cleantech insights

New cleantech startups challenging a risky business (and climate) environment

Natalie Volpe

This week, a landmark report was released on the devastating and real effects of climate change on business as usual within the United States. (Spoiler alert: Things won’t remain business as usual.) Deviating from the tomes released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year that assert medium to high confidence assurances that climate is changing, this report clearly states the economic risk facing U.S. business resulting from climate change.

Armed with dollar figures supported by a substantiated risk analysis, the report, entitled “Risky Business”, delivered a cautionary message rather than a much needed how-to manual for the business community. The real win, however, were the report authors: Former Mayor Bloomberg, Former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulsen, and Tom Steyer; an unlikely group of climate advocates from opposing political groups that, in and of itself, amplifies the importance of the present issue.

At this point, however, the “cleantech community” (ostensibly, those interested in how a changing climate necessitates new, sustainable innovation) is well-versed in the latest facts and figures, and now is one step ahead: innovation sourcing. But innovation is all around us, and it’s hard. Companies are asking themselves how they can discover the next ride-sharing …


How Behavioral Water Efficiency Can Change Our Relationship with H2O: an Interview w/ WaterSmart CEO Peter Yolles

M Paschich

PYcWaterSmart Software recently raised nearly $5 million in Series A round of funding: we chat with Peter Yolles, Co-Founder and CEO, about the company, its growing team, the value of data-driven water management, and the future of the water system.    

Hi Peter… Can you walk us back to the beginning of WaterSmart Software?

Yes, I’d be glad to tell that story. I’ve been in the water sector for over 20 years, and so when I moved to my first home in 2001 it was very important to me that the home use water efficiently. So, I installed hardware like efficient toilets and other appliances, and at the same time I was very interested in knowing what impact these investments would have and how much money I was saving on my water use. Tracking these savings meant gathering data, which—I thought—meant going online to my local water utility’s website. Surprisingly, I found a page called “Water Consumption History”. Frustratingly, the page said “Under Construction / Check Back Soon”. And so I waited and waited and waited and, after 8 years, nothing changed. Looking back, it makes some sense because, when you think about it, water utilities just don’t have a core …

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

M Paschich


[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 …

Obama, Wal-Mart, and the Changing Face of Cleantech

James Mwaura

obama walmart

When it was announced that President Barack Obama’s west coast swing would conclude in Mountain View, CA (home of Google, LinkedIn, and a variety of other tech starlets), the location of his speech took a lot of people by surprise – Wal-Mart. Despite being in the heart of Silicon Valley, 40 minutes away from the bustle of San Francisco, and a stone’s throw from Stanford University, Obama chose the Mountain View branch of a behemoth retailer which is far from representative of Silicon Valley and seems like an odd choice for a speech centered on energy efficiency.

Or was it? As it turns out, Wal-Mart is a great example of the huge role that large corporations are playing in the clean energy economy. The branch in Mountain View has replaced many of its in-store lighting fixtures with ultra-high efficiency LEDs, added two electric vehicle charging ports in its parking lot, and installed solar arrays on its roof. Wal-Mart, in fact, has more solar installed than any other company in the United States, and has 335 renewable energy projects in operation or development, generating over 24% of the electricity that its stores consume. Wal-Mart, like many other corporates, is quietly yet …

Electrifying the Developing World: A Chat with BBOXX CEO Mansoor Hamayun

M Paschich

One of our sessions during the Cleantech Forum Europe that will be held in Stockholm (May 19-21) is titled the 10 Year Track – How we (can have) Impact.  The theme is about how European companies are tackling environmental and resource challenges in some of the most populous and impoverished regions of the world.  One of the speakers in this session is Mansoor Hamayun of BBOXX, a company leading the solar revolution across the developing world by designing, manufacturing, distributing and financing innovative plug & play solar systems to meet the energy needs of the mass market.


Can you tell us the genesis story for BBOXX?

Sure thing. BBOXX started off during my university times. It was my second year studying electrical engineering in London at Imperial College and I was sitting over dinner joking around with a few friends and I said “half the world doesn’t have electricity.” And that lingered in my head for a while. I didn’t think too seriously at first, but it made me interested personally in why one third of mankind (which is the correct number) doesn’t have access to electricity when it’s so fundamental to ensuring an acceptable quality of life – …

Organica Water, Innovation in Wastewater Treatment, and Good Neighbors

Felix Talvard

Matthew Kuzma, Vice President – Technical Solutions & Global Business Development of Organica Water, talks about change in wastewater treatment and being a good neighbour.

