Crusoe Energy is tackling energy use for cryptocurrencies and data centers and greenhouse gas emissions

The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.

Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.

Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.

The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.

And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.

For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavmess, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.

NEW TOWN, ND – AUGUST 13: View of three oil wells and flaring of natural gas on The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, ND on August 13, 2014. About 100 million dollars worth of natural gas burns off per month because a pipeline system isn’t in place yet to capture and safely transport it . The Three Affiliated Tribes on Fort Berthold represent Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations. It’s also at the epicenter of the fracking and oil boom that has brought oil royalties to a large number of native americans living there. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.

Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.

When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.

(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)

“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”

Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.

The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.

Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.

Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.

“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”

Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.

The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.

Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.

“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said. 

#air-pollution, #alpha, #artificial-intelligence, #bain-capital-ventures, #bitcoin, #bitcoin-mining, #blackrock, #china, #co-founder, #coinbase-ventures, #colorado, #computing, #cryptocurrency, #cryptography, #denver, #energy, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #everest, #founders-fund, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jb-straubel, #lowercarbon-capital, #methane, #mining, #mit, #montana, #natural-gas, #new-mexico, #north-dakota, #tc, #tesla, #texas, #trader, #united-states, #upper90, #valor-equity-partners, #winklevoss-capital, #world-bank, #wyoming

New York’s David Energy has raised $4.1 million to ‘build the Standard Oil of renewable energy’

“We intend to build the Standard Oil of renewable energy,” said James McGinniss, the co-founder and chief executive of David Energy, in a statement announcing the company’s new $19 million seed round of debt and equity funding. 

McGinniss’ company is aiming to boost renewable energy adoption and slash energy usage in the built environment by creating a service that operates on both sides of the energy marketplace.

The company combines energy management services for commercial buildings through the software it has developed with the ability to sell energy directly to customers in an effort to reduce the energy consumption and the attendant carbon footprint of the built environment.

The company’s software, Mycor, leverages building demand data and the assets that the building has at its disposal to shift user energy consumption to the times when renewable power is most available, and cheapest. 

It’s a novel approach to an old idea of creating environmental benefits by reducing energy consumption. Using its technology, David Energy tracks both the market price of energy and the energy usage by the buildings it manages. The company sells energy to customers at a fixed price and then uses its windows into energy markets and energy demand to make money off of the difference in power pricing.

That’s why the company needed to raise $15 million in a monthly revolving credit facility from Hartree Partners. So it could pay for the power its customers have bought upfront.

Image Credit: Getty Images

There are a number of tailwinds supporting the growth of a business like David Energy right now. Given the massive amounts of money that are being earmarked for energy conservation and energy efficiency upgrades, companies like David, which promise to manage energy consumption to reduce demand, are going to be huge beneficiaries.

“Looking at the macro shift and the attention being paid to things like battery storage and micro grids we do feel like we’re launching this at the perfect time,” said McGinniss. “We’re offering [customers] market rates and then rebating the savings back to them. They’re getting the software with a market energy supply contract and they are getting the savings back. It’s is bringing that whole bundled package together really brings it all together.”

In addition to the credit facility, the company also raised $4.1 million in venture financing from investors led by Equal Ventures and including Operator Partners, Box Group, Greycroft, Sandeep Jain and Xuan Yong of RigUp, returning angel investor Kiran Bhatraju of Arcadia, and Jason Jacobs’ recently launched My Climate Journey Collective, an early-stage climate tech fund. 

“Renewable energy generators are fundamentally different in their variable, distributed, and digitally-native nature compared to their fossil fuel predecessors while customer loads like heating and driving are shifting to electricity consumption from gas. The sands of market power are shifting and incumbents are poorly-positioned to adapt to evolving customer needs, so there’s a massive opportunity for us to capitalize.” 

Founded by McGinniss, Brian Maxwell and Ahmed Salman, David Energy raised $1.5 million in pre-seed financing back in March 2020.

As the company expands, its relationship with Hartree, an energy and commodities trading desk, will become even more important. As the startup noted, Hartree is the gateway that David needs to transact with energy markets. The trader provides a balance sheet for working capital to purchase energy on behalf of David’s customers.

