Helping green technologies grow
Startup companies like Go Electric receive technical assistance and funding as participants in Wells Fargo’s Innovation Incubator program.
Like many startup companies, Go Electric had passion and a great idea but wasn’t sure how its technology would fare outside the lab. Fortunately, in 2015 it applied for Wells Fargo’s Innovation Incubator program, or IN2, which helped the company validate its technology and expand its networks. Today, Go Electric sells its energy resiliency systems to military, commercial, and industrial customers.
“Many companies have sustainability goals,” said Lisa Laughner, founder, president, and CEO of Go Electric. “But Wells Fargo is the first large corporation we have worked with that engages with startups in achieving their corporate sustainability goals.”
On Feb. 28, IN2 was recognized at Global Green’s Annual Pre-Oscar Gala for its work to create sustainable solutions. Global Green USA, which is dedicated to advancing sustainable and resilient communities, hosts the Annual Pre-Oscar Gala as a fundraiser for building green schools, homes, and communities in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, the District of Columbia, and other cities across the U.S. At this year’s event, Laughner accepted an award on IN2’s behalf.
IN2 is a $30 million program, funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, supporting innovative technologies and innovators. IN2 is positioned to help companies think about their end customer, providing technical assistance that leverages the capabilities, facilities, equipment, and expertise that exist at NREL to help companies de-risk their technologies and ease their path to market adoption and deployment. When invited to participate in the IN2 program, innovative early-stage small businesses receive funding and scope meaningful projects aimed at helping to further develop, test, validate, and de-risk their technologies.
“Receiving the Global Green award is a great honor,” said Kate Moore, IN2 program manager. “It really validates that our program is working, and we’re having an impact in what we’re doing. This is a very unique program, and it only works because of the highly collaborative relationship that we have with Wells Fargo.”
As one of 20 current IN2 portfolio companies, Go Electric received financial support and access to NREL’s facilities and staff. “We wanted NREL to validate the capabilities of our energy resiliency system because it had a technology aspect we didn’t think anybody had demonstrated,” Laughner said. “They confirmed that we have unique microgrid technology. Working with the engineers at NREL was brilliant. That was great for us to better understand their world.”
Go Electric builds energy resiliency systems that keep a facility running if the electric grid goes out during an extreme weather event, for example, Laughner said. “We can link the energy assets at a facility — including renewables, like solar or wind — to keep it seamlessly operating in a microgrid. That in turn allows the facility to continue to support its local community during grid outages.”
Laughner and her two partners founded Go Electric in 2011. Today, the company has a staff of 27 and has expanded beyond its Anderson, Indiana, headquarters to open additional offices in Honolulu and Brooklyn, New York.
Go Electric has now entered the second phase of the IN2 program where it is planning to deploy one of its systems at a Wells Fargo branch. “Having an opportunity to demonstrate the technology at one Wells Fargo branch and — if all goes well — potentially other branches is exciting,” Laughner said. “Knowing we might be able to help improve energy resiliency in hundreds of communities and help keep them sustainable during grid outages is very gratifying. This has been a great program and is a great opportunity for any startup.”