Tyler Lancaster, a Chicago-based investor with Energize Capital, shares his investment thesis and why Houston-based Amperon caught his eye. Photo courtesy of Energize Capital

One of the biggest challenges to the energy transition is finding the funds to fuel it. Tyler Lancaster, partner at Energize Capital, is playing a role in that.

Energize Capital, based in Chicago, is focused on disruptive software technology key to decarbonization. One of the firm's portfolio companies is Amperon, which raised $20 million last fall.

In an interview with EnergyCapital, Lancaster shares what he's focused on and why Amperon caught Energize Capital's attention.

EnergyCapital: Energize Capital has been investing in climate tech for the better part of a decade now. What types of companies are you looking for and how are these companies’ technologies affecting the greater energy transition?

Tyler Lancaster: We partner with best-in-class innovators to accelerate the sustainability transition. This means identifying climate technology companies at various stages of maturity — from early commercialization to approaching the public markets — that we can help scale and realize their full potential. We invest in software-first climate technology businesses, with a focus on asset-light digital solutions that can help scale sustainable innovation and enable the new energy economy. Our portfolio currently drives software applications across renewable energy, industrial operations, electrification & mobility, infrastructure resilience, and decarbonization. We primarily focus on proven, commercially available and economically viable energy transition solutions (solar, wind, batteries, heat pumps, etc.). These solutions suffer from challenges related to efficient deployment or operations, where enabling digital platforms can play a key role in optimizing costs.

EC: Amperon is one of Energize Capital's portfolio companies. What made the company a great investment opportunity for Energize Capital?

TL: Accelerating the energy transition will require critical forecasting tools like what Amperon provides. This is underscored by the escalating impact of extreme weather events, increasing penetration of variable energy resources, like wind and solar, on the supply side, and surging demand growth driven by flexible loads and rapid electrification. We believe the need for Amperon’s platform will only continue to grow, and their increased raise from Series A to Series B showed they are scaling smartly. We’ve also known Sean Kelly, Abe Stanway, and the entire Amperon team for a long time, and building strong relationships with founders is how we like to do business. Amperon has built a blue-chip customer base in the energy sector in a very capital efficient manner, which is more important than ever for startups operating in the current equity market environment.

EC: One of the energy transition’s biggest problems is sourcing and storing reliable and affordable energy. What have you observed are the biggest problems with Texas’ electricity grid and what types of new tech can help improve these issues?

TL: Today’s electricity grid and the demands we’re putting on it look very different than they ever have. Major changes in climate and extreme weather show how perilous and unreliable the power grids in this country are, particularly in regions like Texas that don’t have the right infrastructure to shield grids from unusual temperatures — just look at the damage done by 2021’s historic Winter Storm Uri. And consumer demand for electricity is increasing as electrification accelerates globally. The makeup of the grid itself is shifting from centralized power plants to distributed clean energy assets like solar arrays and wind turbines, which brings issues of intermittent electricity production and no traditional way to forecast that.

Tech solutions like Amperon are the only way to navigate the nuances of the energy transition. With global net-zero goals and impending Scope II accounting, Amperon’s expertise in granular data management further enables companies to build accurate, dynamic forecasting models with smart meter data and get more visibility into anticipated market shifts so they can optimize their energy use — all of which helps to create a more resilient and reliable power grid.

EC: You are also on the board of the company, which recently announced a collaboration with Microsoft’s tech. What doors does this open for Amperon?

TL: Partnering with Microsoft and offering its energy demand forecasting solution on the Azure platform enables Amperon to better serve more companies that are navigating the energy transition and a rapidly evolving grid. Many power sector companies are also undergoing cloud migrations with Microsoft Azure having high market share. This partnership will specifically accelerate Amperon’s reach with utility customers, who typically have slower sales cycles but can greatly benefit from improved accuracy in energy demand forecasting and adoption of AI technologies.

EC: As a non-Texas investor, how do you see Houston and Texas-based companies’ investability? Has it changed over the years?

TL: While most tech startups are concentrated on the coasts and in Europe, we see Texas emerging as a hub for energy and climate focused startups due to its vicinity to energy giants, which represent potential customers. Texas leads the country in renewable energy production and sits at the forefront of the transition. Energy companies based in this region are relying on technology innovation and software tools to modernize operations and meet the evolving demands of their customers.


This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Energy tech platform Amperon raised $20 million. Photo via Amperon.co

Houston-based, AI-powered electricity analytics company raises $20M series B

funds secured

A Houston startup has raised $20 million in its latest round of funding in order to accelerate its energy analytics and grid decarbonization technology.

Amperon Holdings Inc. announced today that it closed its series B round at $20 million. Energize Capital led the round and the D. E. Shaw group, Veriten, and HSBC Asset Management, an existing investor, joined in on the round. Additionally, two of Amperon's early customers, Ørsted and another strategic utility partner, participated in the series B, which brought Amperon’s total funding to $30 million.

The fresh funding will support the company in evolving its platform that conducts electricity demand forecasting to a comprehensive data analytics solution. Amperon's solution has an opportunity to really impact the industry's "increasingly turbulent power grids worldwide" among climate change and rapid adoption of variable energy resources, like wind and solar, the company explains in a news release about its raise.

“The energy transition is creating unprecedented market volatility, and Amperon is uniquely positioned to help market participants better navigate the transitioning grid – both in the U.S. and as we expand globally,” Sean Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon, says in the release. “We've already established ourselves as the premier provider of electricity demand forecasting software. With this funding, we are poised to leverage our cutting-edge AI models to enable customers to unlock more value from data and asset optimization, spanning from on-site solar to commercial load management with backup generation and microgrid deployment.”

