Billion-Dollar Babies #6: 6 Unicorn Startups in The Clean Energy Industry

James Dargan

Looking Forward To COP26

According to the research report, 2021 renewable energy industry outlook, published by Deloitte, “renewable growth may accelerate in 2021 under a new administration focused on rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, investing heavily in clean energy, and fully decarbonizing the power sector by 2035.”

Some of the key takeaways in the report were that:

1) Deal activity has risen across the value chain as stakeholders consolidate positions;

2) Emerging hydrogen economy has expanded clean energy infrastructure;

3) New battery business models emerge at both utility and residential scale;

4) Wind is going offshore

With The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow this November, countries have submitted their intended nationally determined contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the framework of the Paris Agreement. Yet, many private companies are seeing how it’s not just the responsibility of national governments to deal with the gloomy aspects of climate change; they are acting in turn, too.

As with other Deep Tech sectors, the clean/renewable energy industry has a massive role to play in shaping the destiny of our planet and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels etc.

So, let’s do justice and highlight six of these unicorn startups in the Clean Energy industry whose valuation exceeds a billion dollars.

1. Northvolt (Estimated valuation: $11.75B)

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Northvolt was founded as SGF Energy in 2015 (before changing its name to Northvolt in 2017) by Peter Carlsson, a former executive at Tesla Motors, and Paolo Cerruti with the intention to supply the automotive industry with electric vehicle batteries.

All this has been made possible with Northvolt’s high-performance lithium-ion cells based around proprietary Lingonberry NMC chemistry available in cylindrical and prismatic formats, which are both “sustainable and attainable”.

Northvolt has raised a total of $6 billion in funding over nine rounds. The latest funding, a Venture — Series Unknown round, was raised in June of this year. According to CNBC, Northvolt’s valuation now stands at $11.75 billion, though the organization has been reticent on the general figure.

2. Sila Nanotechnologies (Estimated valuation: ~$1B to $10)

Founded in 2011, Sila Nanotechnologies is an Alameda, California-based company founded by Alex Jacobs, Gene Berdichevsky, Gleb Yushin, and Mike Speiser that enables lighter, safer, higher energy density lithium-ion batteries for mass adoption of electric vehicles, smarter, longer-lasting portable electronics, and broader use of renewable power sources.

With partners onboard that include BMW, Daimler and ATL, Sila Nanotechnologies design and produce engineered materials that dramatically increase the energy density of rechargeable Li-ion batteries.

Sila Nanotechnologies’ latest funding was raised in January 2021 from a $590-million Series F round, led by Coatue Management, bringing the total raised in funding over four rounds to $875 million.

The company now has a post-money valuation of $3.3 billion, according to CNBC sources, though Crunchbase estimates it to be in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.

3. Microvast (Estimated valuation: ~$4.19B)

Founded in 2006 by Diaokun Xiao, Xiang LI and Yang Wu as a research and technology-driven company, Microvast is a Stafford, Texas-based concern that has evolved into a global leader in battery storage solutions for mobile and stationary applications which operates manufacturing bases in the United States, China and Germany.

Presently, Microvast provides three different lines of fast-charging lithium-ion battery solutions, with different chemistries, performance characteristics and price points. Its main line of business is developing and implementing safe, long-life, fast-charging lithium-ion battery systems for electric and hybrid-electric municipal bus fleets.

Microvast has raised a total of $450 million in funding over two rounds. Its latest funding was raised back in April 2017 from a Venture — Series Unknown round.

In March of this year, it was announced that Tuscan Holdings, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), had agreed on a merger with Microvast. According to the financial advisory web portal Investor Place, Microvast’s pro forma enterprise value (EV) is some $4.19 billion.

4. QuantumScape (Estimated valuation: $3.3B)

QuantumScape is developing next-generation solid-state lithium-metal batteries for use in electric vehicles. Headquartered in San Jose, California, the company was founded in 2010 by Jagdeep Singh, Tim Holme and Fritz Prinz.

According to QuantumScape, some solid-state designs use excess lithium to form the anode, but its design is ‘anode-free’ in that the battery is manufactured anode-free in a discharged state, and the anode forms in situ on the first charge. Relative to a conventional lithium-ion battery, solid-state lithium-metal battery technology has the potential to increase the cell energy density (by eliminating the carbon or carbon-silicon anode), reduce charge time (by eliminating the charge bottleneck resulting from the need to have lithium diffuse into the carbon particles in the conventional lithium-ion cell), prolong life (by eliminating capacity fade that results from the unwanted chemical side reaction between the carbon and liquid electrolyte in conventional lithium-ion cells), improve safety (by eliminating the combustible organic porous separator and organic anolyte material in conventional cells) and lower cost (by eliminating the anode materials and manufacturing costs).

QuantumScape has raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding over nine rounds. The latest funding, valued at some $446 million and led by the Qatar Investment Authority, was raised in August 2021 from a Post-IPO Equity round. A month later, QuantumScape announced a merger with the special-purpose acquisition (SPAC) company Kensington Capital Acquisition. As a result of the merger, QuantumScape received $1 billion in financing and a post-IPO valuation of $3.3 billion, as per Crunchbase data.

5. Solid Power (Estimated valuation: $1.2B)

Based in Louisville, Colorado, Solid Power was founded in 2011 by Doug Campbell and Sehee Lee to develop solid-state rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and mobile power markets.

Solid Power does this by replacing the flammable liquid electrolyte in a conventional lithium-ion battery with a proprietary sulphide solid electrolyte, resulting in all-solid-state batteries that are safer and more stable across a broad temperature range, while providing a 50–75% increase in energy density compared to the best available rechargeable batteries.

Solid Power’s latest funding, a $130-million Series B round, was raised in 2021. To date, the company has raised a total of $186.5 million over five rounds.

In June of this year, Solid Power, backed by Ford and BMW, announced its IPO, bringing the valuation for the combined company to a reported $1.2 billion.

6. StoreDot (Estimated valuation: ~$3.5B)

StoreDot is an Israeli lithium-ion battery company based in Herzliya. Founded by Doron Myersdorf, Gil Rosenman and Simon Litsyn in 2012, its batteries deliver about a third of the energy density compared to competing lithium batteries and are estimated to cost twice that of competing lithium batteries, as well as promising to be able to charge its EV battery in under ten minutes.

In March 2021, StoreDot was reported to be in negotiations to merge with a SPAC at a $3.5 billion valuation.

StoreDot has raised a total of $130 million in funding over ten rounds. Its latest funding was raised in June 2021 from a Secondary Market round.

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