4 Big Winners
at CET Challenge

CHICAGO (April 12, 2016) – More than 300 venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives gathered at Clean Energy Trust’s (CET) 6th annual Clean Energy Trust Challenge today, where 14 Midwest cleantech startups competed for a combined $1 million in early stage investment funding.  

The Clean Energy Trust Challenge, a nationally-acclaimed accelerator program and pitch competition, has served as a launch pad for cleantech startups in the Midwest through direct investment, commercialization assistance, mentorship and access to Clean Energy Trust’s broad partner network.

Since 2011, CET has invested in 29 startups across the Midwest. Clean Energy Trust Challenge companies have gone on to raise an additional $86 million in follow-on funding and have created more than 300 new jobs. The Challenge has jumpstarted more than 80 startups in the Midwest to date, including Detroit’s GreenLancer, and Chicago’s NETenergy and LuminAID.

“The group of finalists participating in our accelerator program this year is testament to the advanced level of innovation happening in the cleantech space,” said Erik Birkerts, CEO of Clean Energy Trust. “Midwestern startups are thriving, and Clean Energy Trust is proud to serve as a launch pad for companies that are leveraging science, innovation and technology to create a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”

A panel of industry experts judged the finalists and awarded prize funding to the following companies (background information on the winning teams and prizes can be found at the end of the release):

  • SPLT-Pritzker Foundation Award, $100,000
  • NexmatixWells Fargo Award, $240,000
  • NovoMoto-Power Clean Cities Award, $20,000
  • NovoMoto-U.S. DOE Cleantech UP Student Award, $50,000  
  • Nexmatix-United Airlines and Boeing Sustainable Energy Award, $45,000
  • NovoMoto-Hanley Family Foundation Award, $20,000
  • Nexmatix-ComEd Female CEO Award, $25,000
  • Hazel Technologies-Illinois Clean Energy Fund Award, $500,000

Former Duke Energy Chairman Jim Rogers and Method Co-Founder Adam Lowry delivered the keynote addresses at the event. Environmentalist and entrepreneur, Adam Lowry, built an eco-conscious soap empire founded on the principles of sustainability and green design. Jim Rogers was the first CEO in the electric utility industry to speak about the industry changes needed in the face of climate change.

Adam Lowry spoke about the importance of creating a collaborative business environment to drive clean energy innovation.

“Now more than ever we need this type of change,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to do better at getting businesses, governments and institutions to invest in renewable energy. Let’s try to do better at working with the infrastructure we’ve got, with the utilities we’ve got because they want to make this change happen.”

Jim Rogers talked about the importance of innovation in continually moving the energy industry forward.

“This is one of the most interesting times to be part of the energy sector.  I think the opportunities are huge now because fast forward 10 years now – our sector as we talk about it today will look much different… We are on the edge of a huge transformation,” Rogers said.  

About the winning companies and awards:

Hazel Technologies


Hazel Technologies makes FruitBrite, a drop-in product for produce retailers and distributors that can extend the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants by 2-4x. Produce retailers and distributors lose money when produce spoils, and lose customers when they can’t guarantee the shelf life of their produce. When placed in the produce storage space, the FruitBrite pod gradually releases small amounts of an EPA-approved active ingredient that stops the produce aging process and extends shelf life through an ethylene inhibitor delivery system.



NovoMoto is a social enterprise that aims to empower communities in Sub-Saharan Africa by providing renewable, sustainable electricity with its MicroPlant technology, particularly targeting the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Congo today, 59 million people live without access to reliable grid electricity, using Kerosene to meet their lighting needs, which is an expensive lighting source for these communities and poses significant health and environmental risks. NovoMoto provides an affordable alternative to kerosene by incorporating solar power technology, control and monitoring software, and local partners to deliver reliable electricity to Congolese homes.

Nexmatix, LLC


Nexmatix has developed a platform of products that makes pneumatics more efficient, including directional control valves used for actuation systems and air leak detection products that can recycle compressed air in non-actuated systems. Nexmatix is changing the industrial automation industry with an intelligent, energy efficient pneumatic platform that significantly reduces electricity costs for manufacturers. Pneumatic systems, used by 70% of manufacturers, have an efficiency of less than 20%, while Nexmatix reduces compressed air by an average of 20-40% through its patented line of smart directional control valves.



SPLT is an enterprise-first ridesharing platform that connects employees within organizations to share their commute. SPLT enables commuters with common travel plans to meet someone new within their organization, save money and reduce traffic congestion and CO2 emissions. This provides companies with a way to introduce an employee perk while building a company culture through shared experiences.


Pritzker Foundation Award $100,000 The Pritzker Foundation Award will be awarded to a startup based in Chicagoland from the Student or Early Stage categories.

Wells Fargo Award $240,000 The Wells Fargo Award will be awarded to a startup from the Midwest region focused on energy efficiency and/or technology for deployment in the built environment.  

Power Clean Cities Award $20,000 The Power Clean Cities Award will be given to a startup employing clean tech innovation to promote resilience and social justice in the urban environment.

U.S. DOE Cleantech UP Student Award $50,000 The Cleantech UP Student Award will be given to a startup from the Student track. The winning team will also advance to the Cleantech UP National Competition held in June in Denver, Colorado.

United Airlines and Boeing Sustainable Energy Award $45,000 The United and Boeing Sustainable Energy Award will be awarded to a startup from any of the three tracks. The winning business should help push forward energy efficiency and/or resources sustainability in aviation or ground operations. 

Hanley Family Foundation Award $20,000 The Hanley Family Foundation Award will be awarded to a startup from any of the three tracks. The winning business must have a focus on helping encourage sustainable practices in everyday life.

ComEd Female CEO Award $25,000 The ComEd Female CEO Award will be awarded to a woman-led startup from any of the three tracks. The prize underscores ComEd’s commitment to gender equality in the Energy and STEM fields.

Illinois Clean Energy Fund Award $500,000 The Illinois Clean Energy Fund Award will be awarded to one or more startups based in Illinois with a market ready product and early customer adoption.




About Clean Energy Trust:

Clean Energy Trust (CET) is an impact investor that fuels innovation to create a healthier environment and more prosperous future. CET launches, funds, and grows early stage clean energy startups in the Midwest through direct investment, venture development, and energy policy. Since 2011, CET has invested in 29 startups across the Midwest states. Clean Energy Trust Challenge companies have gone on to raise an additional $86 million in follow-on funding and have created more than 300 new jobs.

By Emily Achler | April 13, 2016