 

“Renewables are causing fundamental shifts in energy markets, and new models and tools need to emerge,” said Dinkar Bhatia, Co-Head of North American Power at Hartree Partners. “James and the team have identified a significant opportunity in the market and have the right strategy to execute. Hartree is excited to be a commodity partner with David Energy on the launch of the new smart retail platform and is looking forward to helping make DE Supply the premier retailer in the market.”

David now has retail electricity licenses in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and is looking to expand around the country.

“David energy stands to reinvent the way that hundreds of billions of dollars a year in energy are consumed,” said Equal Ventures investor Rick Zullo. “Business model creativity and finding ways to change user behavior with new models is just as important if not more important than the technology innovation itself.”

Zullo said his firm pitched David Energy on leading the round after years of looking for a commercial renewable energy startup. The core insight was finding a service that could appeal not to the new construction that already is working with top-of-the-line energy management systems, but with the millions of square feet that aren’t adopting the latest and greatest energy management systems.

“Finding something that will go and bring this to the mass market was something we had been on the hunt for really since the inception of Equal Ventures,” said Zullo.

The innovation that made David attractive was the business model. “There is a landscape of hundreds of dead companies,” Zullo said. “What they did was find a way to subsidize the service. They give away at low or no cost and move that in with line items. The partnership with Partree gives them the opportunity to be the cheapest and also the best for you and the highest margin regional energy provider in the market.”

#articles, #box-group, #energy, #energy-conservation, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #energy-industry, #energy-management, #equal-ventures, #greycroft, #logistics, #massachusetts, #new-jersey, #new-york, #operator-partners, #partner, #premier, #renewable-energy, #rick-zullo, #tc, #trader

Week in Review: Snapchat strikes back

Hello hello, and welcome back to Week in Review. Last week, I wrote about the possibility of a pending social media detente, this week I’m talking about a rising threat to Facebook’s biz.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox here, and follow my tweets here. And while I have you, my colleague Megan Rose Dickey officially launched her new TechCrunch newsletter, Human Capital! It covers labor and diversity and inclusion in tech, go subscribe!


Image: TechCrunch

The Big Story

First off, let me tell you how hard it was to resist writing about Quibi this week, but those takes came in very hot the second that news dropped, and I wrote a little bit about it here already. All I will say, is that while Quibi had its own unique mobile problems, unless Apple changes course or dumps a ton of money buying up content to fill its back library, I think TV+ is next on the chopping block.

This week, I’m digging into another once-maligned startup, though this one has activated quite the turnaround in the last two years. Snap, maker of Snapchat, delivered a killer earnings report this week and as a result, investors deemed to send the stock price soaring. Its market cap has nearly doubled since the start of September and it’s clear that Wall Street actually believes that Snap could meaningfully increase its footprint and challenge Facebook.

The company ended the week with a market cap just short of $65 billion, still a far cry from Facebook $811 billion, but looking quite a bit better than it was in early 2019 when it was worth about one-tenth of what it is today. All of a sudden, Snap has a new challenge, living up to high expectations.

The company shared that in Q3, it delivered $679 million in reported revenue, representing 52% year-over-year growth. The company currently has 249 million daily active users, up 4% over last quarter.

Facebook will report its Q3 earnings next week, but they’re still in a different ballpark for the time being, even if their market cap is just around 12 times Snap’s, their quarterly revenue from Q2 was about 28 times higher than what Snap just reported. Meanwhile, Facebook has 1.79 billion daily actives, just about 7 times Snapchat’s numbers.

Snap has spent an awful lot of time proving the worth of features they’ve been pushing for years, but the company’s next challenge might be diversifying their future. The company has been flirting with augmented reality for years, waiting patiently for the right moment to expand its scope, but Snap hasn’t had the luxury of diverting resources away from efforts that don’t send users back to its core product. Some of its biggest launches of 2020 have been embeddable mini apps for things like ordering movie tickets or bite-sized social games that bring even more social opportunities into chat.

Snap’s laser focus here has obviously been a big part of its recovery, but as expectations grow, so will demands that the company moves more boldly into extending its empire. I don’t think Snapchat needs to buy Trader Joe’s or its own ISP quite yet, but working towards finding its next platform will prevent the service from settling for Twitter-sized ambitions and give them a chance at finding a more expansive future.


Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Trends of the Week

These next few weeks are guaranteed to be dominated by U.S. election news, so enjoy the diversity of news happenings out there while it lasts…

Quibi is dead
Few companies that have raised so much money have appeared quite dead-on-arrival as Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile video startup Quibi. This week, the company made the decision to shut down operations and call it quits. More here.

Pakistan unbans TikTok
It appears that the cascading threat of country-by-country TikTok bans has stopped for now. This week, TikTok was unblocked in Pakistan with the government warning the company that it needed to actively monitor content or it would face a permanent ban. Read more here.

Facebook Dating arrives in Europe
Facebook Dating hasn’t done much to unseat Tinder stateside, but the service didn’t even get the chance to test its luck in Europe due to some regulatory issues relating to its privacy practices. Now, it seems Facebook has landed in the tentative good graces of regulatory bodies and has gotten the go ahead to launch the service in a number of European countries. Read more here.

 

 

Until next week,

Lucas M.

#apple, #computing, #europe, #facebook, #instant-messaging, #isp, #jeffrey-katzenberg, #megan-rose-dickey, #mobile-applications, #mobile-software, #pakistan, #quibi, #snap, #snap-inc, #snapchat, #software, #tc, #tiktok, #trader, #united-states, #vertical-video, #week-in-review

The Spectrum Equity-backed video education platform Kajabi has already hit $60 million in ARR

Kajabi may not be an American household name, but users of the web hosting and video tech platform are now being seen in a lot of American households.

The company, initially bootstrapped and profitable since its launch, raised a minority investment from Spectrum Equity Partners last November, but that was merely icing on the cake for a business that had seen its user adoption surge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed that adoption even higher as work-from-home gigs yield to work-from-home side hustles and anyone and everyone decides to get in on on the online education and training action, the company said.

In the past year alone, the company has seen its run rate cross $60 million in August and the company hit over $1 billion in recorded transactions milestone in March, according to chief marketing officer Orlando Baeza, who previously served as a marketing executive at Buzzfeed and Paramount Pictures .

Last November, the company took a minority equity investment from Spectrum Equity Partners, the first outside capital the company raised since its inception a bit over a decade ago.

Founded by a former commodities trader, Kenny Rueter, Kajabi is like Thinkific or Patreon primarily for online learning and video-based entrepreneurs.

“It’s not just a way  to sell your content,” said Kajabi President, Jonathan Cronstedt. “It does do your webpage, blog, email marketing, marketing automation, digital delivery. It does the  webinar aspect and the marketing you’d need to build up a list of prospects… It’s a platform from start to finish for an online business.”

If the best way to make money during a gold rush is to sell picks and shovels, then think of Kajabi as the pick and shovel purveyor for the self-help, startup guide, guru advice set.

The company touts its enabling of self-help legends like Brendon Burchard, Danielle Leslie, and Amy Porterfield, and, most recently, Sophia Amoruso, who joined the platform in August.

“We want  to empower entrepreneurs, experts and influencers  who are serious about their business to have success  online,” said Cronstedt in a November interview when the company took its minority investment from Spectrum Equity. 

The company’s toolkit basically serves as an integration of the various bundle of software a business would need to get itself off the ground. Instead of integrating Shopify, Wix, and other platforms to create a full stack of tools, Kajabi does it for a business.

“There’s endless ways you can use duct tape and bailing wire to get all of these solutions together,” said Cronstedt. “[Businesses are] not going to have the chance to get it out there  because they’re too busy trying to be a platform integrator… they never get into creating anything.”

With over 100 employees, the company sees itself on a pandemic-driven trajectory that should set the company up for massive growth.

Indeed, online learning is now a $220 billion global market, and the self-help market alone is $11 billion (people need a lot of help). The company also cites statistics that put the number of Americans pursuing a “side hustle” at roughly 35% with an estimated 40 million “solopreneurs” in the U.S. workforce.

“Since inception, we have helped 41 million users access great educational content and our customers have generated over 1 billion in sales,” said Rueter, in a November statement. “We feel fortunate to partner with incredible entrepreneurs who are sharing their expertise with the world and are excited to help so many more.”

#articles, #business, #buzzfeed, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #online, #online-education, #online-learning, #paramount-pictures, #president, #shopify, #sophia-amoruso, #tc, #trader, #united-states