Founders: Donnel Baird (CEO), Keith Kinch
Funding: $125 million
Key technologies: Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, Internet of Things, machine learning, digital twins
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 2 (No. 42 in 2022)
Brooklyn-based cleantech company BlocPower is squarely positioned with a mission to fight climate change while solving social injustices, focusing on renewable energy, reduction of carbon pollution, and urban redevelopment in lower-income areas.
BlocPower was founded in 2014 by Donnel Baird, the child of Guyanese immigrants, who drew on his experience growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn in an apartment without well-functioning heating and cooling systems.
Now, his social enterprise startup has retrofit more than 5,000 households, commercial buildings and churches with energy-efficient systems that can reduce heating and cooling costs and reduce carbon footprint by transitioning away from fossil-fuel power. This retrofitting of older buildings can lead to major energy savings, 30% to 50%, and a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions, BlocPower says.
The three-time Disruptor 50 company has recently signed multiple contracts for greentech projects in 6,000 buildings city-wide in Ithaca, New York, and 10,000 buildings throughout Menlo Park, California, as well as multi-family homes and buildings in Denver, Oakland, San Jose and San Luis Obispo. In Buffalo, BlocPower inked a contract with utility National Fuel Gas Company to upgrade hybrid heating and cooling systems in 34 low-to-middle income residential and commercial buildings. It also sealed a deal with Fujitsu General America to bring a better-functioning automatic heating and cooling unit to the U.S.
Moving into smart, all-electric heating, cooling and hot water systems, BlocPower recently partnered with Berkeley, California-based startup Harvest Thermal for future electrification projects. BlocPower also expanded its AI-powered software platform, BlocMaps, for use by municipalities and utilities to analyze and plan data-driven strategies for sustainable initiatives.
So-far unprofitable, this greentech startup has relied on grants, fees, debt financing and venture capital. This March, BlocPower raised $25 million in Series B equity funding led by climate-solutions focused fund VoLo Earth Ventures in addition to $130 million in debt financing with lead investment by Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.
Big Tech has taken notice of the company’s unique approach and progress. Amazon Web Services invited BlocPower to participate in its Sustainable Cities Accelerator for Infrastructure; it also took part in an Apple accelerator program. Last year, BlocPower picked up a $30 million project financing commitment from the Microsoft Innovation Fund. This adds to its list of well-known investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Kapor Capital, a major achievement for a minority-founded business where financing options have been historically limited.
BlocPower is also looking to make further impacts in the communities it serves. Last year, the company won a two-year, $108 million contract with the NYC Mayor’s Office to train 3,000 New York City residents for green economy jobs, including electrifying buildings, installing solar systems, and maintaining EV chargers. As part of its social justice aims, this training program has an underlying aim of reducing gun violence, an initiative by New York City Mayor Eric Adams. BlocPower opened two new training facilities last fall in Brooklyn and the Bronx to train 1,700 workers.
Advancing clean transportation is another foray for BlocPower. It’s helping to finance the electrification of a shuttle run by rideshare app Dollaride for under-served New York City communities, and also is overseeing tech training for EV chargers used by the app and by national nonprofit consortium CALSTART.
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