Bill Gates, Silicon Valley VC drops $23.5M into Troy’s EcoMotors

Some big names in business have made an
even bigger investment in a Metro Detroit start-up; namely, Bill Gates
and Khosla
Ventures
of Silicon Valley fame. The start-up: EcoMotors. The
investment: $23.5 million.

“Getting an endorsement from two of
the most prominent investors we could have imagined is a big feather in
our cap,” says Don Runkle, CEO of EcoMotors

.

The venture capital investment will
allow the Troy-based business to finish developing and testing its opoc
engine. The innovative motor vehicle engine is expected to be much more
efficient than the traditional internal combustion engine.

Opoc’s
opposed pistons and cylinders are much more efficient, delivering 50
percent better fuel economy compared to conventional engines. This is
made possible by virtue of it’s being half the weight and size and
containing half the parts of a normal vehicle engine.

EcoMotors
was
founded two years ago with about a dozen people. Today it employs 31 and
gives work to another 15 independent contractors. It hopes to hire
another 10 people over the next year through this investment. “We’ll do
some selective hiring, primarily in the technical fields and business
development.”

The opoc engine was designed by the company’s
current
chair and CTO, Peter Hofbauer, who
designed fuel efficient diesel
engines
as the former head of
powertrain development at VW. Runkle, helped
spearhead the development of the General Motors EV1 electric car in the
1990s.

Despite all of this experience in both the automotive
industry and in creating greater fuel efficiency, Runkle says he and his
partners weren’t able to attract any investment from local venture
capital firms. It was something they found both “surprising and,
frankly, a little comical.”

“I wish there were more
forward-thinking venture capital firms in Michigan because we have a lot
of great entrepreneurs,” Runkle says.

Source: Don Runkle,
CEO of EcoMotors

Writer: Jon Zemke