cleantech insights

Where are we going to go from here?

Heather Matheson

We’re at a unique crossroads, with many entrepreneurs and investors alike unsure of the future. Once-hot companies are struggling to raise their next round of financing or secure key customers. Some VCs appear to be running for the hills. See articles here and here.  Yet, China is deploying clean technologies like never before. Big European corporates are investing in cleantech startups, funds, and JVs at record levels. What’s really going on with cleantech?

Recently, a small gathering of cleantech entrepreneurs and investors attempted to tackle these questions:  Where do you think we stand today? Where do you think the brightest opportunity is in cleantech over the next 2 years? What is the future of cleantech?

There’s no doubt that the going is tough for Cleantech right now.  Investing is slower, there are fewer big success stories to celebrate today, and there are even questions about whether the term is too broad. Despite today’s tough times, many still see opportunities for future success.

Cleantech will forge ahead by:

  • Making the most of incremental milestones as demonstrations of progress
  • Looking to areas of great need like energy security, infrastructure and China
  • Targeting consumers
  • Identifying new entry points and leveraging new

The Week in Cleantech – July 18-24


It was a good week for all things “smart”, as smart grid, smart water, and smart transportation companies all picked up new capital.

The biggest venture-backed deal of the week was $47M in fresh financing for SmartDrive Systems, a U.S. based developer of intelligent fleet solutions for improving the operating efficiency and safety of commercial vehicles.  SmartDrive has raised over $128M to date from New Enterprise Associates, Oak Investment Partners, and Stanford University.

In the world of smart grid, German broadband powerline communications developer Power Plus Communications pulled in a $15M Series B round of capital.  Demonstrating the continued importance of corporate strategic investment, British Gas Venture Capital & Siemens were both participating investors and will bring valuable support beyond just their checkbooks.  In other smart grid news, SEC filings indicate that On-Ramp Wireless has raised $10M of a proposed $30M financing round.  On-Ramp provides a variety of communications solutions tailored to both smart grid, as well as energy and industrial applications.  We expect to see more in this space (i.e. industrial automation) as more traditional energy businesses such as oil & gas exploration seek better monitoring and control solutions.

Rounding out the week’s “smart” deals, WaterSmart Software added …

Something Has to ‘Give’ in European cleantech M&A

Richard Youngman

This week, one year ago, it was announced that ABB had acquired Epyon, a developer of fast-charging technology for electric vehicles.  Following on from BASF’s acquisition of Inge, Alinda’s acquisition of and  Samsung’s of Liquavista, the M&A wave of venture-backed European cleantech companies we’d all been waiting for seemed to be happening. A year on – we are still waiting. It proved a false dawn, but surely, actually, some kind of a postponed dawn.

We have spent some weeks, with Richard Cave-Bigley as our project lead, analysing the state of the market and discussing this stand-off between potential buyers and sellers with many corporate representatives (in both M&A and venturing teams), venture firms, Limited Partners, and other market agents (such as lawyers, brokers and corporate finance advisors).

Here are some of our key impressions, detailed in a fuller research report we have released to our i3 subscribers today:

Something has to give soon (the title of the report). Many cleantech venture funds, with 2005-2007 vintages are in their divestment periods, with many more following on close behind. Such fund managers are trying to strike a delicate balance. On the one hand, they wish to time exits …

Riding the solar coaster – a free mini-report from Cleantech Group

Whitney Michael

Just released – a special excerpt on Solar from Cleantech Group’s Quarterly Investment Monitor report (normally available only to subscribers).

Venture investment in solar in the first quarter of 2012 was down following on the back of a strong 2011. Companies innovating in various areas of the solar sector raised $250 million in the first quarter, down 53 percent from the previous quarter and down 56 percent when compared with the same quarter a year earlier. While the total amount invested dropped steeply, the number of deals done remained relatively strong at 28 (right near the long-running sweet spot for the sector of 30 deals per quarter).

This suggests investors are both cautious about market conditions and capital-constrained and are choosing more efficient fund allocation while still keeping an appetite for deals. The average round sizes for both the quarter as a whole and the top three deals were also down around 50 percent compared with the quarterly averages for 2011.

SolarCity’s $81 million round, the biggest round of the quarter for the solar sector, drove the large dollar share for the segment. In addition to SolarCity’s round, other PV integrators/developers including SungevityOneRoof EnergyISIS Solar

Financing Growth for cleantech companies: learning from the pioneers

Richard Youngman

In April, at Cleantech Forum Europe in Munich, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on this subject, where we discussed some recent and current company case studies, to draw out the very real financing challenges facing growing cleantech companies and some of the possible solutions.

One of my original invitees, Richard McCombs, was unable to be with us that day, but I recently caught up with him and this inspired this interview-style blog post. Richard recently retired as CEO of MBA Polymers. Through that lens we discussed the financing challenges for growth companies with newer technologies, to draw out some tips for the future.

Richard Youngman (RY): MBA Polymers is the global leader in recycling plastics from end-of-life electronics, appliances and automobiles. What has been your experience in financing its growth journey?

