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Point Judith Capital establishes a Boston beachhead, with a focus on cleantech

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 22, 2011 08:01 AM

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Earlier this month, Providence-based Point Judith Capital and a couple of its portfolio companies moved into new office space in Boston's financial district. Point Judith plans to use the new digs as a home base for partner Zaid Ashai, who joined the firm last year to invest in cleantech companies. It also houses a Boston branch office of Nexamp, a North Andover firm that develops renewable energy projects, and the new headquarters of Earth Aid, a five-person consumer energy efficiency start-up that recently moved to Boston from Washington, D.C.

"We've been calling it a shared space," says Ashai. "The only reason I don't call it an incubator is that people have very different ideas about what an incubator is." There's no official moniker for the 3,500-square foot space yet, he says.

"We're looking aggressively at cleantech investments," says Ashai. "That could be interesting consumer Internet opportunities, which is what Earth Aid is, or smartgrid companies, or service-related ideas within transportation or the deployment of solar or wind technologies." In Boston, Ashai says, "you have companies like EnerNOC, which has been successful, and some major utilities, and a great university network. All those raw materials, we think, can create some really disruptive innovation in energy efficiency, too."

Ashai says Point Judith isn't likely to back capital-intensive efforts to, say, develop a new zucchini-based biofuel or convert beach sand into 93-octane gasoline. But interestingly, it has been doing some deals alongside big-name strategic investors in the energy industry (which he says he can't yet name.)

Ashai says he collaborates on energy-related deals with Jeffrey Weiss, a Point Judith "operating partner" (not a full-time employee of the firm) who is also active with the angel groups Boston Cleantech Angels and Clean Energy Venture Group.

The current Point Judith outpost in Boston doesn't have space to house many more companies, Ashai says, but "we may eventually look to expand it if we can find the right space."

Ashai earned degrees in business and public policy from Harvard, and before joining Point Judith was a senior associate at Good Energies in New York, another investment firm.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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