cleantech insights

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 …


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 …

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

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

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 Week in Cleantech – Aug 27 – Sept 2


Last week saw plenty of exciting news in the world of cleantech investment and partnerships, notably so in clean transportation.

ALTe Powertrain Technologies, an Auburn Hills, Michigan based supplier of hybrid and electric vehicle power trains, has become the latest US-based electric vehicle technology developer to turn to China for financial backing and promise of a burgeoning market for its wares. The company has formed a $200 million joint venture with China’s MESA Century Energy Technology to build hybrid electric vehicles for the Chinese market. The deal reportedly includes $70 million in support of ALTe’s US based operations.

Better Place received a EUR40 million loan from the European Investment Bank to fund network deployments and day to day operations in Denmark and Israel. The loan marks the first ever credit facility for Better Place from a large financial institution.

And finally AMP Electric Vehicles, an Ohio based over-the-counter traded electric vehicle manufacturer, secured a commitment for a $7.5 million private growth equity round from Kodiak Capital Group, pending approval from regulators. Kodiak expressed particular interest in AMP’s EV heavy truck fleet vehicle development.

Outside of the transportation sector, insolvent solar cell manufacturer Q-Cells finally found a buyer in …

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.  …

Why I believe 2012 will be a record year for cleantech innovation financing

Sheeraz Haji

The death of cleantech venture capital has been greatly exaggerated. Yes, there were a few massive failures in 2011, and of course it’s been difficult for a number of cleantech venture capitalists to raise funds. However, cleantech did not implode, and neither did venture capital.

On our recent Quarterly Investment Monitor webinar I predicted 2012 will be a record year not realizing this was a particularly bold claim. However, judging by the number of comments I have received from clients and colleagues, I am realizing this may be a contrarian view. Here’s my rationale:

1) Math – We tabulated just under $9 billion in global cleantech venture investments in 2011. Since 2005, cleantech venture investment has increased each year excepts for 2008 to 2009 when we experienced the mother of all economic crises. On average, cleantech venture investments have grown 26% per year since 2005. If we use this average rate to extrapolate, we will see $11.3 billion in 2012. That’s a pretty big step up from the current record year – 2008 which saw $9.5 billion.

2) I believe we will see a couple of rock-star IPO’s in 2012 and this will drive renewed enthusiasm in cleantech and specific …

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 …