cleantech insights

Where are they now: Global Cleantech 100 Edition

Amanda Faulkner

In this edition of ‘Where are they now?’ we tackle alums of our annual Global Cleantech 100 list. It will be just as much fun as the child stars edition, without the horrible haircuts. Where are the companies that have been featured on past GCT100 lists? Who has made it big with a successful exit? Who had a fire sale acquisition or bankruptcy? Who might be on this year’s list? For a full list of the 2010-2013 lists, check out past reports.

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The Good

Who has exited since being on the 2013 GCT100 list? Three companies, Marrone Bio Innovation and Opower each had an IPO, with Marrone’s happening after it was picked for the list but before the list went public. NovaLED, Nest, and NanoH2O were each acquired, by Samsung, Google, and LG Chem, respectively. Past GCT100 honorees exiting this year include Hara, which was acquired by Verisae, as well as PowerSense, which was acquired by Landis+Gyr. McPhy Energy also debuted on Euronext Paris.

The Bad

Unfortunately, some companies from the 2013 GCT100 list did not have such a great year. Azzurro Semiconductors, a GCT100 2013 company, declared bankruptcy in April …


China’s Smog Triggers Investment in Air Pollution Mitigation

Wendy Bao

During the opening keynote at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014, Cleantech Group CEO, Sheeraz Haji, stepped on the stage while wearing a facemask commonly seen in China. Attendees immediately realized his reference to the infamous air pollution problem in China. According to China’s Development Research Center of the State Council, smoggy weather costs China approximately $100 billion a year. To mitigate such loss, Chinese government plans to invest $290 billion for air pollution treatment technologies from 2013 to 2017, said Xiaoqing Wu, Vice-Minister of the China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. These investments and mandates by the government will create a huge market demand for innovating technologies within the Air sector.

 China Investment in Air

Per chart below, desirable investment environment created by the urgent needs for air pollution mitigation technologies resulted in a peak in investments last year. According to Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform, deal count in the Air sector rose from just two deals to ten deals between 2012 and 2013. We saw leading global ventures such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB),  Qualcomm Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, along with local ventures such as Qiming Venture Partners and TusPark Ventures actively investing in the Air sector in …

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:

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  • 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

Playbook for Successful Corporate Partnerships

Amanda Faulkner


Corporates, with access to capital, markets and tech know-how, are obvious partners to help startups succeed. Yet despite the recognized importance of partnerships, actually finding a partner and nurturing a successful partnership can be challenging. On February 12, we hosted a webinar to discuss this topic and get feedback from top investors and corporates in the field. Stephan Dolezalek from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Gil Demeter from Qualcomm Ventures, and Bharat Ramakrishnan from Applied Materials talked about their own experiences and advice for startups looking to partner with corporates. Here are some of the key takeaways from the webinar:

Have an internal champion – The biggest point that Stephan, Gil, and Bharat made was that individual champions at the corporate are key to making partnerships happen. Those champions will pitch your company, debate any doubters, and be your defender throughout the process. He or she will be personally and professionally invested in the partnership and push to make the partnership successful.

Diversify and strengthen your personal relationships – Not only do you need a champion; you need a variety of people within the corporate with interest in making the partnership work. Personnel change fairly frequently; diversity of relationships ensures …

Data Center Innovation = Clean + Cost-Effective + Reliable

Sheeraz Haji

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, …

One Bed, One Dream: some learnings from the 2013 China Cleantech Tour

Richard Youngman

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 …

H2.O – Pushing Past the Clichés Towards the Future of Water Innovation

Janelle Heslop

On September 10-11, Cleantech Group hosted its second annual Water Innovation Summit in Berkeley, California. Representatives from VC firms, corporates, startups, municipalities, and more gathered to debate issues ranging from repair drones in water pipes to financing infrastructure in emerging markets. Our strategy for the Summit was simple: define top challenges throughout the ‘water cycle’ and uncover opportunities to accelerate innovation at each step. However, what quickly became evident, as with many water-related conversations, is that the challenges are complex and solutions are interconnected.

