certified Crop Advisor, State of Tennessee.
Jill Kolling – Vice President for Global Sustainability, Cargill.
Bob Morris – Principal, AndMore Associates, LLC.
Mat Müller – Director of Business Development, Corteva Agriscience.
David Russell – Partner, Lewis and Clark Ventures.
Kiersten Stead – Managing Partner, DCVC Bio.
The newly formed FEW EAB recently selected the first agtech program cohort – five startups that focus on enabling more sustainable and profitable farming operations.
Beyond the Down Select
In addition to their role in the down-selection process, the EAB members from both boards provide decisions on program follow-on funding. Once a company’s initial project has been completed, it may be eligible to apply for additional funding to accelerate its achievement of key milestones that increase its value and speed to market. Currently, almost $750,000 in follow-on funding has been distributed to active portfolio companies to continue their technical validation with principal investigators.