As an entrepreneur, Gary Kremen knows something about growth industries.
In the early 1990s, he had enough foresight about the porn industry’s potential online to register the domain Sex.com. Later, he moved into online dating, founding dating site Match.com.
These days, however, the San Francisco-based serial founder is all about solar. The company he founded in 2006,
“It feels a lot cleaner,” says Kremen, chairman of Clean Power Finance, which he started several months after selling Sex.com to a private buyer for a reported $14 million.
He estimates that currently about 1,000 installers of solar power equipment nationwide are using Clean Power Finance’s system, which includes tools to generate quotes, estimate energy bill savings, locate third-party financing, and apply for government rebates.
Clean Power is one of several startups offering financing applications for solar installations. One software play, San Jose, Calif.-based OnGrid Solar, provides tools for estimating energy savings from solar panels.
Others, including venture-backed Solar City and SunRun, provide both financing and oversight of solar installations. Foster City, Calif.-based SolarCity previously raised $50 million in venture funding from
For Clean Power investors, a key draw was that its applications are suited to a broad range of installers, says Claremont Creek Managing Director Nat Goldhaber.
“What interested us was the degree to which they had created at tool for solar installers who were small, medium, or some of the larger installers,” says Goldhaber, who notes that currently small-scale installation businesses make up a sizeable share of the market.
For Oakland, Calif.-based Claremont, Clean Power is one of two cleantech-related deals announced in the past week. The firm also led a $2.5 million financing round for EcoFactor, a residential energy management service.
The Redwood City, Calif.-based company sells a residential energy management system that works with a home’s thermostats and wireless broadband Internet to develop a cost-effective heating and cooling strategy. Goldhaber says the system can potentially cut heating and cooling costs by about 20%, in large part by operating more during times when cost of power is lower.
Looking ahead, Goldhaber says Claremont is planning to make more cleantech investments, making the sector a key focus of its early stage fund, with a particular focus on energy efficiency plays.