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Sopogy Receives 2012 Hawaii Venture Capital Association Deal of the Year Award

January 25, 2013

HVCA logo

The Hawaii Venture Capital Association awarded its 2012 HVCA Deal of the Year to Darren Kimura, CEO of Sopogy, maker of concentrated thermal solar collectors. In addition five local entrepreneurs were acknowledged in various categories with the HVCA Entrepreneur of the Year award. The Young Entrepreneur award went to Scott Mercer of Volta Industries, makers of advertising driven free electric vehicle charging stations. Dan Leuck, co-founder of CONTIX and CEO and founder of Ikayzo won the Software Entrepreneur award. Ken Berkun, founder of Labels That Talk won the Inventor Entrepreneur award for his patented invention, Soundpaper. Winner of the Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year award is Elyse Petersen, founder of Tealet, a social enterprise that connects tea drinkers with small tea growers around the world. David Watumull, co-founder of CARDAX Pharmaceuticals and former CEO of Hawaii Biotech was acknowledged for his many years of devoted entrepreneurship in biotech as the 2012 Legacy Entrepreneur.

“These entrepreneurs are local heroes and role models. They have worked long hard days, made personal sacrifices and taken extreme risks that prove there are people in Hawaii that have what it takes to build great companies,” said Bill Spencer, President of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association. The Hawaii Venture Capital Association was founded in 1988 to promote venture capital formation, entrepreneurship and economic diversification in Hawaii. Spencer has served as its president since 1999. This is HVCA’s 12th annual Deal of the Year and 5th annual Entrepreneur of the Year award ceremony.

Deal of the Year – Darren Kimura – CEO – Sopogy has pioneered the concept of MicroCSP(tm) using its mirrored concentrating solar thermal solar collectors to create high quality thermal heat. This heat is used in the industrial process and as solar steam. The International Energy Agency has estimated that only 17% of final energy consumption is for electricity while 47% of final energy consumption is in the generation of thermal energy. Sopogy’s technologies are poised to capture the thermal energy market by harnessing the power of the sun. Sopogy’s thermal energy is the fuel for stable, renewable process heat and solar steam. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

Young Entrepreneur – Scott Mercer is the Co-Founder and CEO of Volta Industries, LLC. An automobile enthusiast since birth, Mercer began by trading Hot Wheels cars with his friends at age five and never looked back!
Mercer founded Volta, an electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure firm, in Hawaii in August 2010. He and business partner Christopher Ching developed Volta’s proprietary revenue model based on public EV charging stations, and successfully launched this business model on Oahu in 2012, quickly expanding the number of EV charging stations throughout the island. Today Mercer is leading Volta’s strategic expansion to ten cities on both U.S. coasts by heading up efforts to secure capital from outside investors. In addition, Mercer is working to establish partnerships both regionally in Hawaii and nationally.

Software Entrepreneur – Dan Leuck – Contix Chairman & Co-Founder
Dan is the CEO and Owner of Ikayzo, a software development and interactive design firm servicing customers such as Bank of America, Nomura Securities, PIMCO, Sony and Oracle. Previously, Dan served as SVP of R&D for ValueCommerce, Asia’s largest online marketing company, Global Head of Development for London-based LastMinute.com, Europe’s largest B2C website, and President of the US division of DML. Daniel has extensive experience managing teams of 150+ developers in five countries. He has served on numerous advisory boards and panels for companies such as Macromedia and Sun Microsystems.

Inventor Entrepreneur – Ken Berkun founded LABELS THAT TALK in 2006 and has invented and patented its core technology, Soundpaper that lets you record sound on everything from labels to greeting cards. He has extensive background in high tech companies, both as an individual contributor and in management. Prior to Labels That Talk, he was a co-founder of Singingfish, the world’s first audio/video search engine (now owned by AOL). Ken was responsible for Singingfish’s business plan and strategy.

Social Entrepreneur – Elyse Petersen worked as a Global Tea Ambassador in Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan with the International Tea Farms Alliance. Through her time in Japan she made many connections with tea farmers and was inspired by the passion farmers had for their tea. She is now the founder of Tealet, a social enterprise that connects drinkers with tea growers around the world.

Legacy Entrepreneur – Mr. Watumull has more than twenty years experience as a biotechnology industry executive, analyst, and investment banker. He is co-founder of Cardax Pharmaceuticals and co-inventor of the Cardax technology with 14 U.S. and global patents to his name.Cardax has developed and patented a novel class of anti-inflammatory compounds with the potency of steroids or NSAIDS such as aspirin or Celebrex but with the safety of food. He has raised more than $12 million for Cardax since it spun out from Hawaii Biotech in May of 2006. As CEO of Hawaii Biotech, he led efforts that resulted in more than $25 million in investor financing and $30 million in federal grant and contract funding.

