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5 Hot Start-Ups Big Tech Is Betting On

Nexant

Corporate Partner: Intel

What it Does: Smart grid software

Nexant, a San Francisco-based company, raised a $50 million round of founding in November from investors including Intel. The company offers consulting services and software to help clients -- major utility companies, government agencies and large corporations -- use energy more efficiently.

As global data center energy consumption grows, utilities are looking at technologies like Nexant that help meter energy use and foster significant energy savings to take pressure off grids, said Steve Eichenlaub, a managing director at Intel Capital.

Intel has also invested in a second smart grid firm, Grid Net.

The idea of more efficient data centers attracted mainstream media attention in September when Greenpeace criticized Facebook for building a structure in Oregon that runs on coal rather than renewable energy.

Many large tech companies, including Google and Cisco (CSCO), have jumped on the smart grid trend, which has seen widespread political and regulatory support. The U.S. Department of Energy is investing $4 billion to encourage smart grid deployment, and President Obama has called for the installation of 40 million smart meters in American homes and businesses.

Investment in clean technology comprised 17% of all venture dollars deployed in 2010, as investments topped $3.7 billion in 267 deals during 2010, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

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