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Viridi Parente’s $94.69 million round of Series C funding will put the company on track to become a major player in the broad national transformation toward electricity and clean energy, founder and CEO Jon Williams said this week.
Williams has been working on the idea since 2010, toiling at the details of using lithium ion batteries to store energy.
Working from a former American Axle automotive factor on Delavan Avenue, he says now is the time for the company to make its own transition.
“This is absolutely go-time for Viridi Parente,” Williams said. “The funding is to transition the company from innovation and initial production volumes to scale. That means a lot of things, and it takes a significant amount of funding.”
The company tapped several well-known local executives to major roles last year, including Dennis Elsenbeck as president and Steve Finch as vice president of manufacturing and community engagement. It is also in the process of renovating 70,000 square feet at its factory to increase manufacturing capacity.
Here are eight things to know about Viridi Parente following its funding round.
One of the largest North American construction rental companies is now an investor and strategic partner with Viridi Parente.
Sunbelt Rentals will be working with the Buffalo-based company to install electric powertrains on its equipment.
“We will develop platforms over the next 12 months to transition as much of their fleet as possible from diesel and gas to energy storage,” Williams said.
How important is that? Sunbelt has more than 1,025 locations and a fleet valued at more than $11 billion.
A small example of the partnership: Sunbelt bought the first 150 track loaders made by Bobcat Doosan this year, then turned to Viridi Parente to install electrical drive systems.
“We are thrilled to partner with Viridi Parente to bring products to the market that meet the increasing demands for non-fossil fuel dependent equipment our customers are seeking in order to achieve their carbon reduction commitments,” stated Brad Coverdale, Sunbelt Rental’s vice president of fleet and procurement.
National Grid is known as the local electrical utility. Now it is a local investor as well.
The company’s investment arm, National Grid Partners, participated in the Series C round.
Williams said National Grid was the first customer of Viridi Parente’s battery-powered construction equipment.
But he said National Grid’s vision goes deeper. Viridi Parente is developing a line of stationary energy storage stations that could be used on everything from buildings to parking lots.
“National Grid is a transmission company, so they get paid for every unit of energy they deliver to a customer,” Williams said. “Our point-of-use storage system allows them to do that without changing their transmission system.”
The Series C round was led by a previous investor, billionaire Paychex founder B. Thomas Golisano, through his Grand Oaks Capital investment company.
Golisano’s active investments in local startups also include PostProcess Technologies and Kickfurther.
Other previous investors were invited to participate as well including the Impact Capital group, Varia Ventures and Western New York Impact Investment Fund.
Viridi Parente’s post-money valuation on the round is $700 million, putting it in sight of the unicorn status (a private market value of more than $1 billion). Buffalo’s first software unicorn was minted in 2019, when ACV Auctions crossed the $1 billion threshold. Last year, Tackle.io became a unicorn, though it isn’t technically headquartered in Buffalo.
Most startups are built upon the particular insight of their founders.
For Williams, Viridi Parente is about the future of the energy industry.
Via government incentives and consumer preferences, the move toward cleaner forms of energy will be expressed through electricity. Some people hear about that trend and think about vehicles, others about solar panels. Williams thinks about it in systemic terms.
“We take crude oil and put it into transportation vehicles,” he said. “We make it into a product, then we take it from storage tanks to trucks and ultimately we pump out of the ground and into the point-of-use.”
The entire system is changing, he said.
“We have to replicate all of that with electrical energy,” he said. “You are talking about recreating the entire distribution system of fossil fuel, but with electrical units of energy.”
That transition will create major opportunity, Williams said. Viridi Parente’s first-mover advantage has allowed it to validate energy storage technology and ink major corporate partnerships, but he doesn’t expect to be alone for long.
“In 10 years, if there aren’t 500 companies coming into this space, then we all just decided to run on oil,” he said. “You’re talking about transforming every system in our economy from fossil fuel to electricity. Words like massive don’t even come close to defining what’s happening.”
Viridi Parente has about 60 employees now, and while Williams said he doesn’t like to give public headcount projections, it’s safe to say that he’s expecting to grow significantly throughout the business.
“This isn’t your typical project where you expand by 10 or 15% over three years,” he said. “This is the type of space where, if we get it right over the next 12 months, our expansion will be exponential. Not incremental.”
Viridi Parente is now a well-funded company with experienced leadership, important industry partners and a major opportunity.
It also has some work to do.
This year is about creating manufacturing capacity to accommodate the projected demand for Viridi Parente products, Williams said. Finch, the former plant manager at General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant, was brought in for that purpose. The $6 million renovation, expected to be complete in late February, will make the space for it.
All the preparations have been made. Now it’s just a matter of doing it.
“There is a lot of work in going from inventing products and having limited customer to being a fully integrated technology company,” Williams said. “This is a product that can scale across North America and the globe. There is a lot that has to happen to get that right.”