cleantech insights

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,


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 scale. …

Re-imagining (and Re-tooling) Cleantech in Europe and beyond

Richard Youngman

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 …

It’s a Wrap: SF Forum 2013, Our Best Yet

Greg Neichin

After some well deserved toasts with our staff and a few good night’s sleep, I have finally begun to digest the amazing week that we just had in San Francisco.  I have had the pleasure of co-hosting Cleantech Group’s San Francisco Forum for the past three years, yet none of those previous gatherings came close to the energy and dynamism of this year’s event.

I have to admit that the turnout and enthusiasm surprised even me.  This was supposed to be a year that cleantech was down and out.  With venture support cooling, solar manufacturers failing, and the global economy still sputtering, this would not, on the face of it, be the best time to throw a cleantech party.

But throw a party we did; and much to our delight and sincere appreciation, you all showed up.  Not only did you grab a glass of champagne, but investors announced new capital commitments, corporate dealmakers spoke openly about opportunity areas, and entrepreneurs from around the world unveiled brand new companies.

What gives? With some time to reflect, I think that there were four key drivers that really ignited this year’s Forum.

#1 – Corporate strategics get it and are playing

Reigniting Cleantech: Top 5 Reasons for a Post Bubble Party

Greg Neichin

(if you don’t make it to the end of this article and just want to know where the party is, it’s March 18th-20th in San Francisco, you can register here)

It is quite fashionable these days, especially amongst those in and around Silicon Valley, to talk about the demise of cleantech.  This discussion has always seemed silly to me.

There are only two groups fascinated by this dialogue: (a) US investors who were burned in deals that they likely should not have touched in the first place and (b) industry pundits & consultants with too much time on their hands.  Both of these groups are frustrated and vocal, so they create substantial noise, but far less signal.

As Khosla Venture’s Andrew Chung recently said, in a thoughtful piece by Katie Fehrenbacher covering the “cleantech is dead” meme, “venture is a highly cyclical business”.  You could say that again.  Andrew continued, “we expect sustainability investments to experience a renaissance as today’s breakthrough companies successfully commercialize and have massive impact on society’s infrastructure.”

Call it sustainability investments, energy tech, resource tech, cleantech, or greentech.  Call it whatever else you want to call it, just don’t call it

2012 Global Cleantech 100 list announced!

Whitney Michael

We’ve just released this year’s list of the top 100 private companies in cleantech.  From energy efficiency, biofuels & biochemicals to smart grid, renewable energy, water and waste, and transportation, this list identifies the private cleantech companies most likely to make a significant market impact over the next five to ten years.

To qualify for the Global Cleantech 100, companies must be independent, for-profit, cleantech companies not listed on any major stock exchange. This year, we received over 8,000 nominations for 5,117 companies from 85 countries. A 75-member expert panel, including leading global investors and a wide range of corporate executives from multi-national enterprises such as ABB, BP, Ecolab, GE, General Motors, IBM, Intel, Johnson Controls, Procter and Gamble, and Vestas, gave input on the shortlisted 236, to get to the final list of 100 companies from 13 countries.

Cleantech Group also presented awards in eight categories to clean technology innovators at the Global Cleantech 100 Gala at the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC on October 1.

Company of the Year was awarded in each of three regions to the highest-ranked company with no negative …

The power of global partnerships: You best be a believer.

Greg Neichin

Over the past twelve months it has become quite in vogue, to the point of cliché, to discus the importance of partnerships to the development of the cleantech sector.   What started out as a handful of initiatives by major equipment manufacturers, utilities, and service providers to better engage with early stage companies has now become a full fledged movement of cleantech partnership gospel.

If partnerships are indeed the new cleantech religion, we’re about to host the year’s biggest revival in San Francisco.  Appropriately themed, The Power of Global Partnerships, our upcoming Cleantech Group Forum, March 26-28, will bring together corporate executives, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss why the power of partnerships is not an empty pleasantry, but rather an indispensable guiding mantra for company’s both large and small.

If you have not yet registered or you are still a skeptical, non-believer who thinks that all of this talk of partnerships is nice and fuzzy, but doesn’t have real tactical bite, here are my top 5 reasons, why partnerships really, truly, sincerely-I-swear, matter to the growth of the cleantech sector.

1) Partnerships bring access to customer relationships: Most cleantech markets are brutally hard to enter.  …

Ten top picks for this year’s Cleantech Forum San Francisco

Whitney Michael

Cleantech Forum San Francisco kicks off in just about a month at the Hyatt Regency on the beautiful Embarcadero.  We can only hope the gorgeous weather we’ve been having will hold out for another four weeks!  I don’t believe I’m exaggerating (or bragging) when I say this is going to be our biggest and best conference ever.

While the two and a half days are packed from morning to night with networking, interesting speakers, and activities, I want to share my top 10 reasons you should go now and register.  Save $300 too with discount code CTSFBLOG.

1. Real deals, real senior executives, real networking.  You attend conferences to meet others actively in search of deals, investments, and partnership opportunities. It’s kind of what Cleantech Forum San Francisco is known for. Top executives, investors and entrepreneurs travel from all around the world to meet, make deals, and set the agenda for the year ahead.

2. Entrepreneurial pitch sessions are so popular, even entrepreneurs with loads of capital still want in!  20 hand-selected entrepreneurs seeking funding pitch during Tuesday’s Entrepreneur Showcase. Companies include LanzaTech (which just recently closed a $50M+ investment), Atmosphere Recovery, and ReVolt.

3. This

Want 10 minutes in front of investors from around the world?

Kate McArdle

The Entrepreneur Showcase at Cleantech Forum Munich can give you just that. Our annual European Cleantech Forum is the best place to reach cleantech-focused investors from across Europe and the rest of the world. As an Entrepreneur Showcase presenter, you get 10 minutes to convince these investors and corporate executives that your company is where they should make their next move. It’s a good strategy – companies who presented in last year’s Forum have already scored funding from investors like Industrifonden, and secured partnerships with companies like GE and Siemens.

Don’t wait, though – Friday, February 10 is the deadline for applications for this year’s Entrepreneur Showcase at Cleantech Forum Munich. The application and more details about participating are available here:

Whether your company is seeking a Series A or Series D funding round, whether it is based in London or Vancouver, whether it has a SaaS-based energy efficiency platform or a process to reuse wastewater, there’s no better place for exposure to top cleantech investors than at Cleantech Forum Munich.…