cleantech insights

On power and influence in Cleantech

Josh Gould

File this under simple, but underappreciated: power and influence are not synonyms.  They describe seperate, though sometimes closely related, phenomena.  Distinguishing between each requires self-awareness.  Successful people like Bing Gordon of Electronic Arts fame, who recently discussed the issue here, tend to be keenly aware of how much of each characteristic they have, and how best to conserve or deploy it.  Being successful in cleantech is no exception.

Let’s define the terms first.  Power is the ability to command someone to do something.  At its best power can enable or provide the legitimacy for people to achieve great things.  At its worst, power can be destructive and coercive (think of dictators or autocrats or, better yet,  Office Space).   In a corporate setting, a classic appeal to power is when a manager “pulls rank” or mandates that an employee do something simply because “I am the boss.”  Of course pulling rank is also a sign that the employee has little respect for, or is not influenced by, the manager.

Influence, on the other hand, is the ability to affect others, regardless of whether that ability is derived from formal authority or not.  Not surprisingly, the most influential often lack …


On stage in New York: Climax Global Energy

Lisa Sibley

This week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Climax Global Energy, is a presenting company in the Entrepreneur Showcase at the Cleantech Group’s New York Forum, going on through today. The Entrepreneur Showcase provides capital-seeking cleantech innovators with 10 minutes to pitch top cleantech investors, financiers and corporate buyers.

The Fairfax, S.C.-based company coverts landfill-bound plastics into high value synthetic oil for the clean diesel, syn-lube and wax markets with its patented microwave-assisted pyrolysis process. There is about a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the United States alone, and a $3 billion wax market, according to CEO John Griffith.

Its pyrolysis process essentially cuts plastics (which are long chain polymers) into shorter chain polymers to make synthetic oil. Pyrolysis is a process in which a substance is heated in the absence of oxygen and typically occurs under pressure and at operating temperatures of more than 430°C (800°F), although Climax’s process runs near atmospheric pressure.

The company has a commercial-scale prototype in South Carolina with a 3-ton/day capacity, with plans to start construction of its next reactor train this year at the same location. Additional locations are to follow in South Carolina, New Jersey and other …

Blue ocean market opportunities in waste plastic to fuel

Lisa Sibley

Today, more than 90 percent of global waste plastic winds up in landfills, sits on barges in the middle of the ocean, or is incinerated. The remainder is recycled in some form, a substantial portion of which is exported to countries such as China.

But this is expected to change as the waste-to-energy and nascent waste plastics-to-fuel/energy market specifically is poised to take off in the next 12 to 24 months, especially in the U.S. With governments trying to manage land use issues and oil and energy prices predicted to rise, regulation is driving this largely underserved “blue ocean” market. And everyone from large corporations and oil refiners to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs want a piece of the pie.

Other drivers include directives in Europe aimed at shutting down landfills and incentives such as H.R. 3592, the Plastics Recycling Act of 2009 in the U.S. Opportunities lie in converting waste plastics into energy, and specifically into liquids, synthetic crude oil, transportation fuels and industrial petrochemicals. There is a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the U.S., and a $3 billion wax market.

There are a number of technologies to address the market, ranging from liquefaction to …

Waste-to-fuel firm addressing major market opportunity

Lisa Sibley

Tigard, Ore.-based Agilyx Corp., formerly known as Plas2Fuel Corp., has raised approximately $8.5 million to date and is currently seeking Series B funding of up to $10 million.

As this week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Agilyx has already raised $2.1 million in convertible debt. Existing investors in the company include Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Saffron Hill Ventures, and Reference Capital.

Agilyx CEO Chris Ulum told the Cleantech Group the private alternative energy company uses what it says is proven, commercially viable modular technology to convert difficult-to-recycle waste plastics, which typically end up in landfills, into synthetic crude oil and other valuable petrochemical products through a process that is scalable, versatile and environmentally friendly.

The company has been manufacturing and selling synthetic crude oil for about two years, deploying its first commercial system in 2008 in Tigard. The facility has a capacity of around 20,000 pounds per day of waste plastic, or the equivalent of about 55 barrels per day of oil, Ulum said.

Agilyx uses its patent pending process to “decompose” plastics back into hydrocarbons while separating undesirable organics (chlorine, bromine, etc.) entrained in the plastic, using what is known as “a continuous batch process.”…

2010 Global Cleantech 100: in search of elusive exits and the brightest newborns

Richard Youngman

A year is a long time in politics, the old adage goes. The same might be said of cleantech too.

It is over a half year, since in our “ten predictions for 2010”, we anticipated a rise in investor exits in 2010. Our assertion in November 2009 was that growth and venture capital investment activity would be buoyed by attractive valuations and the return of the exit. We wrote, “exits in the form of IPOs (A123Systems went public in September, and there are over two dozen IPOs now in the queue) and a growing number of trade sales to corporate buyers will encourage investors in private companies to believe they can generate returns.”

It is nearly a year since, in partnership with the Guardian, we published the first Global Cleantech 100, a list of the 100 private cleantech companies most likely to make the most significant market impact over the next 5 to10 years – according to the world’s cleantech community.

If ever there was a list of cleantech companies where one would have expected exit action over the last months, it would have been this. However, the relative small amount of exit turnover on the list is well-aligned …