DTE Energy Ventures sets up national presence from Ann Arbor

DTE Energy is practically synonymous with Motor City's downtown, where it is headquartered. But its venture capital arm, DTE Energy Ventures, is creating a national presence in clean-tech investing from its home in downtown Ann Arbor.

The 16-year-old VC firm invests $10-20 million in 2-3 companies each year. The handful of people running the subsidiary specialize in making investments in mid-to-late-stage clean tech start-ups. Some of its investments include fuel cell company Plug Power and Silicon Valley-based thin-film solar firm MiaSole, which was recently ranked as a Top 10 clean tech firm by The Wall Street Journal.

DTE Energy Ventures has also made some investments in local firms, such as Pentadyne and A123 Systems. It reaped a profitable exit when A123 Systems, which has sizeable Ann Arbor and Livonia operations, went public recently. "It was a chance to invest in a company that was investing in Michigan," says Knut Simonsen, president of DTE Energy Ventures. "We were very eager to do that."

DTE Energy Ventures is also working the local venture capital scene. It is helping Huron River Ventures, an early stage VC fund in Ann Arbor, get its start. It has also taken notice of some promising local start-ups like University of Michigan spinout Sakti3 and Clean Energy Prize winner CSquared Innovations. DTE Energy is co-sponsoring the business-plan contest to support the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"There is a lot to be excited about," Simonsen says. "There are a tremendous amount of opportunities here."

Source: Knut Simonsen, president of DTE Energy Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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