Larta gears up to energize energy startups with the DOE CAP
Larta Institute’s reach and range of commercialization assistance to early-stage companies is expanding dramatically. The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that Larta Institute won a contract to manage commercialization assistance provided to their SBIR grant recipients. The contract opened for bid in late 2016, and Larta Institute’s proposal was judged the clear winner. “This is a huge opportunity for us to enhance and deepen our sophistication in an area that is both exciting and of great consequence to humanity,” says Larta Founder and CEO Rohit Shukla. “The greatest opportunity is Larta’s to both seize and create – we can use this new vote of confidence as a calling card in identifying and bringing to commercialization a broad array of solutions to issues of energy efficiency and utilization at a time when these are increasingly important to most people.”
Under the DOE Commercialization Assistance Program (DOE CAP), the number of companies/innovators Larta works with could be as many as 450 per year. With as many as six to eight company cohorts launching each year, Larta looks to more than double the number of SBIR companies in our award-winning commercialization accelerator programs (CAPs). In 2016, Larta assisted 379 SBIR companies under four federal government agency contracts. We are now looking at a portfolio of 800 or more companies a year.
First contact with trends in the energy industry
It’s not just more business for Larta Institute, it also means Larta has a voice in the high-risk, high-impact area of innovations in the energy industry.
“Prior to the DOE contract, we had a steady trickle of energy companies through our NSF and USDA contracts,” said Carlos Gutierrez, Senior Business Development Officer at Larta Institute. “This new contract with DOE positions us firmly in the energy industry.”
It also puts Larta in a familiar position – privy to trends in innovation before they hit the market. “We can tell you what’s in the pipeline for bioscience and agriculture. Now we’ll be able to do the same with energy,” said Carlos.
Larta’s Institute’s award winning CAPs are the organization’s commercialization programs designed to meet early-stage innovations specific needs. “We have a model that works,” says Rohit. “And over the last 13 years we’ve worked out the kinks,” he added. CAPs are four to six month programs that prepare companies for their next steps in commercialization, and leverage Larta’s network and influence to further the commercial readiness of groundbreaking early-stage innovations that feed, fuel and heal the world.
Expansion within Larta
This is the first venture through which the organization has been able to dedicate a formal energy/clean tech practice. It comes at a time of expansion for the downtown LA-based business accelerator. Prior to the contract, Larta’s lean team added two new positions: one in Business Development, the other in Events. The development of the new contract will add yet three new hires to the Larta team.
President and COO Constanza Pachon says, “One of Larta’s longtime strengths has been our nimbleness. We’re staffing the Energy Practice with an industry expert to lead the practice, and reorganize professionals from our experienced CAP teams to the Energy Practice so that the program can hit the ground running.”
Heading this practice is director, David Berokoff, who brings nearly 40 years of professional experience in the energy industry. David was lead developer and manager of Sempra Energy’s successful emerging technology investment portfolio that included RD&D, technology demonstration and validation, and investment in energy-related startups. David has also been a Principal Advisor to Larta’s energy and clean tech companies for five years. “Not only do I understand the level of specialist service that defines the Larta experience, it is very exciting to be on the ground floor of a new practice at Larta Institute. I’ve known the organization and its leadership for many years, and as an insider have admired their approach to commercialization,” he says.
“Furthermore, David brings with him a lifetime of energy connections, which will add depth to our existing energy network,” Rohit added.
At the onset, Larta has 55 energy and clean tech experts in place who are ready to be the “principal advisors” for companies enrolled in the DOE CAP. “We need to let them (the companies) know that the greatest gift an innovator can have is the wisdom of others, offered at a price that is low and not a barrier,” says Rohit. “This wisdom is expressed through a network of domain experts, and Larta has the largest such network available to meet the varied challenges and opportunities of a diverse set of companies.”
What Larta’s Energy CAP offers
The DOE CAP follows Larta’s model, yet reaches farther than our current CAPs. The program now offers a menu of services and access to market research data. Participants will be divided into several tracks depending on whether they are SBIR Phase I or Phase II grant recipients, their current commercialization progress and acumen, and their business assistance needs. A host of services will be available to companies, such as state-of-the-art market research in the energy sector, 20+ hours of consulting with an industry mentor on commercialization issues specific to each company, and ample opportunities for strategic introductions, seminars, events. Some companies will even experience Larta’s FeedForward sessions – private, invitation only sessions portfolio entrepreneurs pitch their 18-month strategic plans to industry and domain experts and received candid, market-based feedback.
“It’s good to stretch our legs and make something that works, even better,” says Rohit. “And, it is exciting to work in areas so central to the worries and concerns of our planet,” he added.
As for the major influx of work and activity? “Bring it on,” says Marco Henkel, the new CAP’s program manager who has led Larta’s NSF CAP for the last five years. “We’ve been ready for this for a long time.”