Behind The New Startup Lab In Charleston Aiming To Innovate, Educate Around Clean Energy

An international clean energy company is looking a little closer to home these days as it tries to change the narrative around renewable energy sources. 

Charleston, South Carolina-based Palmetto had an early focus on financing energy projects — be it through equity, debt, or various environmental offset programs — in the developing world.

“Climate change has hit impoverished nations first and foremost.” Chris Kemper, founder and CEO, tells Hypepotamus. “When we started [Palmetto], lesser development countries did not have the capital to invest in a centralized energy structure. CleanTech was applied to help remote villages leapfrog archaic technology.” 

Changing regulations and policies helped the team realize a new emerging market: the United States. Part of that has been thanks to how economically attractive solar energy has become over the years. 

Palmetto develops a suite of products to help consumers better understand energy usage. “We believe in our heart of hearts that if a consumer is aware of where the money goes when they flick on the lights…or understand there are alternatives to pulling energy right off the grid…we believe the consumer will make the right choice for the environment and for what will save them money,” adds Kemper. “10% are in the environmental camp, and in the ballpark 90% are in the saving money camp.” 

Regardless of what “camp” a customer is on, Palmetto’s goal is to connect them with the technological advances in the clean energy space. That might look like getting a house EV charging ready or figuring out the best way to store power overnight. 

“There’s just all sorts of ways that we can start to integrate and chip away at this very archaic technology called the grid, which is obviously a major contributor to climate change.”

A Clean Start: The Palmetto Startup Lab 

The Palmetto team has scaled quickly to over 200 employees since its start in 2009 and has raised just over $63 million in funding to date (including a $23 million Series B in the middle of 2020, according to Crunchbase). 

The team is now eyeing what’s new and what’s next in the energy space. Kemper tells Hypepotamus that the Palmetto Startup Lab is looking to grow commercially scalable business solutions 

“This model is tried and true in software — like Google Labs and Facebook Labs, and others — where there is testing even before what we call beta. 

The Lab grew, Kemper says, out of a desire to get back to the “building of a business” side of the startup ecosystem. But it is also about continuing to educate the end consumer on the changing nature of clean energy and what a clean energy marketplace could look like. 

Jason Hamilton, who previously worked as Palmetto’s General Manager of the Aftermarket Division, has been promoted to The Lab’s Chief Startup Officer.

“​​We draw upon a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences to enable rapid ideation and deployment. Half startup incubator, half corporate enabler, we view the Lab as a force multiplier for strategic corporate growth,” Hamilton adds. 


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