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This Los Angeles incubator wants to jumpstart the green economy

Kai Ryssdal and Robert Garrova Sep 15, 2017
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LA Cleantech Incubator's Advanced Prototyping Center.
Robert Garrova/Marketplace

There’s a part of Los Angeles, just east of downtown, called the Arts District. Once rundown, it’s now trendy and increasingly expensive. But in between the lofts and the art galleries, there might just be the future of the green economy, too.

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator — LACI for short — is a fancy tech campus, complete with a solar-covered parking lot to charge your electric vehicle. Built with a mix of government and private grants, LACI supplies the infrastructure clean tech companies need to get to the next level.

Lab coats hang on the wall at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

CEO Matt Petersen explained what happens after a company is selected by LACI:

“We pair them with an executive in residence who’s got experience in starting up a business,” Petersen said. “Once a week, they meet with them, and it’s accountability, it’s business coaching, it’s sometimes life coaching as founders struggle with relationships and how they’re working together.”

One of LACI’s current executives in residence is Tracy Gray, who got her start as an engineer on the space shuttle program and now runs a venture capital firm.

“I look at diversity too, I’m very interested in women and minorities coming into the tech space,” Gray said. While Gray admits getting underrepresented groups introduced can be challenging, she said it’s not a pipeline problem for her, but more for companies in Silicon Valley. “So what we’re doing is we’re really trying to reach out intentionally [to] gather and bring in this space people who look like Los Angeles: very diverse.”

Kai Ryssdal tours the science labs at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. 

LACI doesn’t just provide coaching for its companies, the space in Los Angeles also houses state-of-the-art science labs and what’s called the Advanced Prototyping Center. At the APC, companies have access to laser cutters, different kinds of lathes and a precision water jet that can cut through steel. All tools that have come in handy for Hive Lighting.

Hive Lighting makes energy efficient lighting, primarily for use in the entertainment industry. The facilities at LACI made it possible for the company to bring its newest product to market in under a year. “[That’s] really fast for a manufacturing product,” said Hive co-founder Jon Miller.

According to Petersen, it’s companies like Hive and others that make LACI work.

“We can’t succeed without that fuel, nor can the [other] portfolio companies,” Petersen said. “L.A. is the best-known brand of any city in the world. We want to attract people here who want to create the green revolution, not just come to Hollywood and make the next big blockbuster hit.”

 

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