Cleantech Open features track record of success by Princeton-connected startups

Written by
Claire Grace Shin, Class of 2025
April 15, 2023

 Startups with a Princeton connection have developed a record of success at Cleantech Open, a leading clean technology accelerator. This success has coincided with the increase in support on campus for startups over the past several years. Of those that participated in entrepreneurship programs on campus prior to entering Cleantech Open, several have won their cohort’s regional or national competitions. 

The increase in support on campus for startups over the last several years has coincided with increased financial support and incentives from state programs from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology (CSIT). Combined, these efforts have created conditions for startups to succeed at Cleantech Open and to continue to build and fundraise for their startups in New Jersey. 

Cleantech companies that have completed an I-Corps program at Princeton’s Northeast Regional Hub or elsewhere are particularly encouraged to apply to Cleantech Open’s 2023 cohort by April 16th. 

Cleantech Open has a long and impressive list of notable Princeton-connected startup alumni, including: 

  • HiT Nano, a spinout from the laboratory of Prof. Yiguang Ju, the Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton, was the Cleantech Open Northeast 2022 winner. In addition, HiT Nano has received Small Business Innovation & Research (SBIR) awards from the U.S. Department of Energy, the BIRD Energy award, and the NJ CSIT Clean Tech Research & Development award.
  • Princeton NuEnergy, a spinout based on research by Prof. Ju, Bruce Koel, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton, Chao Yan and Xiaofang Yang, won the Northeast regional and national Cleantech Open competitions in 2021. Princeton NuEnergy also received a $12 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy for tech research and development, raised $7 million in seed funding in 2021, and opened a 500-ton capacity pilot plant in late 2022.
  • Andluca, a spinout based on research by Lynn Loo, Theodora D. '78 and William H. Walton III '74 Professor in Engineering, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Nick Davy *14 *20, won the Cleantech Open Northeast competition in 2020. Since then, Andluca has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award as well as several SBIR awards and cleantech grants.
  • Flux Marine, co-founded by Ben Sorkin ’17 and Jonathan Lord ’18, was the 2019 Cleantech Open Northeast winner, Northeast People’s Choice winner, national competition runner-up and national People’s Choice winner. Flux Marine has also received several awards and grants, having secured a $15M Series A funding round in 2022. 
  • Solstice, a Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund (AEF) portfolio company co-founded by Steph Speirs *14, participated in the 2015 cohort. Solstice was acquired by MyPower in October 2022
Flux Marine team holding up winner's check

Flux Marine, founded by Ben Sorkin '17 (second from left) and Jonathan Lord '18 (third from left), won the 2019 Cleantech Open Northeast Regional Finals. (Photo courtesy of Cleantech Open)

Incentives from the NJEDA

The NJEDA and NJ CSIT are sponsors of Cleantech Open Northeast and have helped to catalyze the New Jersey cleantech innovation ecosystem; they have played a huge role in helping to aid startup growth even after the accelerator is completed. In addition to sponsoring the program, NJEDA will reimburse the Cleantech Open participation fees for New Jersey-based startups who successfully complete the program. New Jersey-based startups who participate in Cleantech Open are also eligible for a variety of benefits through NJ Accelerate, including matching funds in the form of a convertible note for any prize winners, as well as direct loans and rent support. 

Princeton-connected startups benefit from campus programs prior to Cleantech Open

Princeton Entrepreneurship Council (PEC), Princeton’s Office of Technology Licensing and the Keller Center have actively supported the co-founders of all of these companies through coaching and connections to resources in the Princeton ecosystem. As manager of the Princeton AEF program, PEC also provided additional support to Solstice. Both Solstice and Flux Marine benefited from Princeton’s Keller Center eLab Summer Accelerator programs in 2014 and 2017, respectively.

Immediately before winning the Cleantech Open national competition in 2021, Princeton NuEnergy participated in an I-Corps program. Now that Princeton University is leading the I-Corps Northeast Hub, cleantech startups at Princeton and throughout the Northeastern U.S. can follow Princeton NuEnergy’s example. The Northeast Hub is currently accepting applications for their Propelus program in June, as well as Novus events this month. 

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