by Sheeraz Haji
| May 16th 2013
On May 10, 2013, Cleantech Group, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati hosted a Power Breakfast focused on Advanced Materials, featuring participants from BASF Venture Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Dow Chemical, Applied Materials, and a number of promising startups in the space.
From graphene’s astounding material properties to cleaner polymer feedstocks, advanced materials innovations are quietly transforming cleantech behind the scenes. In our 1Q13 Quarterly Investment Monitor, we asked if Advanced Materials could be the dark horse of the cleantech sector. After a dynamic discussion during our quarterly Power Breakfast, the answer looks to be a resounding yes.
The conversation opened with investors’ interest areas in this space. While the VCs favored disruptive technologies that could upend entire industries, corporates leaned toward incremental innovations to augment their core materials capabilities. All parties agreed on the difficulty of adapting entire supply chains to new materials, as well as the application discovery process to determine target markets in the first place.
Last week’s discussion also turned to the importance and difficulties of forging successful partnerships. Besides capital, corporate partnerships can provide startups with support from business units, access to customers, pilot …
by Greg Neichin
| May 15th 2013
Cleantech Group convened its first official Oil & Gas Innovation Summit on May 8-9, 2013, in Calgary, Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada, Cenovus Energy, General Electric, and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). This small, invite-only gathering brought together some of the most important companies in the Canadian Oil Sands and a number of the world’s Oil & Gas majors to discuss the evolving ecosystem of venture-driven innovation in the sector, as well as to evaluate eight early-stage startups that we handpicked to present to the audience on diverse topics including upgrading, water treatment, and pipeline technologies. Based on strong feedback in favor of reconvening this group annually, if not more frequently, we are already planning a second Summit in 2014 and are exploring new formats to create additional value for the attendees. (Please let us know if you’d like to help guide this process!)
Over the course of this two-day event, three key themes stood out – together they point toward an overarching need to develop a collective vision for external innovation in the Oil & Gas sector and to build deeper alignment between all constituents within the ecosystem.
- Corporates must continue to clarify their strategic objectives.
| May 13th 2013
Last week was not short on activity in venture-backed clean technology. Venture investment was led by one big deal: Bloom Energy, a maker of natural gas-powered solid oxide fuel cells for distributed commercial power generation that has hinted at a public offering later in the year, raised $130 million more in venture capital from Credit Suisse and another unidentified new investor. Existing investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates, DAG Ventures, and others.
Minnesota-based BioAmber became the first company in over a year to successfully complete an initial public offering in the biofuels / biochemicals space. The company manufactures biochemicals for agricultural applications, and specializes in bio-based succinic acid as a direct replacement for the petroleum-derived version. BioAmber sweetened the deal for investors, offering common shares along with warrants to purchase additional shares in the future at the offering price. The offering still went through at the low end of the planned range, at $10 per unit, however.
There were a couple significant acquisitions made during the week, as well, including two in the smart thermostat/home energy efficiency industry: First, smart thermostat maker Nest announced its acquisition of MyEnergy (formerly Earth Aid), an …
| May 6th 2013
Last week opened with more news in cleantech fundraising. After an initial close of $60 million back in Q1, long-time cleantech investor SJF Ventures held a final close of its third fund at an oversubscribed $90 million. All-cleantech funds have been scarce recently, but the first quarter saw an uptick, including funds raised by The Westly Group, Israel Cleantech Ventures, and others.
NEA and NGEN Partners put $6 million into Canadian solar-as-a-service start-up Pure Energies, betting that the Ontario feed-in-tariff program will provide a profitable market. Pure Energies last year acquired One Block Off the Grid (1BOG), which NEA had also invested in.
Pixelligent Technologies, a producer of a product family of nanocrystal dispersions with diverse applications in electronics and renewable energy, among others, raised $5 million in new equity from existing investor Abell Foundation. The company intends to use the funds to accelerate the scaling-up of its manufacturing capacity (in Baltimore, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) and to hire application, engineering, and business development focused employees.
Meanwhile, the week was full of new partnerships across diverse sectors. New York utility Consolidated Edison (ConEd) is to pilot Eos Energy Storage‘s zinc-air battery technology for grid …
| May 2nd 2013
In 2008 Sulfurcell, a German thin-film solar developer to be renamed Soltecture, raised €85 million in one of the largest European cleantech deals that year. Four out of the six investors were pureplay cleantech funds: BankInvest New Energy Solutions, Climate Change Capital, Demeter Partners and Zouk Capital.
On April 18 2013, James Russell took the stage at the 9th European Cleantech Forum to receive the award for Fundraise of the Year. As CEO of Tamar Energy he raised £97 million for a new venture developing anaerobic digestion in the UK. His backers included the private wealth of Lord Rothschild and the Duchy of Cornwall, asset manager RIT Capital Partners, UK retail giant Sainsbury’s and Islamic finance fund Fajr Capital.
It is clear to all in the market that the cleantech fundraising environments of 2008 and 2013 are very different, however the exact nature of our new environment is not so evident. Earlier this year Cleantech Group, in partnership with Georgieff Capital Advisors, set out to put numbers against the hype and shine a light through the fog of fundraising for European cleantech companies seeking capital.
