Wednesday December 2, 2020 0 comments
DENVER -- Now in its seventh year, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) has amassed $383 million in total investment money, seen seven mergers, and helped create 402 clean energy jobs.
A couple of years after its original investment of $10 million in 2014, Wells Fargo doubled down and pumped an additional $20 million into IN2 and has recently stayed the course with yet another $20 million.
The incubator was designed from the start to consider a diverse cross section of startups -- many of which might appear risky to traditional venture capitalists -- collect them into cohorts, connect them with technological expertise, and ultimately accelerate their clean technologies to the marketplace.
In 2014, Wells Fargo and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) designed the blueprint for taking promising energy efficiency innovations, de-risking them, and delivering them to market for the benefit of everyone and to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
The IN2 network exposes startups to a variety of experts, shepherding them and their technologies and products to the energy marketplace.
Companies selected for IN2 join a cohort, averaging about five companies each.
But the funding does not end with Wells Fargo’s philanthropy. An important part of IN2’s “ecosystem approach” to accelerating clean technologies involves bringing in other foundations and investors, customers, and cleantech market experts.
“We were seeking the opportunity to broadly support the cleantech ecosystem with a pretty novel approach,” said Ramsay Huntley, sustainable finance strategy leader at Wells Fargo.
“We looked at the horizon -- where is venture capital flowing today and where is it not? We wanted to tune in to where capital was not being deployed.
“We launched the program with a focus on energy efficiency in commercial buildings because of the shortage of venture capital and the potential payoff in terms of carbon reduction.”
In 2014, the program’s inaugural year, IN2 hosted four companies in its portfolio. A year later it added a cohort of six companies and in 2016 a cohort of 10 companies.
By the 2017 summit it had become clear the IN2 model could be replicated to address sustainability imperatives in other areas of the economy.
The new “verticals” the summit identified as priorities were agricultural technology (the food-energy-water nexus), residential technologies that contribute to affordability, and transportation.
In 2018, the program announced it would expand to include agriculture technology and bring in the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center as a strategic partner to help select and validate agtech startups.
In 2019, IN2 selected its first agtech cohort of five companies and later that year included eight residential technologies in its buildings’ efficiency cohort.
Today, the program has hosted a total of 46 companies with clean technologies focused on commercial buildings, affordable housing, and agtech.
With the additional $20 million tranche of funding awarded in 2020, IN2 plans to host two cohorts per year through approximately 2024.