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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 formal title or power.  Sometimes they are not even listed on an organizational chart.  Examples …

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The Real Cleantech Innovators of Orange County

Nick Polsky

Last week, I joined CleanTech OC at a networking event in Irvine, Calif., and had the pleasure of meeting some of Southern California’s finest cleantech innovators.  I was thoroughly impressed with both the turnout and quality of people I met. Who knew Southern California had such a vibrant cleantech industry?  Oh yeah, that’s right, we did!

The Cleantech Group is bringing our Focus Series to Southern California with our Cleantech Focus Los Angeles: Water Efficiency and the Corporate Perspective on Nov. 4 and we’re excited to hold our first of many events there. With the news this week coming out of the California Legislature that Prop. 18, the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act, has been removed from the 2010 ballot, it is apparent that water is a major issue in California, and the U.S., for that matter, and we are excited to continue the discussion in November.

Speaking of people who know a thing or two about the SoCal cleantech industry, Beth Krom, the former mayor of Irvine and current city council member and candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, was there and I had a chance to talk to her about her continued

What do Big Oil and EV batteries have in common?

Guest Analyst: Neal Dikeman

For those of you interested in the sector under the sector in electric vehicles–the guts of lithium-ion battery technology–the week just got more interesting than an overpriced, over hyped Tesla IPO.

Check out a very quiet un-announcement in A123′s SEC filings noting a multi-year supply deal with ConocoPhillips’ Cpreme, the emerging leader in anode materials for Li-On batteries.  The technology is a processing technology to make high performance graphite based powders out of plain old petroleum coke materials, that has the potential to be very low cost at scale.  A123 has announced supply deals in the past with Navistar, Fisker, Eaton, Think, the Chevrolet Volt and a number of others.

For those interested in the guts of the Cpreme technology, a good summary is here.  And a quick search of the patents includes: 7,618,678, 7,597,999, 7,323,120.

It wasn’t too long ago when the only other contender for Tier 1 battery supplier in the US, Johnson Controls-Saft, was announcing their Cleantech Innovation Award win and DOE award with a Cpreme logo quietly slipped into the presentation, though likewise no announcements were ever made.  Johnson-Controls-Saft had announced lithium ion supply wins with Ford, Mercedes, and BMW.  Maybe the liberal …

Elephants and fleas: learning to dance for a cleantech future

Richard Youngman

Hardly a day goes by in my cleantech world where I don’t pick up on an example of elephants and fleas coming together in some way to develop clean technologies of the future. Borrowing Charles Handy’s metaphor from his famous book, the elephants represent the large incumbent, slow-moving organizations, the fleas the nimble, upstart, entrepreneurs who feed off the elephants. The two are inter-dependent, albeit dancing together is awkward.

Yesterday, in my daily caffeine-supported scan of the wires, I read about the relationship of Novozymes and Lignol, and EnOcean and Texas Instruments. Earlier in the week, more details of the partnership originally announced in May between Tesla and Toyota surfaced through the filings for Tesla’s forthcoming IPO. I could have picked other examples. But these are good ones, as they illustrate the inter-dependencies, the international nature of such marriages of convenience, and the broad spectrum of industrial players and sectors involved.

Novozymes, the Danish industrial enzymes producer, and Lignol, a TSX-listed, pre-revenue, Canadian cellulosic ethanol developer, have agreed to collaborate on research to develop a process of making biofuel from forestry waste which can compete on price with gasoline and corn ethanol in the US.

Enocean, a German developer of …

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 …