by Leo Zhang
| December 11th 2013
WiTricity, the Massachusetts-based developer of wireless energy transmission and charging technology, announced last week that it had licensed certain patents to Toyota for the development of wireless battery charging technology for the auto major’s electric vehicles. Prior to this licensing agreement, Toyota had also made an equity investment to WiTricity in 2011, to accelerate the development of such technology. This licensing agreement marks a major commercialization milestone towards the wide-spread adoption of WiTricity’s wireless charging systems. Within the same timeframe, a BMW product development executive also announced that “electrification will be a central thread” in BMW’s future product development. In addition, Audi has unveiled its electric crossover concept vehicle at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.
Electric vehicle application isn’t the only market focus for WiTricity. The company’s business strategy aims to license its wireless-power technology to as many partners as possible, including sectors such as transportation, consumer electronics and industrial applications. Consequently, WiTricity also has other corporate investors that have their eyes set on this promising technology. In October of 2013, WiTricity had closed a Growth Equity round from Intel Capital and Foxconn Technology Group, one of China’s largest electronics manufacturers. In addition, General Electric was …
| December 5th 2013
Last week, Greentech Media reported on a deal that took place quietly back in October. In a letter to creditors and shareholders, a financial services firm representing Stion, one of the many struggling producers of Copper-Indium-Gallium-(di)Selenide (CIGS) thin film solar PV cells, disclosed that existing shareholder Khosla Ventures had taken a controlling stake in the company and provided for “an assignment for the benefit of creditors”.
After conventional silicon PV markets experienced a dramatic oversupply and subsequent price crash in the past few years, thin film solar producers, which haven’t yet matched the conversion efficiency of silicon PV and so had been competing primarily on cost, found themselves unable to compete — resulting in several bankruptcies and fire sales. Khosla Ventures’ investment in Stion, which had raised nearly $250 million from investors including Khosla, Braemar Energy Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, AVACO, and others, is a significant bet that thin film solar can still work. Time will tell, as they say, whether this bet turns out to have been a wise one.…
by Sheeraz Haji
| November 20th 2013
We are currently seeing a wave of new ideas in data centers, throwing the traditional model of data center management in the air. The ever accelerating demand for processing and data storage capacity globally, is coming together with environmental demands to create an area ripe for innovation.
This led to lively discussion last week at our Data Centers Power Breakfast, in partnership with Silicon Valley Bank and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Participants – including tech companies, start-ups and investors – proved data centers can reposition themselves as sustainability leaders and pointed to opportunities for even greater innovation through energy efficiency and greening the energy supply.
We were particularly interested in what was driving innovation in the data center sector. There was a simple mantra from the panelists throughout the conversation: solutions needed to be clean, cost-effective and reliable to gain market traction.
We know that over the last decade or so, environmental stewardship has become a C-Suite goal, leading companies to set challenging but attainable clean goals. Even for companies for whom sustainability is not a central characteristic of the product or service, customers, particularly Millennials, are holding them more accountable on environmental metrics.
To attain these goals, …
by Amanda Faulkner
| November 20th 2013
Evogene, an Israeli developer of biotechnologies geared toward developing improved plants for agriculture and biofuel industries through use of plant genomics, filed for an IPO on the NYSE on November 11. The company plans to raised $86 million and would have a market value of $412 million at the midpoint of its proposed range. Evogene has established collaborative relationships with Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and Bayer CropScience, showing real traction with the top players in the industry.
While the public markets have opened up a bit, with BioAmber, Control4, and Silver Spring Networks recently listing, it is still tough for companies in the areas of energy, materials, water, and agriculture to go public. However, Evogene is not the only agriculture company approaching the public markets. Marrone Bio Innovation, a US developer of natural weed, pest and disease management products, raised $57 million on NASDAQ in its August 2013 offering.
With Evogene’s filing, we could see even deeper interest in companies working on geed genomics for both agriculture and biofuels. To see which companies may be on the road to a public offering or could attract large venture rounds, we rounded up some of the most …
by Richard Youngman
| November 14th 2013
November 3-8 I had the honor and pleasure of leading Cleantech Group’s 3rd annual Cleantech Tour of China, an intense week of activities to help 13 companies and investors meet key players in China, to learn about the market and to think through potential entry strategies and partners. Over the week we met with over 100 organizations. Had I written a summary letter to the group, summarizing the experience and the learnings, this is what it might have looked like.
Dear 2013 Tour Party Members, (representatives of Advenira, Bowman Power, Electranova Capital, Enlighted, E.ON (Strategic Co-investments), Generation Investment Management, Idinvest Partners, NexSteppe, Silicon Valley Bank, Sol Voltaics, Solexant, sunfire and van Dyne Superturbo)
I think you just learned why it is imperative to always approach China with as open a mind as possible. Each time I take a group like you, of companies and investors, on our annual Cleantech Tour of China, I am always struck how pre-conceptions get challenged during the week, and how much, during the week, people begin to see and appreciate how fast the market dynamics change and how different the …
| November 11th 2013
Despite its stock getting battered late in the week due to a bigger-than-expected third quarter loss, we believe hindsight will judge last week a good one for SolarCity. For us, the short-term whims of speculative day traders and hedge funds do not outweigh the significance of the company’s announcement a week ago that it was planning a private placement, worth $54 million, of debt securities backed by the cash flows of its solar projects.
