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The Last Frontier of the IT Revolution: A Chat with Ecofective CEO Mats Pettersson

M Paschich

Mats

[UPDATE: Ecofective was ranked 1st in the Energy Efficiency category (and 3rd overall) in the 2014 Nordic Cleantech Open]

One of our sessions during the Cleantech Forum Europe that will be held in Stockholm (May 19-21) is titled The Entrepreneurs Track. Building Innovations Meet Their Target Purchasers: Where the Rubber Truly Hits the Road. In this session, selected building technology companies developing solutions for the buildings industry deliver their “customer pitch” and discuss their products with a group of targeted corporate buyers from the real estate and building industries. Mats Pettersson, CEO of Ecofective, is participating in this session at the Forum. In this related interview, Mats talks about the last frontier of the IT revolution…

What is Ecofective’s genesis story, how did this company come to be?

Ecofective started off as a consultancy with one customer – Wallenstam. Wallenstam is a multi-tenant building owner with around 150 large residential properties here in Sweden. The original project was to develop technology to help these buildings to be more energy efficient, with particular attention on heating systems, since we have long and cold winters here. Ecofective used a thermodynamic optimization research technology, developed for at the Royal Technical Institute in …

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Harvesting Innovation: The Changing Face of African Agriculture

Brett Richardson

Africa is in the midst of an agricultural revolution, with innovation driving new avenues for increased crop yields, better resource and capital operating efficiencies, and general farm management knowledge. Africa is home to almost 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, or about 60% of  the world’s total. This contrasts the fact that 1/3rd of sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished, with population expected to grow to 1.2 billion people by 2050. The cleantech world is driving the changing scope of African agriculture with an influx of new companies offering innovative solutions which will alleviate stresses to the current system and support farmers.

global uncultivated caption

Both local and international startups are addressing some of the most basic challenges of agricultural production in Africa. 20%, or 4 billion dollars of grain harvest, is lost every year and 35-50% of fruit and vegetables spoil from crop and storage pests. UK based companies Plant Health Care and Exosect are targeting this inefficiency with pilot projects in Africa using their proprietary crop protection technologies. Plant Health Care provides natural pesticides which leaves no residual impact on the environment and helps to activate certain defensive and growth responses. Exosect also makes bio-control pesticides that can be applied to …

Gnest: $3.2 Billion!

Sheeraz Haji

Woa!!! Monday’s announcement of Google’s acquisition of Nest represents not only a key inflection point for cleantech, but also speaks volumes on the increasing importance of customers. The $3.2 billion deal marks a significant milestone for the home automation company; one that many believed the cleantech market couldn’t produce.

Here at Cleantech Group, we believe that the cleantech market is essential, massive, vibrant, and desired. Based on data tracked in i3 (such as investment round amounts and participating investors), insider-sourced information reported publicly about various investor returns, and standard venture-round ownership stakes, it looks like Google’s acquisition of Nest represents a 24x multiple on paid-in capital. Our i3 business is about collecting the best data possible and helping corporate teams and venture investors connect with innovation: the fact that a member of the highest level of management at Nest owns and contributes content to Nest’s i3 profile has been truly motivating to my team working day and night on the i3 platform.

Nest_i3_Profile

So what can we learn from Nest? Our upcoming Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014 will discuss just that. Last year, Nest keynoted at the Forum (and went on to win North American Company of the Year at …

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 …

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

TroyAult

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 dot.com 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 …