En­ergy startup raises $4 mil­lion

Ideal Power Con­vert­ers, now with 10 em­ploy­ees, plans move to big­ger digs in Austin next year.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Kirk Laden­dorf kladen­dorf@states­man.com Con­tact Kirk Laden­dorf at 4453622.

The so­lar power in­dus­try has taken its lumps in the past few years, but Ideal Power Con­vert­ers, an Austin area startup, is bet­ting things are just get­ting started and that its tech­nol­ogy could be im­por­tant to the in­dus­try’s growth.

The 5-year-old com­pany, which be­gan sell­ing its first power con­ver­sion sys­tems this year, has raised $4 mil­lion in pri­vate in­vest­ment to pay for more prod­uct devel­op­ment and for growth. The fund­ing was ar­ranged by MDB Cap­i­tal Corp., a Cal­i­for­ni­abased in­vest­ment bank, which raised the funds from a group of in­vestors.

“This pro­vides us with im­por­tant fi­nanc­ing and a run­way to rapidly grow our busi­ness,” said Ideal CEO Paul Bund­schuh.

The 10-em­ployee com­pany, based in Spice­wood in west­ern Travis County, plans to move to ex­panded quar­ters in Austin next year.

Ideal Power makes com­mer­cial-level in­vert­ers, which take di­rect cur­rent coming from a so­lar power ar­ray, and con­vert it to al­ter­nat­ing cur­rent that can be used in a busi­ness or trans­ferred to the elec­tric grid.

Bund­schuh says its sys­tems are smaller, lighter, cheaper and far eas­ier to in­stall than con­ven­tional power in­vert­ers. Those ad­van­tages, and the price drop for so­lar power pan­els, could speed ac­cep­tance of so­lar power both in the U.S. and glob­ally. An­thony Di­Gian­domenico, head of in­vest­ment bank­ing for MDB Cap­i­tal, said the firm’s tech- nol­ogy “is prov­ing to be dis­rup­tive in sev­eral multi­bil­lion­dol­lar mar­ket­places in­clud­ing so­lar, elec­tric ve­hi­cle, grid stor­age and more.

“We are work­ing closely with them on ex­e­cut­ing a longterm fi­nan­cial and (in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty) strat­egy.”

While the new fi­nanc­ing is the com­pany’s first siz­able pri­vate in­vest­ment, Ideal pre­vi­ously won a $1 mil­lion grant from the Texas Emerg­ing Tech­nol­ogy Fund. It teamed with Rens­se­laer Polytech­nic In­sti­tute and Vir­ginia Tech to win a $2.5 mil­lion grant from the U.S. De­part­ment of En­ergy’s Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency last year.

The com­pany’s prod­ucts sell for about $10,000 for a 30-kilo­watt sys­tem. Its sys­tem weighs 94 pounds, far less than con­ven­tional prod­ucts, which can weigh over 1,000 pounds. They are made by a con­tract man­u­fac- turer in Austin. With soft­ware changes, the sys­tems can be used to run elec­tric grid en­ergy stor­age sys­tems, elec­tric ve­hi­cle charg­ing sys­tems or small elec­tric grids in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Early cus­tomers in­clude the city of Austin, Austin En­ergy and the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin. The com­pany also has li­censed its tech­nol­ogy to Lockheed Martin Corp. to de­velop mil­i­tary prod­ucts.

Mitch Ja­cob­son, who runs the clean en­ergy sec­tion of the Austin Tech­nol­ogy In­cu­ba­tor, calls Ideal Power “our poster child.”

“They came into the in­cu­ba­tor and were suc­cess­ful,” Ja­cob­son said. “I wanted them to put the pedal to the metal and go af­ter this mar­ket. I think they have some­thing very spe­cial.”

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