cleantech insights

Opower’s growth: an interview w/ SVP @roderickmorris

M Paschich


On May 21-22, Opower and Cleantech Group are co-hosting the New Utility Business Model Summit. It’s no question that the utility industry is increasingly shaped by higher customer expectations, expanding deployment of distributed energy generation, and ambitious energy efficiency goals. In the lead up to this summit, we’re interviewing key policy makers, regulators, and influencers on the topic of what the evolving utility industry will look like, and the opportunities that this evolution will create for utilities to develop deeper and more profitable relationships with their customers.


Congratulations on a successful IPO! What does this mean for the future of Opower and your utility customers?

Friday [April 4th, 2014] was definitely an exciting day: it was great to celebrate it with so many other early Opower employees who have worked so hard together to grow this business over the past several years. With that shared experience, we could all appreciate how this new funding validates the work we’ve been doing, and there’s real excitement knowing that we’ll now have even more opportunity to make investments that help people use less energy. We’ll do this through the four core business lines served by our platform, which are …

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This Deal Matters: Cool Planet Energy Systems Closes Series D Funding; Corporates Bet on Advanced Biofuel and Rising Activities in Asia

Leo Zhang

cool planetCool Planet Energy Systems, the Colorado-based developer of advanced drop-in fuels and biochar, announced a $50.7 million investment and the closing of the company’s $100 million Series D growth equity round. Cool Planet’s latest investors include Concord Energy Holdings, a Singapore-based crude oil trading company, which led the round with existing investor North Bridge Venture Partners. Other existing investors include BP Ventures, ConocoPhillips, Energy Technology Ventures, Exelon Capital Partners, General Electric, Google Ventures, NRG Energy, and Shea Ventures. The new investment, along with Cool Planet’s strategic corporate investors, will help to expedite the company’s 10 million gallon per year biofuel facility in Louisiana. The timing of this deal is significant in that it demonstrates corporate interests in bio-based drop-in fuels, especially given the ongoing commercialization struggle of another high-profile drop-in fuel company, KiOR, which private investor Vinod Khosla has recently committed an additional $25 million from his personal trust to continue supporting the company.

This deal also matters as it is the second deal of back-to-back investments into biofuel companies, following a $60 million growth equity round raised by LanzaTech just a week ago. Notably, we have observed increasing …

This Deal Matters: LanzaTech Raises $60 Million; Corporate Investors Committed to Technology Innovations

Leo Zhang

lanzatechLanzaTech, the Illinois-based technology developer of waste gas fermentation to liquid fuels and chemicals, announced it has raised $60 million in its first close of Series D growth equity round. Mitsui & Co., a leading Japanese multi-industry conglomerate, led the round with a $20 million investment. Given the current difficult capital raising market, this deal is also significant in a sense that it has attracted both new and existing investors. Two new investors, Siemens Venture Capital and China International Capital Corporation, joined the round to further develop LanzaTech’s core gas fermentation platform and increase the company’s product portfolio.

Recall Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014 on the theme of accelerating system change towards a decentralized future, during which LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren presented her company’s approach in collaborating with larger corporates to create a synergy between innovations and corporate resources. Combing LanzaTech’s core technology with corporations’ existing infrastructures, this technology platform can empower the decentralized production of renewable fuels and chemicals using existing local waste resources.

Given LanzaTech’s current commercial facilities, in addition to this latest round of investment, we are confident and excited to see additional progress in the future. Stay tuned via Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform for …

Sugar Water: The Next Big Feedstock?

Wendy Bao

Proterry Logo

Feedstock is a critical but costly step in the production of Biofuels & Biochemicals that has imposed as a bottleneck to the entire industry. According to Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform, we have seen increasing investment and partnership activities among multinational corporations with feedstock technology companies in order to develop cheaper sugars. For example, Dupont has invested in and partnered with NexSteppe to develop high biomass sorghum for downstream biofuels and biochemicals production. BASF and Waste Management have also made strategic investments to Renmatix to develop cellulosic sugars. Finally, Syngenta has formed an equity-based technology partnership with Agrivida towards the company’s technology on engineered crop. At Cleantech Group, we continue to see new innovating technologies that aim to solve this bottleneck issue from multiple angles.

Last week, Cleantech Group interviewed Ms. Kef Kasdin, CEO of Proterro, to learn more about the company’s technology innovations and the potential breakthroughs they might bring to the biofuel and biochemical industry.

Proterro, a New Jersey based producer of low-cost sugar feedstock for the biofuels and biochemicals industries, recently received a notice of allowance from the USPTO for a device patent that protects the company’s photobioreactor system. Proterro’s unique photosynthetic sugar-making organism, process, and system devices …

Khosla Ventures: Exploring Decentralization at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014

M Paschich

On March 11-13, Cleantech Group is hosting the largest and longest running Cleantech forum in the world, Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. This annual gathering of the global cleantech innovation community offers a comprehensive development program along with exclusive opportunities to network and make deals happen. In the lead up to the Forum, we’re chatting with leaders across the resource innovation space to discuss the changes decentralization is causing across different markets, end-users, enterprises, technologies, and business models. chung full

Andrew Chung is one of six partners at Khosla Ventures, which manages over $3 billion of committed capital and has invested in over 80 sustainability companies.  Andrew serves on the boards of companies that include Lanzatech, Ecomotors, Ambri, Pellion, and BioConsortia, and also leads the firm’s Asia activities.  Prior to Khosla, Andrew helped build the firm’s cleantech practice area at Lightspeed Ventures, which invested in companies like Solazyme, Nest Labs, LS9, Coaltek, Quantumscape, and Stion.  Follow Andrew on Twitter: @achung

