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China’s Smog Triggers Investment in Air Pollution Mitigation

Wendy Bao

During the opening keynote at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014, Cleantech Group CEO, Sheeraz Haji, stepped on the stage while wearing a facemask commonly seen in China. Attendees immediately realized his reference to the infamous air pollution problem in China. According to China’s Development Research Center of the State Council, smoggy weather costs China approximately $100 billion a year. To mitigate such loss, Chinese government plans to invest $290 billion for air pollution treatment technologies from 2013 to 2017, said Xiaoqing Wu, Vice-Minister of the China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. These investments and mandates by the government will create a huge market demand for innovating technologies within the Air sector.

 China Investment in Air

Per chart below, desirable investment environment created by the urgent needs for air pollution mitigation technologies resulted in a peak in investments last year. According to Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform, deal count in the Air sector rose from just two deals to ten deals between 2012 and 2013. We saw leading global ventures such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB),  Qualcomm Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, along with local ventures such as Qiming Venture Partners and TusPark Ventures actively investing in the Air

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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 …

Wanxiang’s Purchase of Fisker Highlights Increasing Chinese Cross-Border Investment

Gannon McHenry

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved Wanxiang Group’s bid for Fisker Automotive last Tuesday. The deal was a combination offer of cash and equity worth $150 million. Rather than simply incorporating the intellectual property and assets of Fisker into Wanxiang’s existing brands, the company plans to restart production of the Fisker Karma in a matter of months. Wanxiang previously bought the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, following its bankruptcy filing in October of 2012. Wanxiang believes the synergies achieved through owning both A123 and Fisker will result in stronger financial and competitive positions for both companies.

Wanxiang’s purchase of Fisker follows a positive trend among Chinese companies, who are increasingly looking outside of their border for potential acquisitions. Following years of little to no international acquisition activity, Chinese companies and investors began to acquire foreign companies at an increasing rate following an off-and-on start in 2008. Following this trend, 2013 was a landmark year in cross border acquisition by Chinese organizations, recording the largest number of deals to date. Hanergy has been a notable prolific foreign investor, scooping up distressed solar companies including MiaSoleSolibro and Global Solar Energy over the past two years. The global …

One Bed, One Dream: some learnings from the 2013 China Cleantech Tour

Richard Youngman

November 3-8 I had the honor and pleasure of leading Cleantech Group’s 3rd annual Cleantech Tour of China, an intense week of activities to help 13 companies and investors meet key players in China, to learn about the market and to think through potential entry strategies and partners. Over the week we met with over 100 organizations. Had I written a summary letter to the group, summarizing the experience and the learnings, this is what it might have looked like.

Dear 2013 Tour Party Members, (representatives of Advenira, Bowman Power, Electranova Capital, Enlighted, E.ON (Strategic Co-investments), Generation Investment Management, Idinvest Partners, NexSteppe, Silicon Valley Bank, Sol Voltaics, Solexant, sunfire and van Dyne Superturbo)

I think you just learned why it is imperative to always approach China with as open a mind as possible. Each time I take a group like you, of companies and investors, on our annual Cleantech Tour of China, I am always struck how pre-conceptions get challenged during the week, and how much, during the week, people begin to see and appreciate how fast the market dynamics change and how different the …

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

Energy innovation opens doors for the world’s 1.3B “energy-poor”

Josh Seidenfeld

InterSolar is on this week in San Francisco. While it’s been a rough year for the upstream folks, and the tradeshow floor may have a New-Year’s-Day-hangover feel about it (notable exception: the focus on the burgeoning energy storage field), some bright spots emerge. As I nurse my own hangover from last night’s Solar Battle of the Bands, I’m reflecting on a terrific side-event that featured some of the world’s most exciting energy innovators.

The Bay Area Energy Access Working Group (a name only an engineer could love) yesterday convened entrepreneurs blazing pathways out of energy poverty. The group, hosted by Google.org at Google’s San Francisco offices, shared new approaches to delivering energy services to some of the 1.3 billion energy-poor people across the globe. New financial tools, new communication technologies, and new business models drive energy innovation in the developing world just as they do in the rich world. The event’s three panels addressed these drivers.

Finance innovation might be the most important current development. Many of the technologies used to deliver life-altering energy services to off-grid, rural communities have long been established. Solar lanterns come to mind. Now, though, we require the money to deploy these technologies at scale. …

A Thirsty Tourist in Thailand

artipatel

I spent Thanksgiving week traveling through Thailand.  It was my first trip there, and hopefully not my last – the country is amazing!  I love the people, the culture, the food, the views….and the free bottled water?  Yes, you read that correctly – free bottled water.  In Thailand, it is standard to receive 2-3 complimentary bottles of water in your hotel room, despite assurance from the government that the tap water is safe to drink.  As most tourists do, I erred on the side of “better safe than sorry”, and took the bottled water.  Though I must admit, I was somewhat ashamed to do so.

Isn’t the tap water in Thailand subject to WHO guidelines for drinking water quality, which would ensure that I am protected from harmful contaminants?  Doesn’t the organization pride itself on “producing international norms on water quality and human health in the form of guidelines that are used as the basis for regulation and standard setting, in developing and developed countries world-wide”?  Indeed it does, but I overlooked the difference between a guideline and a requirement – an extremely important distinction.  Guidelines are mere recommendations or targets that help ensure the quality of …

The Quarter That Was: Outsourced Reflection

Greg Neichin

Given the pace at which the business world moves these days, there is often not enough time for thoughtful reflection.  It can be all too easy to get lost in last week’s meetings and next week’s deadlines and to completely miss the forest for the trees.  With the amount of information that we all try to consume on a daily basis, it is easy to mistake a headline for a trend, hyperbole for fact.

Luckily, that’s where we come in.  Consider us your “Outsourced Reflection”.  Every quarter, for the past 7 years, we have published a comprehensive quarterly manifesto – Cleantech Group’s Quarterly Investment Monitor.  Frankly, I think that this exercise is more important than ever.  As we wrote in opening this edition:

2012 has started on a similar note [to the end of 2011] with a rising number of cleantech companies funded despite a continuing public and media fascination with the sector’s high profile failures. In responding to erroneous press accounts of his own death, noted American author Mark Twain once wrote, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” The same could be said of cleantech.

If all you read in the last three months was news of …

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 …

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 …