Ambient Photonics to seek Series B in 2023 to scale up manufacturing - CEO

Interview 24 August

Ambient Photonics to seek Series B in 2023 to scale up manufacturing - CEO

Ambient Photonics, a Mill Valley, California-based solar cell company, plans to raise further capital to scale its manufacturing capabilities in 2023, said cofounder and CEO Bates Marshall. 

The Northern California company plans to use proceeds of its recent USD 31m Series A, along with a soon-to-be-announced debt component, to build out its first factory. It has already secured "a couple of cornerstone relationships that we expect to drive volume," with the objective of selling out the capacity before the factory opens in Q1 2023, he added.

Ambient has developed a high density solar cell capable of producing power indoors and in the shade, making it ideal for applications in consumer electronics, smart buildings, IoT and other devices typically powered by disposable batteries. One of its partners, Universal Electronics Inc. (NASDAQ:UEIC), recently announced that its voice activated remote control system will be powered with this type of system.

Marshall declined to give details about the size of the B raise, but said "we've had good signaling from growth investors." The round, along with additional DOE funding the company is applying for, would fund a second manufacturing facility, anticipated to begin construction in 2023, with 10x the capacity of the first one.

There has been strong interest in the product from global electronics companies and Ambient expects to be "capacity constrained" for some time. On the topic of timing to cash flow break-even, Marshall said that after seeing VC backed companies chasing growth at the expense of profitability, Ambient designed its growth model to have "very good financial performance in the first factory."

When asked whether Ambient views itself as an eventual integration into a larger solar or electronics tech company, or as a standalone, he declined to comment but noted that because the technology is new, Ambient has developed an "application development kit" to help electronics companies integrate the cell into their devices.

Ambient considers its competition to be traditional amorphous silicon PV panels. Globally, there are "a few" competitors chasing low light solar PV technology, but they are focused on different applications and product concepts, he said, declining to name them.

The company also recently announced it had progressed to Part II of a USD 162m DOE loan guarantee.

He declined to name Ambient's corporate law firm but said it is a "leading tech firm." The company did not use a financial advisor for its Series A.

Ambient's technology was originally developed at the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry and funded since inception by Cthulhu Ventures. Investors in the Series A include Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund, Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF), as well as Tony Fadell’s Future Shape and I Squared Capital.

Ambient holds patents around the novel materials and industrial chemistry that makes the solar cells' low light harvesting possible.

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