cleantech insights

Oil & Gas Industry’s Embrace of Clean Technology – Catching Up with Jean-Michel Gires of Chrysalix


The majority perception of the term “cleantech” dictates that folks often think my company, Cleantech Group, must be entirely uninterested in working with large traditional players in the oil & gas (O&G) industry. Indeed, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, our data from i3 and my interview with Jean-Michel Gires, former President & CEO of Total E&P Canada and now the newest Venture Partner at Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, reveal that the O&G industry is embracing clean technology more closely than ever before.

O&G Corporates Partnering with Proven Innovators

Cleantech start-ups often have it tough. Those developing technologies that require more capital and time to scale than traditional “tech” startups lead some investors to argue that the sector just doesn’t fit the traditional venture capital model. And, like biomedical start-ups, some cleantech start-ups often face highly-regulated or otherwise-entrenched traditional industries where innovation is slower to take root.

It is with this backdrop that we see large O&G companies as important drivers of cleantech innovation. Large balance sheets allow for impactful investments and we’re seeing more and more O&G majors starting to embrace innovation more directly with dedicated venturing arms and co-investments with industry peers (see chart at …


“Don’t-call-it-cleantech” cleantech investors

Greg Neichin

One of last quarter’s highest profile cleantech deals, agriculture optimization software developer Solum’s $17M round of financing, was led by an investor that apparently was not interested in doing cleantech deals. Andreessen Horowitz, a firm closely associated with consumer internet hits such as Twitter, Skype, Zynga, and GroupOn, led the round with Kleiner Perkins.  This after firm founder Marc Andreessen had previously declared that the fund would not be investing in “cleantech”.

Last week’s latest addition to the camp of cleantech investors who swear that they don’t invest in cleantech is Index Ventures.  Back in June, the firm closed on a new $440M fund.  In an interview with Fortune, Index Partner Mike Volpi declared, “We looked at a lot of [cleantech] deals but didn’t think that many had the same potential as tech deals, because they relied too much on subsidies. We did a couple, including a tire recycling company, but I wouldn’t say that it’s still a focus.”

It may not be a focus, but last week Index put more cleantech money into that “tire recycling company”, otherwise known as Lehigh Technologies as the company raised $16M from Index, Kleiner Perkins, Leaf Clean Energy, and others.

In April, GigaOM …

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. …

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.…

Top 5 Cleantech Predictions For 2012: The Expanded International Version

Greg Neichin

It’s that time of the year when pundits and prognosticators begin to opine about what will happen in 2012.   Frankly, I don’t like this game.  In mid-2001, I worked for a technology “futurist” firm and wrote a piece predicting that CD-R/W music players would continue to dominate in the year ahead.  That was a couple months before the ipod came on the market and made me look like a fool.  Not that I mind looking like a fool, but I think I’ve shied away from these declarations ever since.

However, I was inspired this week by Rob Day (@cleantechvc) to throw my hat back into the ring.  Why? Because Rob actually went back and wrote a post critiquing the predictions he made from the previous year.  I found this remarkable precisely because most analysts write these odes with zero accountability.  As an investor, Rob actually has to bet on his predictions, so I enjoyed his self-critique.  I promise to do the same – someone hold me to it!

So without further adieu, here are my top 5, slightly irreverent, predictions for cleantech internationally in the year ahead. Why international? Because I’ve spent most of the last 6 …

Top 5 Things Cleantech Entrepreneurs Fail to Understand About Raising Venture Capital

Guest Analyst: David Gold

After decades of venture capital investment, growth and exit, the traditional focus areas of venture capital (such as IT, web and software) have developed strong entrepreneurial ecosystems. A high percentage of start-ups in these traditional areas come to market with one or more experienced entrepreneurs or with a strong and active network of investors/advisors who have “been there, done that.”   They know what it takes to raise capital and to build a great fast-growing business.  Cleantech companies, however, are much more likely to be led by first-time entrepreneurs who often struggle to create an ecosystem of experience people around them.

