7 Startups From Y Combinator That Show The Future Of Cleantech

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By Jonny Tiernan

The recent Y Combinator batch of 50 startups was exactly what you would expect — a collection of some of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies around, and home to a plethora of unique ideas.

There was quite a bit of representation from the cleantech sector, with autonomous electric vehicles of all kinds featuring heavily, and even batteries making an appearance. As the most prestigious accelerator program, Y Combinator is a window to future trends. Here are seven companies with a cleantech angle that we’re going to be keeping a close watch on.

May Mobility

The autonomous electric bus market is a real growth area, and May Mobility is stepping into it in style. Its street shuttles are intended for both private and public use, with the potential to hail one of the buses with your phone. They come with the rigorous range of safety features you’d expect from an automated vehicle, so you could find yourself on a May bus in the near future.


This innovative product uses the combination of a deep learning sensor and artificial intelligence to help better manage the facilities of a building. For example, it can be used to monitor the number of people using a space, both in real-time and historically, to help understand better how to best utilise the space. It can lead to improved efficiencies, such as saving on energy usage.


This startup is in the business of building autonomous planes, with its first one being used for agricultural applications. By removing the pilot from the equation, the plane can fly closer to the ground, making the application of chemicals much safer. They are also able to cruise over hills and other terrain that would previously have needed to be hand-sprayed. The company also aims to produce a single-person autonomous craft, so keep an eye out for that in the future.


Storage of the excess energy generated by wind and solar power is a persistent problem. Airthium is solving this issue by using MW-scale thermodynamic energy storage modules to store the energy on site and above-ground. It’s an efficient and cost-effective way of storing the energy before converting it back into electricity.


Using satellite imagery technology, this startup can measure your roof and provide you with an instant, free estimate, all without even coming near your doorstep. After your estimate, an installer will call out to your home to properly inspect the roof, take into account any issues, help with the selection of roofing, and then provide a fixed quote. The idea is that the approach can help reduce the cost of installation by up to 20% by cutting out the middleman.


There is a real push toward using drones to make deliveries by the air, with Amazon making the most headlines in the race. Now Skyways has been given a boost with this funding round. This startup is making a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone that will autonomously deliver packages of up to 20kg. One potential use is for the military, where supplies could be delivered without endangering lives. The technology is currently ahead of the regulations, which need to be changed in order to allow for this new delivery method to become the norm.

Modular Science

This startup specializes in producing modular machines for agricultural purposes — basically, farming robots. The ultimate goal of the company is for 99% of the farming process to become automated inside the next six months. It’s a far cry from a horse and plow.

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