Battery-pack maker Romeo Power draws $30 mln seed round from family offices, CEO

It’s been a tough few years for cleantech as venture investing in the sector, which includes solar, energy-efficiency, battery-storage, water and related technologies, has decline from the heyday of a decade ago.

But entrepreneurs Michael Patterson and Porter Harris, co-founders of Romeo Power, are, well, energized about their two-year-old battery-pack startup.

The company, which sports a blue lightning bolt logo, announced today it raised $30 million in seed-stage funding. Investors include a number of U.S.-based family offices and Patterson, CEO of Romeo Power and founder of the mobile-security company InAuth, which American Express acquired last year.

Romeo Power has now raised $35 million in total funding, following a previous friends-and-family round.

Patterson declined to identify the family offices investing in Romeo but said he’d had relationships with them. “Capital-raising is intensive, so we were fortunate we could focus on building the company and not on fundraising,” Patterson said.

What the investors are putting their money into is a maker of electric-vehicle battery packs that use standard cells, but feature more energy density and efficiency. Romeo employs 190 people and has opened a 113,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at its headquarters in an industrial zone in Vernon, California, south of downtown Los Angeles.

Patterson and Harris, who developed the battery technology behind SpaceX’s F9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, say the Romeo battery packs, composed of cylindrical lithium-ion cells, can be used in golf carts, motorcycles, trucks, buses, forklifts and robotics.

They’re also exploring the use of their battery packs to help bring down costs for REITs by storing electricity from the grid during off-peak hours.

The two co-founders are joined on the executive team by Chief Production Officer Mark Schwager, who previously was an executive at Tesla.

Romeo Power has $65 million in initial orders scheduled for delivery in 2018. Current contracts and design agreements for the company span U.S. and European auto makers, as well as such robotics companies as Robotic Assistance Devices, the Laguna Hills, California, provider of robotic solutions for security and monitoring.

Romeo Power estimates the EV market will reach $32 billion by 2020. Is it enough to help resuscitate the cleantech sector?

Patterson is confident it will and points to how the major automakers are looking to put more electric cars on the road in the next several years.

“Companies are buying and we have federal contracts,” he said.

He added: “There’s a massive market opportunity for energy-storage technologies.”

Photo of outside the Romeo Power headquarters in Vernon, California, courtesy of the company.