Source: http://hvca.org/?p=589

Sopogy Wins Innovative Company of the Year 2008

November 17, 2008
Business News - Local News

Sun and creativity power Sopogy’s success

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – by Nanea Kalani Pacific Business News

Christina Failma, PBN
Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy Inc., with one of the company’s solar collectors, which generate more power faster than typical photovoltaic systems.

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Darren Kimura considers himself a problem solver, always looking for solutions to the world’s troubles.

The Hawaii entrepreneur has built several successful technology companies around that trait, most of them focused on energy-efficient technologies.

“I do one thing — look for customer-based problems,” said Kimura, 33.

Combining this skill with an innovative mindset, Kimura started tinkering with ideas in 2002 to create an affordable technology that could ease electricity costs for businesses.

The tinkering led to building prototypes and eventually the launching last year of Sopogy Inc., PBN’s 2008 Innovative Company of the Year.

Sopogy’s name combines the words solar, power and technology. It was spun off from Energy Industries, which Kimura founded in 1994.

The company has invented a new kind of solar concentrator for generating electricity from the sun’s heat. The technology, resembling large silver troughs, uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays on fluids, creating steam that turns turbines to generate electricity.

These collectors are very different from the more common photovoltaic panels, which are typically designed for roof-top systems and convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity.

Sopogy’s solar collectors are designed as ground units that can function as solar farms producing huge amounts of energy — up to 50 megawatts, or enough to power 15,000 homes. (The company does, however, also make a roof-top version.)

“At the core of the problem is the fact that as a society, we use more energy than we make,” Kimura said. “The only way to have a fast impact is to take big bites of the apple. You can’t do that with photovoltaics.”

Another distinct feature is the collectors’ capability to store solar energy that can be used after the sun goes down. They also are equipped with tracking systems, which Sopogy engineers created, to maximize productivity and efficiency.

“The software tied to our collectors account for factors such as cloudy skies, high wind speeds and rain,” said Kimura, who serves as president and CEO. “The programming allows the collector to be smart and encodes it with logic, so it can turn itself upside down if it’s cloudy. Although there’s layers and layers of complexity, of course, we’ve tried to make it simple for our customers.”

Kimura said Sopogy has a couple thousand of its collectors — called the SopoNova 4.0 — in use worldwide, including on the West Coast and in Asia, the Middle East and Spain.

“What’s exciting about solar technology is that it can be everywhere and anywhere,” he said. “The technology is made here in Hawaii, tested here, our company is based here, but we just export it out. I think innovation is about trying to create technologies that you can export around the world.”

Most of Sopogy’s 41 employees are based in Hawaii, while some are stationed at the company’s sales offices in San Jose, San Diego and Phoenix.

Kimura said Sopogy is on track to generate $10 million in revenue this year. The privately held company got its start using a combination of venture capital and personal investment from Kimura.

Locally, Sopogy’s technology is in use at the Big Island’s Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona.

The company sells power from a 1-megawatt system to Hawaii Electric Light Co. The project was designed in phases so that Sopogy could expand the system to up to 10 megawatts.

Sopogy received approval for up to $10 million in state revenue bonds for the NELHA project. It also was approved for up to $35 million in bonds to build a solar farm on Oahu that could generate another 10 megawatts, or enough power for about 3,000 homes, for Hawaiian Electric Co.

Sopogy last year built a 16-collector, 50-kilowatt system in Spokane, Wash., which generates power for the local utility. Sopogy will add a dozen more collectors to the system by next summer.

Sopogy’s collector already has caught the attention of several national and international technology groups.

The National Society of Professional Engineers named it its 2008 new product award winner in the small company category. Meanwhile, the technology is one of four finalists for the Platts Global Energy Awards’ sustainable technology innovation of the year.

“In our world, these awards are like the Emmys or the Academy Awards; all the energy geeks want to win these,” Kimura said. “Out of the hundreds of tech companies in Silicon Valley that are well financed and have great technologies, we’re the one they picked. It’s really exciting.”

Sopogy wants to expand its solar plants around the world and Kimura ultimately wants to take the firm public.

nkalani@bizjournals.com | 955-8001

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – November 17, 2008
http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2008/11/17/focus19.html