As a venture capitalist, I review hundreds of business plans each year and physically meet with roughly a hundred entrepreneurs seeking capital.  I have the advantage of doing this through the eyes of someone who has been on the other side of the table, having raised venture capital for my own start-up before becoming a VC.  And while there are certainly numerous exceptions, there are themes I see across cleantech start-ups that are not specific to their technology or market but which nonetheless impede their ability to raise capital.  Here is the top five…

Technology is necessary, but not sufficient.

On power and influence in Cleantech

Josh Gould

File this under simple, but underappreciated: power and influence are not synonyms.  They describe seperate, though sometimes closely related, phenomena.  Distinguishing between each requires self-awareness.  Successful people like Bing Gordon of Electronic Arts fame, who recently discussed the issue here, tend to be keenly aware of how much of each characteristic they have, and how best to conserve or deploy it.  Being successful in cleantech is no exception.

Let’s define the terms first.  Power is the ability to command someone to do something.  At its best power can enable or provide the legitimacy for people to achieve great things.  At its worst, power can be destructive and coercive (think of dictators or autocrats or, better yet,  Office Space).   In a corporate setting, a classic appeal to power is when a manager “pulls rank” or mandates that an employee do something simply because “I am the boss.”  Of course pulling rank is also a sign that the employee has little respect for, or is not influenced by, the manager.

Influence, on the other hand, is the ability to affect others, regardless of whether that ability is derived from formal authority or not.  Not surprisingly, the most influential often lack formal title or power.  Sometimes they are not even listed on an organizational chart.  Examples …

Zouk provides a (fundraising) boost for cleantech in Europe

Richard Youngman

Whilst the flow of capital to European cleantech companies has remained quite strong in the last two years, the flow to funds has been almost non-existent. The consequence? The headroom of available capital for private and independent companies from European funds has fallen from its highpoint in 2008. Wheb Partners is about the only dedicated European cleantech fund manager to have announced a follow-on fund in the last 12 months; and that fell short of its original target. Until this morning – and the announcement from Zouk Capital of the largest European investment vehicle dedicated to cleantech companies.

In 2010, our funds’ fundraising tracking would tell us that the vast majority of new cleantech funds closed were in Asia, China especially. In 2011, the US has had a strong run of cleantech IPOs to provide grounds for optimism that the cleantech investment theme was starting to move on from the worst of the 2008-2010 period. Europe has been waiting for similar good news, and feel good stories. I think they are starting to arrive.

Zouk Capital, formerly Zouk Ventures, went public this morning with the closure of its new Cleantech Europe II fund, a €230 million fund for European expansion-stage …

Data & Cleantech: Fewer Adjectives, More Verbs

Josh Gould

As the many attendees of our recent Cleantech Forum know, the buzz around cleantech for quite some time has been about the convergence of cleantech and data.  All kinds of people – myself included – have described (using adjectives) all the ways in which this will be the next major cleantech wave.  But I wanted to use this post to drop some of the adjectives, and focus on the verbs (the doing).

At our forum, I hosted three panel discussions – each of which touched on specific actions in integrating data into cleantech:

1. Intelligent Buildings

“Version 1.0″ of the intelligent building was about swapping out old, inefficient light fixtures and HVAC systems for newer, more efficient ones.  Certainly 1.0 still has a long ways to go but lighting controls and software companies like Lumenergi, efficiency consulting and implementation firms like Ecos, and traditional HVAC companies like Trane are all increasingly shifting their focus to managing and optimizing data around energy building use, rather than just providing more efficient devices.  

2. Financing Energy Efficiency

Traditional energy efficiency financing is based on the ESCO model.  While certainly a profitable business for companies like Johnson Controls, this model has …

Insight of the Week: Most Active Venture Capital Investors in Cleantech in 2010

Whitney Michael

Based on disclosed deals, the most active cleantech investors globally in 2010 were: Draper Fisher Jurvetson with 22 deals, followed by Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital (with 16 deals) and VantagePoint Venture Partners and RockPort Capital Partners with 14 deals each.

In total there were nine investors that participated in 10 or more deals.

Top Venture Capital firms in 2010

Although there were well over 700 active investors in VC deals in 2010, about three quarters (74%) of these only participated in a single deal. Only 30 investors (4% of the total) made investments in five or more companies, and only nine investors (1%) made 10 or more deals.

Source:  Cleantech Group 4Q10 Investment Monitor Report (available to subscribers only)

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