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Companies To Watch: Private Companies

October 20, 2009

Company: Tesla Motors
Year founded: 2003
Funding Raised: $278 million
Daimler, Valor Equity Partners, Technology Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DBL, Westly Group, Compass Venture Partners

This startup beat the major players to the punch by bringing the first highway-ready all-electric car to market, but the car remains a luxury item at more than $100,000. With a $456 million loan from the government, Tesla now hopes to introduce a more modestly priced electric sedan.

Company: EnerG2
Year founded: 2003
Funding Raised:$11 million
OVP Venture Partners, Firelake Capital Management, Yaletown, WRF Capital

Recently received $21.3 million in stimulus funding to build a facility that will manufacture electrodes and other materials for ultracapacitors, which can store and release energy faster than batteries. Better ultracapacitors could enable carmakers to cut the size and cost of battery packs used in plug-in hybrid vehicles by as much as half.

Company: Synthetic Genomics
Year founded: 2005
Funding Raised: Undisclosed
Draper Fisher Jurvetson, BP, Meteor Group, Biotechonomy, Plenus, S.A. de C.V.

Founded by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter, Synthetic Genomics has partnered with ExxonMobil and BP on projects that would use genetic engineering to make cheap, cleaner fuels from algae and coal-bed methane.

Company: Range Fuels
Year founded: 2004
Funding Raised: Over $100 million
Passport Capital, BlueMountain, Khosla Ventures, Leaf Clean Energy Company, PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund

Produces cellulosic ethanol using a thermochemical process that turns biomass into synthetic gas and then liquid fuel. The company is set to open the United States’ first commercial cellulosic-ethanol plant in Georgia next year.

Company: Qteros
Year founded: 2006
Funding Raised:$30 million
Battery Ventures, BP, Camros Capital, Long River Ventures, Quantum Group of Funds, Venrock, Valero

Uses a unique type of microbe to convert biomass into ethanol in one step, potentially replacing a multistep process that uses expensive enzymes to break down cellulose.

Company: Advanced Transport Systems
Year founded: 1995
Funding Raised: Over $25 million

Spun out of the University of Bristol in 1995, the company is developing a personal rapid-transit system that uses less energy than other forms of mass transit. The first version of the technology is currently in operational testing at Heathrow Airport.

Company: Mascoma
Year founded: 2005
Funding Raised: $100 million
Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Flagship Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Marathon

Is commercializing a cheap one-step process for producing cellulosic ethanol, using specially developed yeasts and bacteria. Late last year the company started producing ethanol at a demonstration facility; it hopes to break ground on its first commercial production facility next year.

Company: Better Place
Year founded: 2007
Funding Raised: Over $300 million
VantagePoint Venture Partners, Israel Corporation, Israel Cleantech Ventures, Morgan Stanley, Acorns to Oaks II

Is building charging stations for electric vehicles worldwide and also hopes to open chains of battery-swapping stations, but this will require car companies to standardize their batteries.

Company: Fisker Automotive
Year founded: 2007
Funding Raised: Over $150 million
Palo Alto Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

With a half-billion-dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Energy recently secured, production of a luxury plug-in hybrid, the Karma, is expected to begin next year. The company is also working to bring a more affordable model to market.

Company: Systra Group
Year founded: 1995
Funding Raised: Funded by revenue
RATP Group, SCNF Group

Constructs subway and rail systems throughout the world–including what will be the world’s largest automated light rail, currently under construction in Dubai.

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