CIA’s investment arm backs Littleton cooling tech startup

CIA’s investment arm backs Littleton cooling tech startup

By Lucia Maffei

A startup based in Littleton is attracting the attention of one of the U.S. government’s investors to solve a problem that’s both unsexy and inevitable: the increased heat generation and water and electricity consumption in data centers supporting rapidly rising technologies such as advanced AI.

The startup is JetCool Technologies Inc., an MIT spinoff with about 30 local employees, and its new investor is In-Q-Tel, the Arlington, Va.-based organization known as “the CIA’s venture-capital firm.”

In-Q-Tel participated in JetCool’s $17 million Series A round led by Bosch Ventures, Bosch Group.’s corporate venture capital arm. Other investors Raptor Group and Schooner Capital participated in the fundraise, announced Wednesday.

“It’s a natural connection, I guess, for the two of us,” said Bernie Malouin, JetCool CEO, about In-Q-Tel in an interview. “We provide a technology that is enabling for a lot of advanced technology, and In-Q-Tel’s charter is to connect companies like us to your government use cases that could benefit from that.”

In-Q-Tel’s string of local investments include Cambridge-based enterprise data startup Tamr; Waltham-based 3D printing company Markforged (NYSE: MKFG); AI data company Forge.AI (acquired by FiscalNote in 2021); and another MIT spinoff, Pison Technology.

Malouin, a mechanical engineer by training, invented the company’s core tech about 10 years ago while at MIT Lincoln Lab. He left MIT to start JetCool in 2019, raising $23 million in total funding to date.

JetCool’s cooling solution for computer hardware — specifically, computers’ main processors known as central processing units, or CPUs — uses little fluid jets to cool very localized hotspots on processors. It is a separate, self-contained piece of hardware that resides entirely within the server and releases the excess heat into the facility air while using less electricity than other cooling solutions. Malouin described it as an “upgrade.”

“The generative AI boom has been very good to us, because these are all running on hardware,” he said. “That hardware is very computer intensive, runs very hot.”

JetCool’s solution may be particularly appealing to clients that don’t have a traditional water piping infrastructure to cool their servers, but need high performance.

Malouin didn’t quantify the heat reduction, but noted that JetCool’s products make “significant” reductions in chip temperature and “meaningful” reductions in electricity consumption. He says that translates into longer reliability of the servers, benefits in sustainability thanks to reduced carbon emission, and lower electricity costs for clients.

JetCool’s products are available through select Dell Technologies’ (NYSE: DELL) PowerEdge servers.

The company plans to be at 50 employees by the end of 2023, adding mechanical, fluid, systems and aerospace engineers as well as professionals in manufacturing and operations.

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