NREL.gov—Paul Schwartz, who recently traveled from New York to be part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s 2017 Industry Growth Forum (IGF), was beaming after his 10-minute presentation to assembled venture capitalists, government representatives, and cleantech experts. “The one investor I really wanted was on that panel, so it was like having a private pitch session,” said Schwartz, chief executive officer and co-founder of ThermoLift. Think TV’s “Shark Tank,” minus the sharks circling the talent pool.
His start-up makes a natural gas-driven heat pump and air conditioner designed to reduce heating, ventilating, and air conditioning costs by 30%-50% and was selected in 2015 as part of the second cohort of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2). Through IN2, funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and managed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), ThermoLift is getting $250,000 for technical help, including systems modeling for the machine. Schwartz visited the laboratory in October and “the feedback we’ve gotten from NREL has already been incorporated into our gen three model.” Schwartz is optimistic that his enterprise could have up to 20 prototypes circulating in a year. “We’re really happy today,” he said.
He wasn’t alone. The recent forum was buzzing with one-on-one pitch sessions, networking-and perhaps most of all-the news of a $20 million IN2 expansion, making a total of $30 million. The additional funding will allow IN2 to leverage its building commercialization model to sectors such as transportation, sustainable agriculture, and energy storage. These funds will also help develop a Channel Partner Award program for its more than 40 channel partners from universities, accelerators, and other incubators. The expansion will help a pipeline of startup referrals be considered for participation in the IN2 program, as well as continue to provide a framework for future development strategies.
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