Those who attend the Earth Day Texas expo April 21-23 in Fair Park might get a glimpse of the future of clean energy and technology.
That’s because for the first time, Earth Day Texas has dedicated exhibit space for more than 30 green tech-related startups, all of which are seeking funding from private, green-economy investors. The E-Capital Investment Summit, a private event occurring a day before the Earth Day Texas event occurs, will be like eco-friendly speed-dating for investors and innovators.
Private and family investors looking to back green-technology innovations, but not necessarily seeking an immediate return on their investment — called “patient capital” — will tour the E-Capital Innovation Expo a day early, and will meet with startup leaders to hear their pitches.
Dozens of such investor groups have signed up to hear pitches from numerous start-ups, some from Dallas, others from across the United States. Networking, pitches and panel discussions will occur in a private, daylong event, on Thursday, April 20, the day before Earth Day Texas publicly kicks off.
If there’s a match, funded innovations could become common in the marketplace.
Among those innovators will be Arun K. Gupta, CEO and founder of downtown Dallas-based Skyven — whose technology concentrates the sun’s heat for use in manufacturing. Gupta got a feeling for what to expect when he exhibited Skyven tech at last year’s Earth Day Texas event.
Gupta said his exhibit drew attention from both domestic and international investors.
“I connected with a customer in Asia, with a couple potential customers in California, and a few in Dallas.”
Arun K. Gupta
“I connected with a customer in Asia, with a couple potential customers in California, and a few in Dallas,” said Gupta, who indicated that contacts could generate more than $100 million in work for his company, which is still developing the technology toward implementation. “The great thing about Earth Day Texas is that they bring in so many people, but also exhibitors and a lot of potential commercial and industrial customers. Green energy is already a priority for many of them. So, it’s mutually beneficial.”
Attendance at Earth Day Texas 2017 – billed as the largest Earth Day festival in the United States – is expected to exceed last year’s turnout of more than 130,000.
Gupta added that last year’s Earth Day Texas event gave him insights into his potential marketplaces: his potential client in Asia spoke of trouble the company was having accessing traditional energy and fuel sources; his potential California customers, meanwhile, told him they face increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
Those encounters reinforced for Gupta the notion that companies in the future will rely on multiple green-energy solutions.
E-CAPITAL INNOVATION EXPO WAS CREATED BECAUSE OF INVESTOR INTEREST
Investor interest in Skyven and other exhibitors at last year’s Earth Day Texas led event organizers to create the E-Capital Innovation Expo and the E-Capital Investment Forum, said event director Matt Myers.
Myers said breakthroughs in tech — including connecting devices to the internet (also known as the Internet of Things (IoT) — have given Earth Day, a broader appeal.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, shortly before the launch of the Environmental Protection Agency, and at a time when a scent in the air was a barometer for industrial production and an economy’s health. The first Earth Day was the result of as much a political movement as it was a science-driven initiative.
“Technology is politically agnostic,” said Myers. “If it’s good for the Earth, it doesn’t mean it can’t be good for profit.”
Myers received his master’s degrees in public administration and in international development from Tsinghua University (also known as China’s MIT) in Beijing, where he said scientists were striving to resolve issues arising from pollution from industrial production in China.
“Technology is politically agnostic. If it’s good for the Earth, it doesn’t mean it can’t be good for profit.”
Myers said he sees public policy initiatives for reducing pollution and increasing efficiencies readily complementing advances in wind power, water and energy conservation and Smart City tech.
“With the environmental challenges we face, there have been two schools of thought — that we can solve our problems with policy or innovation,” Myers said. “I believe that it takes both to complement each other. But we (at the E-Capital Innovation Expo/E-Capital Investment Forum) are focusing on the innovation piece.”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory (via its Chain Reaction Innovations section) and the U.S. Department of Energy are also slated to send staffing and to exhibit at the expo.
“I think it’s really needed in the industry,” said Gupta of the effort to join investors with green-tech innovators. “But more than that, this represents a tremendous driving force for innovation. Yet it doesn’t get much attention. So, it’s great that Matt’s putting a focus on it.”
ECO-HACKATHON ALSO IS PLANNED
Aside from the investor/innovator forum and exhibits, Earth Day Texas will also host an eco-hackathon with more than 1,200 participants. The event, EARTHACK, will open 7 p.m. Friday, April 21, and will continue until final judging, at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23. A primary sponsor is Toyota Connected. Potential coders can register here.
Those who are interested in attending as an investor or an innovator are invited to contact Myers via email at [email protected].
Nonprofit Earth Day Texas was founded in 2011 by philanthropist Trammell S. Crow.
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