Brandeis International Business School

A financial ‘lifeline’ for clean energy startups

Prof. Tibor Toth is the architect of an innovative investment program for Massachusetts companies impacted by COVID-19

Prof. Tibor Toth's program to rescue green startups hobbled by the pandemic has been copied by other states.

Prof. Tibor Toth's program to rescue green startups hobbled by the pandemic has been copied by other states.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Massachusetts, even the most promising clean energy startups suddenly found themselves without capital.

“This was very disruptive to companies," said Tibor Toth, an adjunct professor at Brandeis International Business School and the managing director of investments at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). "Operations were disrupted internally with workspace and staff and externally with customers, fundraising and supply chains. At the same time, we saw a lot of investors stepping back to wait and see how things went.”

With investment drying up, Toth and his MassCEC colleagues decided to take matters into their own hands by launching a new investment program specifically for clean energy startups adversely impacted by COVID-19.

The Bridging Recovery for Innovators Driving Green Energy Solutions (BRIDGES) Program got off to a fast start. In a few short weeks last spring, what started as $800,000 in seed funding ballooned into $12 million through the support of MassCEC’s co-investors.

“This wasn’t a lifeline to the most needy companies, it was a lifeline to the most promising companies that were disrupted by COVID,” said Toth. “We were able to make the case that it was based on need and merit — and based on our mission.”

The BRIDGES Program invested in eight Massachusetts companies, and Toth said he wouldn’t rule out extending the program into 2021 if needed.

The effort was so successful that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority created its own program modeled on BRIDGES. California officials also expressed interest to Toth.

Toth teaches Mergers & Acquisitions Analysis and Private Equity at the International Business School. His passion for investing in green companies dates back to his days working at a startup that designed hybrid energy plants.

MassCEC is a quasi-public agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of Massachusetts’ clean energy sector. Since joining the organization in 2013, Toth has closed more than 30 new investments and 100 rounds of financing.