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 …


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

Taxonomy is a Boring Word

Tim Barham

In late August, Cleantech Group announced that it had released an “improved and expanded taxonomy” for the i3 platform. For the casual observer, it could be understandable to respond to this announcement with a gentle yawn. After all, Webster defines taxonomy as “the classification of something”, which would seem to make the announcement akin to alphabetizing a bookshelf rather than making disruptive strides in the cleantech space.

However, in order to fully appreciate the significance and success of the new taxonomy, one must take a gigantic step back and think about the contemporary connotation of cleantech as a whole. The term “cleantech” itself is incredibly vague and means different things to different people. This, in turn, can lead to confusion and oversimplification. While chatting with a friend recently, I actually asked him what cleantech was. His response: “I don’t know, like windmills and reusable tote bags and stuff?” While this may seem like a silly answer, it is somewhat illustrative of the kind of cloudiness that can surround a highly technical and diversified space.

This is really where the taxonomy comes in to play. If i3 is the boat that allows global players to navigate through cloudy waters, …

What Do We Do?

Tim Barham

Walking around the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, I often receive the standard question: “Where do you work?” This is one of the easiest queries to respond to for anyone, as it illicits a simple, almost robotic, response of “I work for the Cleantech Group”.

However, it is the follow-up question that often proves to be more difficult than one would think.

“What does Cleantech Group do?”

There are certainly catchphrases, buzzwords, and one-line company descriptions that can satisfy this question. Sure, we track investments, M&A, partnerships, and IPOs within what we have dubbed the “clean tech” sector (others prefer to call it “green tech” or “sustainable technology”). Our database, i3, provides an efficient way for investors, cleantech companies, government agencies, corporations, and research institutes to gain invaluable insights into a sector that is, quite simply, difficult to track.

Sure, Cleantech Group also holds the industry’s most exclusive events, along with various innovation roundtables throughout the year with industry leaders. Not only do these events allow for the propagation of fresh ideas and the fostering of creative collaboration, but they also provide for crucial networking opportunities and key introductions.

And finally, we certainly also have incredibly talented industry …

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 …

Tropos Networks: A Mirror On Ourselves

Greg Neichin

Don’t make the story about yourself.

This is an old adage that journalism professors telling aspiring reporters.  Luckily, I’m not a reporter, so I can ignore that advice.

The story of Tropos Networks, which was successfully acquired recently by ABB, is a story about me.  In fact, it’s a story about many of us and that, to me, is what makes it so compelling.

It is a story of how technologies & executives originally groomed in the hype to reality cycle of the datacom and software world found their way into the cleantech sector only to find themselves on a similar roller coaster journey.  In the case of Tropos, as I hope for many of us, I think this story has a happy and productive ending.

Tropos Networks was born during the first boom in early 2001.  This is when I, a fresh Silicon Valley transplant, first became aware of the company.  I was working in the datacom equipment business for Redback Networks on Strategy & Business Development when I had the chance to meet early Tropos investor Curtis Feeny at Voyager Capital.  At the time, a calm before-the-storm moment in history, Tropos had a vision for building …

The Internet of (Big) Things

Greg Neichin

Those of us fond of exploring the world of emerging opportunities at the intersection of cleantech and computing power often talk about the Internet of Things.  When he first coined the term in 1999, Kevin Ashton prophetically wrote:

If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.

I share Kevin’s sentiment that the Internet of Things has the potential to be world changing, but I find it is increasingly important to define what “things” we are talking about.  The world is obviously full of inanimate machines from huge to microscopic and tracking all of these disparate devices would require varying levels of investment, networks, and data crunching capabilities.

The topic was on my mind this week as I reflected on two new deals we tracked in i3 that represented opposite ends of the …

Global venture investment declines, but corporates step up and the IPO window cracks open

Sheeraz Haji

Venture capitalists might be running short of cash. This past quarter (Q1 2012), global venture capital investments declined 19% from the prior quarter and 31% year-over-year (see our press release here). On a brighter note, the total number of deals recorded in the quarter was 185, up from 176 in Q4 2011, and the tally will rise again once we round up other investors who have not yet reported all their deals for the quarter.

Despite an investor bias towards later-stage investing, early stage deals increased this quarter. The proportion of early stage deals increased from 37% (Q1 2011) to 44% (Q1 2012). The absolute number of early stage deals increased from 67 in Q4 2011 to 81 this past quarter. Huh? What’s going on? I think investors are creating a “barbell effect” – favoring hot early stage deals with repeat entrepreneurs and capital efficient business models as well as later-stage companies that already have a proven product and business model (e.g. SolarCity). In the middle, life is tougher. These “in the middle” Series B and Series C companies already have institutional investors but often are still working to remove technology and market risk from their business. They …

A Smarter City is Not Enough: Better Brains, Better Hearts

Greg Neichin

Most of us are well aware of the problem.  The world’s population is moving faster than ever into urban areas – 75% of the world’s people will be crammed into cities by 2050.  Many cities are already bursting at the seams and in the decades ahead we will face increasing resource shortages as we struggle to keep up with the basic power, water, waste, and transportation demands of these emerging mega-cities.   These are challenges on a truly epic scale.

Not to worry you say, there’s an app for that!

As they have in industry after industry, information technologists are rushing to the rescue heralding the age of the smart city. There are glowing editorials devoted to the promise of “Big Data” and how, with enough computing power (fueled by renewable energy of course!) we’ll be able to analytically crunch our way out of these problems.

New York City has received praise from the digerati for the city’s BigApps contest where public data is being made available for curious and motivated web developers.  Last week, the good people at the TED Prize announced that this year’s $100K award will be split up amongst the 10 best, individual ideas for empowering …

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.…