We have a history of anticipating inflection points – and capitalizing on them.
5 KEY INFLECTION POINTS.
4 startups – 5 pioneering investments.
In the early 2000s, recent technological advances began a dramatic, decade-long drop in wind-power prices. AE saw the trend, and after losing out in the pursuit of Enron Wind and its assets to a global strategic, recognized that starting a development company as opposed to buying existing assets would be the winning approach to value creation. This resulted in the founding of the development company, Iowa Winds.
In the late 1990s, federal safety concerns over the fuel-additive MTBE were driving the demand for an alternative fuel-oxygenate. By the early 2000s, industry had begun to adopt ethanol as a potential substitute. Seeing a convergence with rising interest in net-zero carbon biofuels, AE made a prescient bet on ethanol and co-founded Hawkeye Renewables in 2003.
Smart Grid/Demand Response (DR) was a major theme in the last decade, driven by greater sophistication in wholesale electric power markets and increasing grid-balancing needs from rising renewables and aging infrastructure. AE saw this picture coming together in 2008, gathered some of the best minds in the industry in the AltEnergy boardroom, and launched Viridity Energy to address this market need.
The transition to renewable energy requires an optimized grid that can move electricity across regional boundaries to match supply and demand. To tap this opportunity, we funded and co-founded Tres Amigas – a transmission hub to unite the three isolated super-grids in the U.S. (Eastern, Western and Texas).
By the late 2000s, the exponential growth rate of renewables was making clear the need for cheap energy storage on a huge scale to smooth out renewables’ intermittency. AltEnergy saw the opportunity but also recognized that the technology wasn’t ready. While venture capital piled into the space, AE patiently watched and waited until 2012 to begin down-selecting from the dozens of start-ups. We hired top experts from MIT and NASA to vet the handful of most promising companies and technologies. The result of our methodical process led us to back Eos Energy Storage, a zinc-aqueous hybrid battery company. Thanks to its simple, ingenious design with five non-toxic materials and no moving parts, Eos offers substantial safety, operating and sustainability advantages over Li-ion and flow battery technologies.