Miasole – our third cleantech deal

Jeff Andrews (pictured) and Peter Shannon have just completed an investment in a thin film solar cell manufacturer called MiaSolé in what constitutes our third investment in cleantech, after Liliputian (fuel cells) and AEB (electron beams). MiaSolé is a later stage play that brings a disruption in the cost base of manufacturing photovoltaic (PV) panels.  Atlas joins previous backers Kleiner Perkins and VantagePoint Venture Partners.

For context go back to my previous post on the evolution of the venture market; this is "brand extension" for us at Altas Venture.  We have been actively looking and investing in this space for a few years now and seeing more and more opportunities.  And often, the challenges of innovation in solar manufacturing do not look that different from semi’s and systems !

Huge Market

In 2005, 1,600 MW of PV modules were produced, at market value of $6.5B.   Another way to look at size: crystalline Silicon (cSi) use for photovoltaics for the first time exceeded use for semiconductor electronics manufacturing.  It’s growing fast: the module market is projected to reach $13B with 4,300MW of modules sold by 2010.  This analysis does not account for disruptive breakthroughs in cost which would likely drive additional demand growth, this market being very price elastic.

Fantastic team

MiaSolé’s management team comes to the PV industry with roots in thin film manufacturing from the disk drive and optical components industries. The team is led by David Pearce, who has been in the business for 35 years, of which 20 as President or CEO, and was involved in two IPO’s (Domain and Miniscribe).  He is working with Chief Scientist Dr Dennis Hollars, a PhD in AstroPhysics with 30 years of experience in thin-film manufacturing  and other strong profiles.

Disruptive approach

Current solar technology has respective module cost points of $3.00/W and $2.50/W. Whilst I cannot reveal much about the processes (Jeff has some Irish ancestors who are good are kneebreaking), let’s just say that Miasole will come in significantly below these price levels, thanks to the cost advantage created by its low capital equipment cost per unit of product. The cost advantage stems from the use of high volume, high yield, low cost manufacturing processes which the founding team brings from their 20+ years in the disk drive industry.

We will be announcing more investments in the segment soon.


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