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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

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This Deal Matters: Cool Planet Energy Systems Closes Series D Funding; Corporates Bet on Advanced Biofuel and Rising Activities in Asia

Leo Zhang

cool planetCool Planet Energy Systems, the Colorado-based developer of advanced drop-in fuels and biochar, announced a $50.7 million investment and the closing of the company’s $100 million Series D growth equity round. Cool Planet’s latest investors include Concord Energy Holdings, a Singapore-based crude oil trading company, which led the round with existing investor North Bridge Venture Partners. Other existing investors include BP Ventures, ConocoPhillips, Energy Technology Ventures, Exelon Capital Partners, General Electric, Google Ventures, NRG Energy, and Shea Ventures. The new investment, along with Cool Planet’s strategic corporate investors, will help to expedite the company’s 10 million gallon per year biofuel facility in Louisiana. The timing of this deal is significant in that it demonstrates corporate interests in bio-based drop-in fuels, especially given the ongoing commercialization struggle of another high-profile drop-in fuel company, KiOR, which private investor Vinod Khosla has recently committed an additional $25 million from his personal trust to continue supporting the company.

This deal also matters as it is the second deal of back-to-back investments into biofuel companies, following a $60 million growth equity round raised by LanzaTech just a week ago. Notably, we have observed increasing …

This Deal Matters: LanzaTech Raises $60 Million; Corporate Investors Committed to Technology Innovations

Leo Zhang

lanzatechLanzaTech, the Illinois-based technology developer of waste gas fermentation to liquid fuels and chemicals, announced it has raised $60 million in its first close of Series D growth equity round. Mitsui & Co., a leading Japanese multi-industry conglomerate, led the round with a $20 million investment. Given the current difficult capital raising market, this deal is also significant in a sense that it has attracted both new and existing investors. Two new investors, Siemens Venture Capital and China International Capital Corporation, joined the round to further develop LanzaTech’s core gas fermentation platform and increase the company’s product portfolio.

Recall Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014 on the theme of accelerating system change towards a decentralized future, during which LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren presented her company’s approach in collaborating with larger corporates to create a synergy between innovations and corporate resources. Combing LanzaTech’s core technology with corporations’ existing infrastructures, this technology platform can empower the decentralized production of renewable fuels and chemicals using existing local waste resources.

Given LanzaTech’s current commercial facilities, in addition to this latest round of investment, we are confident and excited to see additional progress in the future. Stay tuned via Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform for …

60 Minutes Reply: Cleantech Rocks

Sheeraz Haji

Exactly one week ago, on Sunday, January 5, 60 Minutes aired a piece on the cleantech space. In the days that followed, I have had interesting conversations with clients about what was broadcast to 7.4 million viewers.[1] Those discussions reinforced my belief that 60 minutes missed the mark and inspired me to write this blog on why cleantech is essential, massive, vibrant, and desired.

Cleantech is essential.

We recently took fifteen clients to China on our annual tour, and the Beijing Air Quality index (AQI) of PM2.5 read above 200 on multiple days. The average AQI in Los Angeles, California, through 2009 was 19[2]. As CBS News has reported, the health and economic implications of severe pollution are significant. Kids with asthma flood hospitals. Flights are canceled. Schools are closed. Concerts are postponed. People wear masks and stay indoors.

Cleantech rocks - 1

Photo: CBS Article/Kyodo News/AP[3]

 

The cause for China’s dirty air is not a mystery. The country’s coal-fired power generation, rapid industrial growth, and significant increase in vehicles all contribute to poor air quality. The costs are not trivial: The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection has estimated it will cost China $817 billion …

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

TroyAult

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: http://events.cleantech.com/munich/entrepreneur-showcase.

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.