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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, October 31, 2011, 4:11 pm

A Dominican ‘Venture Greenhouse’ first: A startup is acquired

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    SAN RAFAEL, NOVATO — Novato-based green energy contractor Evolvelectric has acquired LED lighting consultant Illumalighting, making it the first company to “graduate” from Dominican University’s Venture Greenhouse.

    Lindsay Hassett

    Founded by Lindsay Hassett, a graduate of Dominican’s “Green MBA,” Illumalighting was one of four companies that joined the business incubator and accelerator program during its soft launch in February.

    Over the next nine months, Ms. Hassett’s work helping the likes of SunPower Corp. and Embassy Suites convert to low-energy lighting caught the attention of Stephen Atwater, founder and principal of Evolvelectric.

    “We found ourselves often times in the same competitive situation,” Mr. Atwater said.

    After approximately two months of discussions, Evolvelectric purchased Illumalighting for an undisclosed amount in late October and brought on Ms. Hassett as director of energy efficient lighting.

    “We’re energized because of her expertise,” Mr. Atwater said. “People in the sustainability space recognize her as an advocate and a leader.”

    The purchase came shortly after the Greenhouse’s official ribbon cutting in early October. Eight companies have taken part in the program so far, with a maximum stay of one year.

    John Stayton, director of the Venture Greenhouse, said that the purchase represented the sort of success sought for companies accepted to the program.

    “I would call it a graduation. She succeeded in taking her company to a point where it was a value to others,” said Mr. Stayton, who co-founded the Green MBA.

    Ms. Hassett said that she hoped to stay at the greenhouse until February, though under the Evolvelectric banner.

    “I’m not doing anything different than I was doing at Illumalighting — I just now have a lot more to offer in terms of EV (electric vehicles),” she said.

    She credited the greenhouse for creating the opportunity for the acquisition.

    “My first meeting with Steve-he would come meet me at the Venture Greenhouse,” she said. “Being able to meet in an office went a long way in keeping things professional. It was a lot better than saying, ‘Come meet me in my office … in the cafe.’”

    Ms. Hassett will direct the energy-efficient lighting part of Evolvelectric. With 11-employees, the company combines both traditional and “green” electrical work and is set to complete a comprehensive revamp of the Red Hill Shopping Center in San Anselmo by the end of the year.

    Mr. Atwater founded the company from a Marin-based commercial electrical contractor, Cymru Electric, that he acquired approximately one year ago.

    The Venture Greenhouse, which begins taking applications for new clients in December, offers inexpensive office space in San Rafael and advising to companies with a social or environmental focus.

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