Organica WaterOne of our sessions during the Cleantech Forum Europe that will be held in Stockholm (May 19-21) is titled the 10 Year Track – How we (can have) Impact.  The theme is about how European companies are tackling environmental and resource challenges in some of the most populous and impoverished regions of the world. One of the speakers in this session is Matthew Kuzma of Organica Water, a company revolutionizing urban wastewater treatment and 2013 Global Cleantech “Company of the Year” in Europe and Israel.  Founded in 1998 in Budapest, Hungary, Organica Water now holds a major office in Princeton, USA as well as offices in cities such as Delhi, Shanghai and Jakarta.  We asked Matthew about his outlook on the future of cleantech and the future of his company.

Given the theme of our Forum (the “10 Year Track”: ideas on where innovation around energy and resources might take us in the years ahead) what is in store for Organica Water in the next 5 to 10 years? And for the water sector in

When Big Data and Cleanweb Collide: An Interview With WatrHub

Gannon McHenry

The rapid adoption of sensors into our electric and water distribution systems has created a wealth of new data. Start-ups in the Cleanweb sector attempt to digest these vast quantities of data and identify areas for improving efficiency. The recent IPO of Opower and increasing attention paid to companies like Bidgely and C3 Energy has served to further demonstrate that this sector is here to stay. WatrHub is a Cleanweb startup focused on the aggregation of water-industry data. Last week Cleantech Group had the pleasure of interviewing Sunit Mohindroo, WatrHub Inc’s Chief Product Officer to learn more about the company’s platform and challenges they are focused on solving.

sunit mohindroo

Q: Could you explain the problem which you set out to solve and what initially got you interested in the water space?

The essence of WatrHub is we are a data and analytics company focused on providing equipment manufacturers within the water industry with timely and actionable sales leads through our data. Myself and my co-founder, Ahmed Badruddin, having previously worked at Apple and Microsoft, wanted to do something with more of a social and environmental impact. We looked at opportunities in the water space and we …

On Commercializing Biofuels & Biochemicals

Leo Zhang

Sime Darby

Over the past few years, the Biofuels & Biochemicals sector has experienced a prominent shift from a pure biofuels focus to a biochemicals-based commercialization strategy. We recognize such a shift as a necessary strategy repositioning based on a multitude of factors. For instance, as companies continue to optimize their scale-up efforts, biochemicals and bio-based materials may still incur a pricing premium over commodity-based fuel products. In addition, we have also observed increasing corporate interests in the biochemicals space as they are looking to incorporate more renewables into their product portfolios. Therefore, we are seeing active investments and partnerships by larger corporates into the biochemicals subsector.


Verdezyne is a prime example of this shift from fuels to chemicals. Having built a biotechnology platform, Verdezyne was initially set out to target the advanced biofuels market, but has since realigned its focus towards chemicals by selling its fuel-based intellectual property to DuPont, and instead focusing on renewable petrochemical replacements. Recently, the company has announced a $48 million investment round, led by Malaysian multination conglomerate, Sime Darby Berhad. Along with existing corporate investors from BP Ventures and DSM Venturing, the new funding will accelerate Verdezyne’s technology development.

In fact, many pure play biochemical …

Opower’s growth: an interview w/ SVP @roderickmorris

M Paschich


On May 21-22, Opower and Cleantech Group are co-hosting the New Utility Business Model Summit. It’s no question that the utility industry is increasingly shaped by higher customer expectations, expanding deployment of distributed energy generation, and ambitious energy efficiency goals. In the lead up to this summit, we’re interviewing key policy makers, regulators, and influencers on the topic of what the evolving utility industry will look like, and the opportunities that this evolution will create for utilities to develop deeper and more profitable relationships with their customers.


Congratulations on a successful IPO! What does this mean for the future of Opower and your utility customers?

Friday [April 4th, 2014] was definitely an exciting day: it was great to celebrate it with so many other early Opower employees who have worked so hard together to grow this business over the past several years. With that shared experience, we could all appreciate how this new funding validates the work we’ve been doing, and there’s real excitement knowing that we’ll now have even more opportunity to make investments that help people use less energy. We’ll do this through the four core business lines served by our platform, which are …

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 …