cleantech insights

The Week in Cleantech – Sept 24 – 30


An exciting week in cleantech wrapped up the third quarter last week, with several companies raising private capital and several interesting partnerships formed.

Fisker Automotive, which speculated as recently as August about completing an initial public offering in 2013, raised $103 million in a private growth equity round from existing investors. It is the third round of growth equity funding the company has raised in 2012 amid recalls of its first model, the Karma, and struggles to secure the right CEO.

Tesla, another maker of electrified vehicles but already a public one, announced it would seek to raise up to $221 million in a third public offering of its shares. The company has struggled to generate demand for its high-end EVs, while also having difficulty meeting production quotas for those customers who have pre-reserved vehicles.

Several cleantech startups raised Seed or Series A rounds during the week. Brisbane Materials, an Australian company developing advanced coating materials for the solar PV industry among others, raised $5.2 million from New Venture Partners and Southern Cross Venture Partners. Other companies raising early stage equity during the week (For brevity’s sake, I’ll list the company along with its (sector), and …


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 …

As Goes LanzaTech, so Goes Cleantech

Greg Neichin

If you are in the cleantech sector and had not previously heard about Lanzatech, you likely have now.  The company raised a big, $55.8M round last week that has been widely applauded and covered.  Students of the company had seen this coming for awhile.  Lanzatech was the highest ranking company in the Asia Pacific region in our Cleantech 100 survey earning it “APAC Company of the Year” at our gala banquet last year.  It was featured as part of GTM’s Trendspotting post on the Top 12 Greentech Startups to Watch in 2012.   We’ve made Lanzatech our featured “Company of the Week” in i3 this week, but it may just turn out to be cleantech’s company of the year (and its only January!).  Here are the top reasons that I think Lanzatech exemplifies a number of key themes happening in cleantech:

1.) Cross-Border Financings – I have previously written about Chinese and Korean investors taking large stakes in Western cleantech companies.  Now we can add the Malaysians to that list.  The round was led by the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund and included participation from Malaysian state oil company, Petronas.  With the US venture community still experiencing …

Google this.


Latitude SolutionsI googled “electro-precipitation” the other day, and here is what I found:  one link to a dictionary, two wikipedia entries, three research articles, and four links or news stories related to Latitude Solutions.  That’s right – four!  Not only did Latitude Solutions account for 40% of the top ten google results, but it was the only electro-precipitation company mentioned.  Naturally, I spoke to someone at the company to find out more…

Latitude Solutions provides products, processes and solutions for contaminated water remediation in industrial applications.  Made up of three different divisions, the company manages to target multiple industries in multiple geographic markets.

The first business unit I learned about was Latitude Solutions Energy Services, which is dedicated solely to the oil and gas industry.  The company’s technology uses electro-precipitation to flocculate Total Suspended Solids (TSS) at up to 98% efficacy, according to the company.  What separates this method from traditional coagulation methods is that currents from the electro-precipitation process remain in the treated water, thereby continuing to treat the water in the event it is transported to another location for discharge or reuse.

Latitude Industrial Water Solutions, a second subsidiary, targets industries outside of oil and gas.  Specifically, …

Finding (EV) Religion in Israel: 4 Reasons to Believe in Better Place

Greg Neichin

Like many American Jews visiting Israel, I found religion today.   It was not religion of the spiritual kind however, it was religion of the electric variety.  Today, I stand amongst the converted.   Converted to Better Place’s view of the world and the potential for the company to be a transformative force in the electric vehicle market.

I am a most unlikely convert.  I don’t own a car, let alone an electric one, and I’m quite content to not own one.  From a policy perspective, I would prefer to see governments focus on subsidizing better forms of public transportation before promoting more personal vehicle ownership.  More pointedly, I’ve been known to utter skeptical thoughts out loud in front of journalists about the electric vehicle market.  Apparently, last month I told a group of reporters that “electric vehicles are a bet that could turn out to be wrong”.  The point that I was attempting to make was that I believe some of the adoption forecasts in the market were too aggressive.  That nuance doesn’t make for a good headline.

Assuming that electric vehicles are indeed a bet though, there is no one with more chips on the table than …

Global Cleantech 100: An Interview with Mark McGough, CEO, Ioxus

Whitney Michael

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark McGough, CEO of Ioxus, just after the conclusion of the “Asia Advantage” panel at the Global Cleantech 100 Summit on October 18.  He spoke on Ioxus’ strategy to expand in Asia alongside representatives from Boston-Power, LanzaTech and Waterhealth.

Ioxus, one of this year’s Global Cleantech 100 companies, makes ultracapacitors that other companies put in their products to make them more efficient and work better.  Mark was kind enough to speak with me about Ioxus’ product, strategy and being a part of the Global Cleantech 100.

Describe your ultracapacitor technology for us.

We make components that go into other people’s products.  If I can paraphrase BASF, we make their products better.  We make wind turbines more efficient, we make hybrid buses perform better, we make flashlights last longer.  In each case, we provide an ultracapacitor-based form of energy storage.

The number of ways designers are using ultracapitors exponentially increases each year.  it doesn’t have as much energy storage capacity as a battery, but it charges very quickly in a matter of seconds….you can charge and discharge it a million times and it’s much more powerful. So it has higher power density, so when you need …

The 2011 Global Cleantech 100 is here

Whitney Michael

The 2011 list of the top private companies in clean technology has been released.  Based on Cleantech Group data and vetted by a panel of international experts, this is the only list based not on one or two people’s editorial opinions, but on the collective opinion of the world’s cleantech leaders.

The list was announced live at the Global Cleantech 100 Gala dinner in DC on Monday night to a sold out crowd that included executives from over 30 of the 100 companies.

We invite you to read the 2011 report and let us know what you think.  

For the first year, all the companies in the Global Cleantech 100 are profiled in the i3 research platform.

Some facts from this year’s report:

  • The United States leads with the most companies on the list in absolute numbers.
  • Weighted for size of economy, the frontrunners are smaller countries such as Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands and Sweden.
  • Over 350 investors, from 28 different countries, hold shares in the 100 companies.
  • Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is the most prolific shareholder this year, with investment in 14 companies on the list. Generation Investment Management has the highest percentage of its investee

Don’t let large-scale solar eclipse the market for the poor.

Daniel Coles

Whilst being a massive advocate for the push to make solar technology more affordable to reduce the industry’s reliance on feed in tariffs, I have come to realise it has somewhat taken the attention away from another important application of solar: to provide light for people in developing countries. It is a market that is potentially worth billions.

Currently 1.6 billion people live without electricity, with the majority of them burning kerosene to produce light. This comes with numerous problems: kerosene lighting is more expensive per unit of light than what we pay in the developed world for electric lighting, and there are huge health implications attached with using kerosene – breathing in the indoor air pollution from kerosene lamps is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day! Furthermore the environmental effect of 1.6 billion people using kerosene fuel accounts for approximately 9% of global carbon emissions from lighting.

So the challenge we are now facing is to make solar lighting products available to developing world countries at an affordable price. Easier said than done.

Currently there is not one proven approach to market entry for providing solar energy in developing rural areas. Each country differs in terms …

Schneider Electric’s Indian Shopping Spree

David Cheng

At Cleantech Group, we spend much of our time featuring the most innovative cleantech companies with the most important technologies and business models.  Some of these companies are found down the street from us, some are embedded in one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies and some may be founded by entrepreneurs and climate scientists in the UK.  But sometimes, the most interesting things in cleantech can be coming out of a 175-year old French company.  This is the story behind Schneider Electric‘s recent moves in cleantech, particularly on the smart grid and energy efficiency side.…