Richard McCombs (RMc):  When we prepared to build our first commercial scale facility, we realized that we could not meet venture capitalists’ expected returns if we built our facilities with 100% MBA equity.  Our first facility was in China. So we structured it as a joint venture with MBA owning >50% and having full management control. We also negotiated that our partner would arrange …

The Week in Cleantech – June 11 – 17


Editor’s note: Last week we reported that UK-based Green-Tide Turbines (links require subscription), a developer of innovative turbines for run-of-river and tidal hydro power generation, had raised its Series A round of venture funding. This was in error. Green-Tide’s founder and Chief Executive, Michael Evans, let us know that the company is in fact still seeking investors for its first round. The company is targeting a £5 million fundraise.


Investors’ focus on early and seed-stage investments two weeks ago was surely encouraging for the youngest clean technology start-ups, but it also drove down the weekly tally of dollars invested to its lowest level this quarter ($22 million across 12 deals). Last week, however, saw the return of a few bigger deals which helped that metric climb back to a healthy $111 million (albeit spread across a shorter list of 10 venture deals).


Leading the week was San Francisco-based Climate Corporation, formerly Weatherbill, with the close of a $50 million Series C round led by new investor  The Founders Fund. The company operates at the intersection of big data and agriculture, crunching the numbers on weather patterns and farmers’ crops to supply growers with specially-tailored insurance against …

The 2011 Global Cleantech 100 – Where Are They Now?

Sara Strope

Nine months ago, we unveiled the 2011 Global Cleantech 100 list at a Gala dinner in Washington, DC.  These 100 innovators were identified as trailblazers delivering the very best clean technology solutions, companies that, according to the collective judgment of the world’s cleantech industry insiders, were the most likely to make the most significant market impact over the next 5-10 years.

As we prepare for this year’s Global Cleantech 100 list (remember, nominations are open until June 30th) and the corresponding Global Cleantech 100 Summit and Gala, I find myself thinking about the 2011 top 100 companies and wondering, “where are they now?”  Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a look back to see what has happened to our favorite companies, the rising stars, the international standouts and more.  Who has raised more capital?  What new partnerships were announced?  Who will we see on stage again this October?

To kick things off, let’s take a look at the group as a whole.  In the past nine months, the Global Cleantech 100 companies have collectively raised $2,346,461,951 in total capital across 56 deals.  There have been a limited number of exit opportunities – with one acquisition, …

Looking for Cleantech Angel Investors

Sheeraz Haji

I have been getting more calls from early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs looking for seed funding. Many of these startup CEO’s have already met with a number of the focused VCs and figured out that their venture is too early for them.  A few have tried to pitch the Band of Angels or the Keiretsu Forum unsuccessfully. Yet they appear to be strong entrepreneurs with a great idea. I struggle with where to send them. I know of a few angels investing in the space but they are limited by the number of deals they can do as well as the size of their investments. Where’s the Reid Hoffman for cleantech?

A number of family offices have organized themselves to share dealflow and form investing syndicates. This is terrific news for the sector, and has significantly increased the number of investors who can invest directly into cleantech startups. However, this does not solve the early-stage fundraising challenge. Most family offices prefer not to lead deals and hesitate to participate in deals that are deemed too risky.

Many venture firms claim to invest in seed cleantech deals, but few have done so in the past year or two. Khosla Ventures is the exception. …

Water: Week in Review


With all the attention that the Oil and Gas sector has so far received for its lavish use and disposal of water, it was only a matter of time before we saw companies respond with new products and partnerships to address problems.  While we’ve already begun to notice this trend in the past year, this week in particular stands out given the new products from both OriginOil and Aquatech.  Separately, stormwater management is receiving special attention via new partnerships focused on educating, implementing, and managing stormwater solutions for residences and communities alike.  For details on those products, and other news stories in Water, continue reading below.

M&A/ Partnerships


  • A Gold Coast desalination plant that provided safe drinking water to residents of Brisbane during the 2011 floods is

The Week in Cleantech – June 4 – 10


For those who think that investors have gone ice cold on “bet the farm” cleantech deals, you will want to start your Monday by taking a look at Bloom Energy.  The much talked-about fuel cell maker is thought to be seeking a $150M expansion of its Series G round. The company had previously raised $150 million in Series G equity in September, 2011 from Advanced Equities, Kleiner Perkins, NEA and others, and is reportedly looking to sell a similarly sized lot of additional Series G shares that would value the company, post-money, at around $3 billion.

It wasn’t all mega deals this week though.  While the second quarter of 2012 has so far looked slightly less kind than the first quarter to young cleantech companies, last week provided ample evidence that there is still plenty of activity at the early stage end of the market.  Khosla Ventures disclosed in a regulatory filing that it plans to raise a new seed-stage fund, and several companies – including Green-Tide Turbines, Cooledge Lighting, and Xerion Advanced Battery – raised Series A rounds of financing to support diverse activities across the cleantech space.

While the public markets still remain quite difficult …