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Idealab is Back

13 year old Pasadena based incubator Idealab is back with a vengeance but its new focus might be a surprise to those that remember its’ earlier successes –GoTo.com, Internet Brands Inc., and Cooking.com. The business incubator is now turning its attention to the green technology sector.

Eclipsed? Not totally.
Creative Commons License photo credit: James Jordan

According to Alana Semuels article, “Idealab rebounds with recent focus on clean technology” for the Los Angeles Times, Idealab:

In the last three years, it has created RayTracker Inc., a solar tracking solution for photovoltaic systems; Distributed World Power, which designs solar systems for developing countries; Aptera Motors, which designs fuel-efficient cars; and eSolar.

It is jumping into the environmental market as venture capital is flowing more into clean-tech companies. Investment in such firms shot up 73% in the second quarter from the previous quarter, according to Ernst & Young, and is expected to continue growing.

In the Los Angeles Times article, Semuels quotes Idealab founder Bill Gross that energy “is probably the biggest opportunity of the century. The world’s energy needs and the demand to make that clean energy is going to be a challenge and an opportunity for entrepreneurs.”

In 2000 Gross turned his attention to solar energy, which eventually led Idealab to eSolar. Semuels writes:

The concept for ESolar came about as Idealab engineers started thinking about ways to provide cost-efficient solar energy for utilities and realized that most solar panels in commercial use were too big to be cost-efficient.

“We tried to figure out the angle we could exploit where we can zig where other people zag,” Gross said.

They came up with what Gross calls an unorthodox plan: “Go small.” Rather than make giant solar panels, they sized them at one square meter. That made the panels easier to install, putting them together like Legos rather than erecting a giant solar facility.

The solar energy company built its plant in Lancaster in just 18 months and has already raised more than $130 million in investments. You can read the entire article here.