VERGE Accelerate names 14 pitch-perfect startups

ShutterstockSatenik Guzhanina

The VERGE Accelerate program is at the heart of our mission to accelerate innovation around sustainability and climate change. The program, which we have included at VERGE events since 2013, gives early-stage entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch from our main stage to a live audience of potential partners.

Spearheading VERGE Accelerate has been one of my favorite parts of my job over my nearly five years with GreenBiz. The program has provided global exposure for more than 80 startups, many of which have found funding or customers as a result of their participation at our events.

Today, we announced the 14 finalists selected for our upcoming VERGE 17 conference and expo, taking place Sept. 19-22 in Santa Clara, California. And like VERGE itself, the quantity and quality of participants, and the resulting program, grows every year.

The finalists for VERGE 17, and even the pool of nearly 100 nominations from which they were chosen, are by far the strongest and most diverse group in Accelerate’s history. We received submissions from every corner of the world: from Singapore to Sydney, London to Los Angeles, and from Athens, Berlin and Mumbai. There was, as always, strong representation from the U.S., including applicants from Boston, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.

It’s not just the diversity of people and where they’re from. I am especially pleased with the diversity of solution types represented across our 14 finalists, which include 75FAutocaseBioplastic Recycling, COI EnergyCurbMyClutter, Katz Water Technologies, Lilac Solutions, Mogol, Symbiot Technology, Renewal Mill, RosettaBlockThe Renewal WorkshopSylvatex and watt-r.

COI Energy, the self-described "Uber of Energy," is a female-led, minority-owned business, helping utilities and their commercial and industrial customers improve the performance of their business by generating new revenue streams.

We have several transportation-focused solutions, including Mogol’s traffic management software, which communicates directly with vehicles to decrease traffic and accidents, and watt-r's social enterprise, which is creating solar-powered vehicles that serve both as a water transport and a clean energy resource for people in developing countries.

I was especially surprised and delighted by the number of strong submissions in our circular economy category, five of which made it into the final 14: Bioplastic RecyclingCurbMyClutter; the Renewal Mill; the Renewal Workshop; and Sylvatex.

To qualify for VERGE Accelerate, each entrepreneur was required to submit a 60-second video explaining the challenges and market opportunities their solutions address. (A few examples are embedded below.) Of the nearly 100 applicants, we selected 35 semifinalists, who had their pitch videos put to public vote over the last three weeks.

More than 34,000 votes were cast to help determine the 14 finalists. In addition to public votes, finalists were selected based on the eligibility criteria that their companies:

  • are developing commercially viable technologies related to at least one of our VERGE tracks;
  • have a product ready for testing or deployment; and
  • have less than $5 million in combined investment and annual revenue.

We will also be offering VERGE Accelerate finalists, among other selected startups, the opportunity to participate in the Startup Showcase — a pop-up co-working space in our VERGE Interconnect Expo, designed to connect entrepreneurs with potential investors and VERGE 17 attendees. The showcase is presented in partnership with Elemental Excelerator, the Incubatenergy Network and Oregon BEST.

This year’s VERGE Accelerate program is further strengthened by partnerships with a diverse group of allied organizations that support early-stage ventures, including CalSEED, Cleantech Open, Cleantech San Diego, Closed Loop Fund, Cyclotron Road, Elemental Excelerator, F6S, Greentown Labs, Imagine H2O, Keiretsu Forum, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), New Energy Nexus, Oregon BEST, Powerhouse, Prospect Silicon Valley, Silicon Climate and Tumml

Cox Conserves is this year’s VERGE Accelerate sponsor. Its director of sustainability partnerships, Evelyn Bolden, will serve as one of our Industry Experts to help evaluate and offer real-time commentary on stage, along with Matt Petersen of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Shiraz Haji of Zipdragon Ventures and Marilyn Waite of Village Capital.

It’s hard to pick a favorite among this year’s cohort. We’ll have to see what happens when our finalists battle it out — amicably, of course — on our stage in September. As always, who wins will be up to you — the VERGE audience, both in the room and tuned in to our global livestream. I hope you can join in.