In fact, in summarizing the Summit, Peter Gleick from the Pacific Institute, referred to a few ‘water clichés’ that seem to emerge from any discussion of water challenges and solutions:

  • Water is more than technology; we must consider cultural and political challenges. The confluence of all three—technology, culture, and politics—is the key to making water work. This was particularly noted by leaders from the World Bank and WaterHealth as critical to solving challenges in developing countries. New technologies and business models must be accompanied by an authentic understanding of personal, cultural aspects of water in addition to local regulations. Some innovators in the room provided insight on how to leverage these competing factors—for example,

Oil and Gas Turns to Water Innovators to Meet New Expectations

Tom Rooney

The revolution currently taking place in oil and gas promises to fundamentally rework global economies and the environment. New hydraulic fracturing technologies are unlocking vast, new oil and gas reserves around the world. Today, the Marcellus Shale gas reserve — in the Northeastern United States — is the second largest gas field in the world, with a BTU equivalent worth more than all the oil in Saudi Arabia. Leveraging these new opportunities will require innovations in water technology from the wellhead to the homes, businesses, and vehicles that will benefit from this cleaner burning, abundant energy source.

While opportunities are vast, so too are the environmental, reputational, and regulatory risks. Oil and gas producers are more concerned than ever about the environmental consequences of production and are actively seeking greener, safer alternatives and less energy-intensive methods to generate profits, while creating a cleaner planet. Water quality tops the list. Where do opportunities exist?

Fracking itself is the result of innovation, an application of technology in a new and unexpected way. While hydraulic fracturing has been used since the 1940s, it was only with the addition of horizontal drilling and its application to shale reserves once thought unrecoverable that it achieved …

To Do China Right, Enjoy the Food: 12 Gems For Growing Your Business in China

Josh Seidenfeld

Last Friday, Cleantech Group, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati convened an intimate group including investors (Dow Venture Capital, Keytone Ventures, Khosla Ventures, The Westly Group), corporate innovation leaders (ABB, Applied Materials, Siemens), and startups (Efficiency Exchange, Gridium, NexSteppe, Scoot Networks) for a Power Breakfast focused on strategies for working in China. A panel of investors, bankers, attorneys, and startup CEOs with deep experience working in China led the conversation, moderated by Cleantech Group’s CEO, Sheeraz Haji (see a couple interesting slides from Sheeraz’ presentation at the end of the post.)

We promised not to attribute quotes so participants would feel more comfortable speaking their minds, but here are a dozen highlights from the experts:

  1. Enjoy the food. Personal connections drive business in China. One panelist mused, “Once you start enjoying food with people you really start to get to know one another.”
  2. Wear the mandarin hat. One seasoned investor recalled how he was advised to make clear to Chinese counterparts “what’s in it for them.” But, he added, the euphemism “wear the mandarin hat” sounds better. The need to align partnerships

Energy innovation opens doors for the world’s 1.3B “energy-poor”

Josh Seidenfeld

InterSolar is on this week in San Francisco. While it’s been a rough year for the upstream folks, and the tradeshow floor may have a New-Year’s-Day-hangover feel about it (notable exception: the focus on the burgeoning energy storage field), some bright spots emerge. As I nurse my own hangover from last night’s Solar Battle of the Bands, I’m reflecting on a terrific side-event that featured some of the world’s most exciting energy innovators.

The Bay Area Energy Access Working Group (a name only an engineer could love) yesterday convened entrepreneurs blazing pathways out of energy poverty. The group, hosted by at Google’s San Francisco offices, shared new approaches to delivering energy services to some of the 1.3 billion energy-poor people across the globe. New financial tools, new communication technologies, and new business models drive energy innovation in the developing world just as they do in the rich world. The event’s three panels addressed these drivers.

Finance innovation might be the most important current development. Many of the technologies used to deliver life-altering energy services to off-grid, rural communities have long been established. Solar lanterns come to mind. Now, though, we require the money to deploy these technologies at …