We’re looking forward to having you participate in Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. As you know, the theme is Accelerating system change: towards a decentralized future. Can you tell us about some of the changes you’re seeing underway in our energy

Interview with Jonathan Rhone, President & CEO of Axine Water Technologies

M Paschich

What is Axine’s Genesis story?rhone axine

Axine was founded by Colleen Legzdins, a Ph.D. materials engineer with a deep history in the electrochemical industry who was most recently with Ballard Material Products and Ballard Power Systems (our leading fuel cell company up here in Vancouver). Colleen left that company several years ago, wanting to apply her knowledge in electrochemistry to another area of cleantech. She looked at various parts of the cleantech ecosystem and finally settled on wastewater because she could see that there was an incredible amount of pain points in industrial water treatment related to this area that she thought electrochemistry could improve upon. And she basically settled on the thesis that non-biodegradable and toxic organics in industrial waste water are really persistent pain points in many different industries, like oil & gas, chemicals, semiconductors, textiles, and mining.  She looked at the incumbent solution for treating those types of persistent chemicals, things like volatile organic compounds, ammonia, nitrogen species, benzenes, dissolved hydrocarbons, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes from textiles…

Sounds lovely!


Things that are super difficult to treat because they’re persistent and recalcitrant and not biodegradable and cannot be broken down with conventional biological waste water treatment. The incumbent way …

Web-Based Recycling: a Consumer-Centric Approach to Waste

Leo Zhang

The cleanweb theme has received positive attention from venture capital and corporate investors in its innovating business model of connecting cleantech innovation with the web. Recall Cleantech Group’s Cleanweb and the City event (and associated White Paper), which highlighted some of the latest innovations in urban mobility, waste management, and energy management.  Drilling down on how cleanweb has impacted the Recycling & Waste sector, let’s look at the Web-Based Recycling subsector, the investment trends and some of the leading companies in this space. As the chart below illustrates, the web-based recycling sector attracted a series of equity investments, including several mega deals in 2008.


Let’s take a closer look at the latest innovations on web-based recycling:

Recyclebank, the New York-based developer of a financial rewards system for household recycling, is working towards the ultimate goal of changing conusmer’s behavior in an effort to increase their recycling effort.

Gazelle, the Massachusettes-based provider of an online recommerce service, allows consumers to easily recycle and get paid for their used electronics. In addition, ReCellular, the Michigan-based online marketplace, is also working on similar projects.

thredUP, the California-based provider of an online platform for used clothing, allows consumers to …

yerdle: Exploring Decentralization at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014

M Paschich

On March 11-13, Cleantech Group is hosting the largest and longest running Cleantech forum in the world, Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014. This annual gathering of the global cleantech innovation community offers a comprehensive development program along with exclusive opportunities to network and make deals happen. In the lead up to the Forum, we’re chatting with leaders across the resource innovation space to discuss the changes decentralization is causing across different markets, end-users, enterprises, technologies, and business models. Yerdle2

Andy Rubin is Co-founder and CEO of yerdle.

What is the essence of yerdle’s story?

The idea of yerdle starts in our closets and garages: all of the high quality items we collectively own are perfectly good to someone else even if we, the current owners, are done with those items. This is not a fundamentally different idea, but the way that yerdle is bringing this market and community together, that’s what’s extraordinary. Yerdle grants shoppers access–through information and through mobile–to the collective warehouse that is all of our closets and garages.

The push for me to help start yerdle came from my 20 year experience in retail. The last 10 were spent as a senior executive at Walmart, and included …

Wanxiang’s Purchase of Fisker Highlights Increasing Chinese Cross-Border Investment

Gannon McHenry

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved Wanxiang Group’s bid for Fisker Automotive last Tuesday. The deal was a combination offer of cash and equity worth $150 million. Rather than simply incorporating the intellectual property and assets of Fisker into Wanxiang’s existing brands, the company plans to restart production of the Fisker Karma in a matter of months. Wanxiang previously bought the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, following its bankruptcy filing in October of 2012. Wanxiang believes the synergies achieved through owning both A123 and Fisker will result in stronger financial and competitive positions for both companies.

Wanxiang’s purchase of Fisker follows a positive trend among Chinese companies, who are increasingly looking outside of their border for potential acquisitions. Following years of little to no international acquisition activity, Chinese companies and investors began to acquire foreign companies at an increasing rate following an off-and-on start in 2008. Following this trend, 2013 was a landmark year in cross border acquisition by Chinese organizations, recording the largest number of deals to date. Hanergy has been a notable prolific foreign investor, scooping up distressed solar companies including MiaSoleSolibro and Global Solar Energy over the past two years. The global …

Big Data Meets Ag at our Power Breakfast

Amanda Faulkner

On February 14, Cleantech Group, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati hosted a Power Breakfast focused on Agriculture & Food. Conversation starters from Monsanto Ventures, Khosla Ventures, AgFunder, OnFarm, and Grundfos, along with over seventy investors, corporates, startup and grower attendees,  discussed topics ranging from the Climate Corp acquisition to labor challenges to local food. Ultimately the conversation returned time and time again to how data can make agriculture more efficient. For those of you that couldn’t join us, here were some of the key takeaways:

food blog

  • Fidelity of data – The billion-dollar Climate Corp acquisition by Monsanto was a popular topic of discussion. One investor commented that Climate Corp offers generalized and public data at a cheap price (combined with a financial product offering). Participants saw high fidelity data as the next frontier for startups to tackle. Although this type of data is more expensive to collect, it is also worth much more to farmers. Regardless of the fidelity of the data, a number of participants emphasized the need to make data more actionable.
  • Origination of innovation – Although startups are the source of innovation, corporates are the players that will likely