With the round, Energize Capital Partner Tyler Lancaster joins the Amperon board of directors.

“Today’s electricity grid is facing uniquely modern challenges as we work to rapidly transform our energy assets and decarbonize our economy,” he says in the release. “To facilitate the energy transition – a multitrillion-dollar market opportunity — we need more software tools custom-built to handle the complexities of our evolving energy markets.

"Amperon’s AI-powered analytics platform is exactly that, providing the accuracy and sophistication necessary for energy players across the value chain to manage their energy use and streamline our collective pathway to net-zero," he continues. "After getting to know Sean and the Amperon team since inception, Energize is thrilled to officially partner with them as a lead investor in this funding.”

In the past two years, Amperon reports that it grew revenue by five times, as well as quadrupled its team. The company was founded in 2017 and raised its $7 million series A last year.

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Houston innovation leaders secure SBA funding to start equitability-focused energy lab

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A group of Houston's innovation and energy leaders teamed up to establish an initiative supporting equitability in the energy transition.

Impact Hub Houston, a nonprofit incubator and ecosystem builder, partnered with Energy Tech Nexus to establish the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab to accelerate startup pilots for underserved communities. The initiative announced that it's won the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, or GAFC, Stage One award.

"We are incredibly honored to be recognized by the SBA alongside our esteemed partners at Energy Tech Nexus," Grace Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, says in a news release. "This award validates our shared commitment to building a robust innovation ecosystem in Houston, especially for solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals at the critical intersections of industry, innovation, sustainability, and reducing inequality."

The GAFC award, which honors and supports small business research and development, provides $50,000 prize to its winners. The Houston collaboration aligns with the program's theme area of Sustainability and Biotechnology.

“This award offers us a great opportunity to amplify the innovations of Houston’s clean energy and decarbonization pioneers,” adds Juliana Garaizar, founding partner of the Energy Tech Nexus. “By combining Impact Hub Houston’s entrepreneurial resources with Energy Tech Nexus’ deep industry expertise, we can create a truly transformative force for positive change.”

Per the release, Impact Hub Houston and Energy Tech Nexus will use the funding to recruit new partners, strengthen existing alliances, and host impactful events and programs to help sustainable startups access pilots, contracts, and capital to grow.

"SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One winners join the SBA’s incredible network of entrepreneurial support organizations contributing to America’s innovative startup ecosystem, ensuring the next generation of science and technology-based innovations scale into thriving businesses," says U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman.


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Texas-based Tesla gets China's initial approval of self-driving software

global greenlight

Shares of Tesla stock rallied Monday after the electric vehicle maker's CEO, Elon Musk, paid a surprise visit to Beijing over the weekend and reportedly won tentative approval for its driving software.

Musk met with a senior government official in the Chinese capital Sunday, just as the nation’s carmakers are showing off their latest electric vehicle models at the Beijing auto show.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Chinese officials told Tesla that Beijing has tentatively approved the automaker's plan to launch its “Full Self-Driving,” or FSD, software feature in the country.

Although it's called FSD, the software still requires human supervision. On Friday the U.S. government’s auto safety agency said it is investigating whether last year’s recall of Tesla’s Autopilot driving system did enough to make sure drivers pay attention to the road. Tesla has reported 20 more crashes involving Autopilot since the recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In afternoon trading, shares in Tesla Inc., which is based in Austin, Texas, surged to end Monday up more than 15% — its biggest one-day jump since February 2020. For the year to date, shares are still down 22%.

Tesla has been contending with its stock slide and slowing production. Last week, the company said its first-quarter net income plunged by more than half, but it touted a newer, cheaper car and a fully autonomous robotaxi as catalysts for future growth.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the news about the Chinese approval a “home run” for Tesla and maintained his “Outperform” rating on the stock.

“We note Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai since 2021 as required by regulators in Beijing,” Ives wrote in a note to investors. “If Musk is able to obtain approval from Beijing to transfer data collected in China abroad this would be pivotal around the acceleration of training its algorithms for its autonomous technology globally.”

Houston organization celebrates zero waste goal

earth day win

Discovery Green celebrated Earth Day with a major milestone this year — achieving it’s Zero Waste goal.

The nonprofit, along with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Houston Public Works, are announced that the 2024 Green Mountain Energy Earth Day, which generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage, diverted the majority of that waste from landfills. "Zero Waste," as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is successfully diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill.

On Earth Day, Discovery Green composted 2,200 pounds of waste and recycled 1,300 pounds of trash.

“Part of Discovery Green Conservancy’s mission is to serve as a village green for our city and be a source of health and happiness for all. Our goal is to sustain an exceptional environment for nature and people,” Discover Green President Kathryn Lott says in a news release. “We are beyond thrilled to have achieved Zero Waste certification.”

The achievement was made possible by volunteers from the University of Houston – Downtown.

Steve Stelzer, president of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s board of directors, acknowledged how rare the achievement is in a public space in a major city like Houston.

“Discovery Green Conservancy stepped up and made a commitment to weigh, measure and record everything. They should be congratulated to have done this at this scale,” Stelzer adds. “The Conservancy said they were going to do it and they did. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The 2024 event included:

  • 31,000 visitors in attendance
  • 60 + exhibitors
  • 100 + volunteers
  • 12 artists
    • 9 chalk artists
    • Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    • Mark Bradford
  • 25 Mark Bradford artworks made of scrap presented in partnership with Houston First
  • 4 short films shown
  • 3,836.7 pounds of waste collected during Green Mountain Energy Earth Day