Australian cleantech accelerator and angel investor EnergyLab has thrown its weight behind Sydney-based start-up, Symbiot Technology, as the internet-of-things energy management company launches its first investment round on home soil.
Symbiot – which gained international attention as overall winner at last year’s VERGE Accelerate fast-pitch competition in California – has been working to get a foothold in the Australian market, with its advanced systems to optimise residential energy consumption.
The company cut its teeth with vacation rentals, creating hardware and software to automate remote control of devices by integrating booking calendars like Airbnb.
It has since moved on to applications in the broader energy market, including participation in demand response, and advanced control systems for the high-end residential sector, that can be controlled via Alexa and Google Home.
But as Symbiot co-founder and CEO Kyle Bolto told Smart Company in August 2017, it had proven “100 times easier” to pitch to investors in the US compared to Australia.
“It’s a cultural thing; what we’ve learnt is that in Australia … while the startup space is getting better, it [the ecosystem] is still hugely conservative and hugely skeptical,” he said.
“We don’t get the same response in the US — culturally it’s a lot different. It’s a shame, to be honest.”
This is where EnergyLab comes in.
As we reported here in February 2016, EnergyLab – which is the brain-child of Nick Lake and Piers Grove – is loosely based on a similar innovation in California, where the Australian co-founder of US solar leasing firm Danny Kennedy created SFun Cube, now known as PowerHouse.
This year, the government backed clean-tech accelerator scheme has more than doubled its intake, with a record 14 start-ups selected to join the program – demonstrating that energy innovation is clearly at a premium, even if innovative energy policy is not.
More recently, EnergyLab has formed an Angel Investment Group, with Symbiot chalking up its first investment.
Since Symbiot’s presentation at EnergyLab’s pitch night in July, six “angels” had joined an investment syndicate to help the start-up scale up by October.
The support, says Bolto, has dual benefits.
“In addition to the investment, working with EnergyLab’s angels has already opened up access to their professional network and their industry knowledge will be pivotal to the growth of our company,” he said in comments on Tuesday.
But the partnership is also a significant milestone for EnergyLab’s clean tech investor group, which is has attracted 50 “angels” in the three months since its inception.
EnergyLab, meanwhile, has been around for one and a half years, and has gathered together a portfolio of more than 30 start-ups, which it sees as a “great pool” for its investors.
“We created EnergyLab’s angel group because we saw the benefit for both the start-ups and the angels,” said managing director Piers Grove.
“Over the last 1.5 years, we have created a portfolio of over 30 CleanTech start-ups, a great pool for our investors. And the start-ups are also excited that they may have the chance to pitch to our investors when they’re ready.”
Grove says EnergyLab’s investor arm is particularly interested in startups that are post-revenue or have proven their product or service in a trial and are looking to raise between $50,0000 and $500,000.
As at August 2017, Symbiot had reportedly secured $350,000 in ongoing pre-seed funding from both Australian and US investors, and was looking to the US as well as Australia, as a key source of investment.
The next EnergyLab pitch night bringing start-ups and angels together takes place in early November 2018.