One of the analyses performed was on 60 of the most active …
| April 29th 2013
Last week was an exciting one in the world of clean technology. We saw a couple really interesting acquisitions, with grid infrastructure giant ABB buying Power-One, air pollution controls company CECO Environmental acquiring Met-Pro Corporation, and water metering major Badger Meter acquiring a pre-revenue, venture-backed startup called Aquacue.
There were also several companies receiving venture capital during the week. Fertilizer-from-wastewater technology company Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, a Canadian company, raised its latest round, bringing in $13 million in new equity capital from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Frog Capital, and new investor Wheatsheaf Investments. Wheatsheaf is part of a portfolio of businesses held by the estate of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster in the U.K.
Hydrostor, also a Canadian company and pursuing underwater compressed air energy storage (CAES) technology for power firming at offshore wind farms, raised $2 million in its Series A round from the MaRS Cleantech Fund and private investors. CAES competitors including General Compression and SustainX would seem to have a jump on Hydrostor, though none, to our knowledge, have to date pursued underwater applications of the technology.
And perhaps the most noteworthy investment we saw last week was …
by Richard Youngman
| April 24th 2013
Last week we hosted our 9th European Cleantech Forum, where we took on the task of “re-imagining cleantech”.
The event set new attendance records. Conventional wisdom would suggest that, in its ninth year and with the cleantech moniker out of fashion in investment circles, this event should show signs of being past its peak. And yet, the more committed and enlightened of you keep coming – our sincerest thanks for that – and more new faces, new companies and new countries are added to the delegate list each year. These included, this year, representatives from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.
So why is that? That is because, as my keynote called out, we only just started.
I argued that, although investment numbers may be down, the market for clean technology products is still in growth and, according to a 2012 Roland Berger/WWF report, has become as sizeable a global market as a number of long-established industrial segments.
I argued that it was not that we had got the power and inevitability of the mega-trends giving rise to this huge innovation opportunity wrong, but we had learnt, painfully, that there is no quick buck to be made (without a …
| April 22nd 2013
It was an exciting week in cleantech. Lighting control system maker Enlighted raised $20 million in new venture capital, more than doubling its paid-in-capital to date. New investor RockPort Capital Partners led the round, and was joined by existing investors KPCB, DFJ, and Intel Capital. DFJ JAIC, a Japan-focused member of the DFJ Global Network, was also a new investor in the round. The startup announced that its systems have now been deployed in 10 million square feet of commercial building space, which is double what it had reported just five months ago.
Continuing a big trend in the clean transportation sub-sector, yet another car-sharing startup has raised venture capital. This time it’s a company newly on our radar, called FlightCar, with a $5 million series A round from Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst Partners, First Round Capital, and others. It’s one of eleven such companies to have raised money since the start of 2012 (we’ll let you discover the others through our powerful cleantech taxonomy), though FlightCar has a unique angle – providing its service to a nicely captive market at airports. The company enables travelers to avoid or offset long-term …
by Jill Bunting
| April 15th 2013
This week’s indicator is 90 percent, which is the percentage of wireless cloud electricity consumption that goes to network infrastructure. This finding, reported in a new study from the Centre for Energy-Efﬁcient Telecommunications, goes against stakeholder reports and stories in popular media, which often ding data centers for their energy footprints. According to the new report, this emphasis has been misplaced. “Wireless networks are the biggest threat to the sustainability of cloud services, not data centers,” the authors conclude.
In recent years, data center providers have developed a slew of metrics (e.g., power usage effectiveness, carbon usage effectives, data center maturity model, etc.) and initiatives (e.g., The Green Grid) to measure and manage energy consumption. The authors would like a similar emphasis on the efficiency of wireless access technologies, which is projected to see exponential growth in the near-term. The number of wireless cloud users is expected to grow to nearly a billion by 2014. By 2015, these users will be responsible for 30 megatons of CO2 annually – the equivalent of 5 million new cars.
This is an entry in our series, The S-Curve Indicator, where we highlight a number that’s impacting the world of …
| April 14th 2013
The world of venture-backed clean technology rolled on last week with several big deals. Distributed solar financing company Clean Power Finance closed on a $37 million round of growth equity, with new investor Edison International and two other “major power sector companies” joining existing investors in the round. The investment follows two big VC rounds into OneRoof Energy and Sungevity, two similarly focused downstream solar financing companies, in the first quarter.
Other venture financings during the week included Ideol, a developer of a floating wind turbine platform capable of minimizing wake induced loses to other nearby turbines when the wind changes; Cooltech Applications, a developer of an energy-efficient magnetic refrigeration technology for industrial use; and Cymbet Corporation, a developer of thin-film batteries for semiconductors and electronic products. Demeter Partners was an investor in both Ideol’s and Cooltech Applications’ rounds.
First Solar‘s share price soared midweek on positive earnings projections and news that the company had acquired TetraSun, a developer of monocrystalline silicon solar cell technology that boosts the conversion efficiency of photons into electrons.
There was also a bit of IPO news during the week. BioAmber, a manufacturer of green chemicals from agricultural …