The deal is significant as it is the first of its kind and an important step in the direction of securitization of solar generation facilities. If all goes well, it will be yet another proof point for the bank-ability of solar. Thus far, in the United States, solar project developers have raised project finance funds based on pass-through arrangements that promise the delivery of tax subsidies accrued to the solar facility, to institutional investors (typically big banks) with large tax liabilities. SolarCity’s new private placement may open the door to a plethora of private-sector pooled-asset financing vehicles including real estate investment trusts (REITs) and master limited partnerships (MLPs), that are attractive for their future cash flows, not just subsidies.
Across the pond in July, a …
by Jill Bunting
| November 6th 2013
On November 12-13, Cleantech Group and The Cleanweb Initiative are co-hosting “Cleanweb and the City,” the first senior executive summit on cleanweb. In the lead up to the summit, Cleantech Group is catching up with leaders in NYC cleanweb to learn more about what the rise of cleanweb means for start-ups, corporates, investors, and the overall innovation landscape. Click here to learn more about Cleanweb and the City and request an invite.
Ulrich Quay, Managing Director, BMW i Ventures
Some corporates seem to be either unsure of, or even hostile towards, disruptive cleanweb applications like sharing platforms. BMW seems to have embraced the potential in this space. How do you view the opportunity in cleanweb for a company like BMW?
We’ve been studying mobility needs in the future. There’s a lot of potential, especially in urban areas, for BMW to play an important role here. We view it as, instead of customers having no BMW experience, we rather they have an experience through mobility services. For our parents and grandparents, they were saving their money for a car. Mobility behavior for people today has clearly changed, and a company like BMW has to be part of that future.
by Sheeraz Haji
| November 6th 2013
Cleantech startups are disrupting global industries. Not in ten years. Not in five years. Today. We are observing fundamental shifts in many key segments of the economy. New technologies and business models are turning things upside down. Right now. These significant system changes have inspired the theme for Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014: Accelerating system change; towards a decentralized future. Let me elaborate.
The economy is experiencing a fundamental shift from centralized to distributed systems. Consumers are gaining power and are decentralizing decisions and processes. This is causing a massive change in customer experiences, and placing incumbent business models at risk. This change is remarkable, and the pace of this change is accelerating.
Examples are all around us.
Let’s start with energy. Consumers all over the world are increasingly opting to buy energy from Solar City or Solairedirect instead of their local utility. Big companies like Walmart are getting off the grid in order to improve business reliability, increase flexibility, and hedge energy prices: the retail giant is partnering with Solar City and Tesla for a combined solar panel + energy storage deployment. Data centers have joined the trend. Microsoft (who will be speaking at Cleantech Forum …
| November 4th 2013
A note to regular readers of this blog – this will be our final “The Week in Cleantech” post. Beginning next week, in an effort to bring you more focused content on specific clean technology sectors, we’ll begin posting highlights of specific deals and why they matter in relation to a broader sector. Now, let’s look at some highlights from last week:
Perhaps influenced by the successful exit of ecoATM in July by investors including Claremont Creek Ventures and Tao Venture Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Silver Lake Kraftwerk last week pumped $105 million in Series C growth capital into eRecyclingCorps, a company similarly pursuing incentivized recycling of personal electronics. Instead of setting up a network of kiosks, however, eRecyclingCorps builds trade-in programs in partnership with the all largest mobile phone carriers. Founded in 2009, the company, which also counts SJF Ventures and NGEN Partners as investors, has said it intends to use the funds to support potential acquisitions, geographic expansion and new products and services.
The Agriculture sector again proved to be on the minds of venture investors last week as Harvest Automation, a Massachusetts-based developer of robotic technology for agricultural applications, raised …
by Jill Bunting
| October 29th 2013
On November 12-13, Cleantech Group and The Cleanweb Initiative are co-hosting “Cleanweb and the City” the first executive summit on cleanweb. In the lead up to the summit, Cleantech Group is catching up with leaders in NYC cleanweb to learn more about what the rise of cleanweb means for start-ups, corporates, investors, and the overall innovation landscape. Click here to learn more about Cleanweb and the City and request an invite.
Jun Shimada, CEO, ThinkEco
What’s the challenge you’re working to solve?
We’re addressing energy efficiency from the consumer side. Utilities have issues with peak demand because supply is difficult to increase, and we aggregate demand savings.
Looking at the cleanweb landscape, ThinkEco is somewhat unique both because of its relative maturity and because you have a hardware component to the business. How has ThinkEco thrived as other energy products, such as in-home displays, fell away?
Fundamentally, we always believed that the consumer gets engaged through software. People who are trying to create another display will always fail, because consumers don’t want another thing. However, in order for us to provide a service to utilities, we need hardware. Utilities are hardware companies and need to have the …