At first glance, SmartSpark Energy Systems looks like a lot of technology startups. It raised $6 million in venture capital, employs 24 people and doesn’t make any money.
What sets the company apart: It has two teams of lobbyists.
The first jobs of the federal clean-energy stimulus plan are here -- and they’re for lobbyists. SmartSpark is part of a stampede of technology companies hiring insiders in Washington and state capitals to gain influence. They’re vying for a piece of last month’s $787 billion stimulus package.
“There is so much at stake here that there’s an enormous need for entrepreneurs to get close with policy makers,” said Jason Matlof, a partner at Battery Ventures in Menlo Park, California. “There are billions just for R&D. It’s a lot of money.”
The spending is far more than venture capitalists can give renewable-energy companies, especially during a recession, Matlof said. Battery told its eight clean-technology companies last month to put a specific executive in charge of getting public money, and to consider hiring lobbyists.
The stimulus bill, signed by President Barack Obama last month, includes $77.6 billion for clean-energy projects, according to the research firm IDC.
Competition for government dollars will be intense, said Jon Sakoda, a partner at New Enterprise Associates in Chevy Chase, Maryland. NEA has 25 clean-energy startups in its portfolio, he said....MORE