Recent Posts:

Propel Biofuels

Rob Day: August 30, 2007, 3:41 AM
Extremely pleased [self-promotion alert] to share the announcement that Propel Biofuels has raised a $4.75mm Series A round (see Propel's pdf press release here), with funding provided by @Ventures and Nth Power. The investment round also included participation by several leading Seattle-area businesspeople, including Andrew Stout (founder of Full Circle Farms), Barry Barr (founder of KAVU), and Jack Rafn (founder of RAFN Construction). Also coming onto the board alongside Peter Mills of @Ventures and Nancy Floyd of Nth Power will be Arthur Rubinfeld, previously Exec VP at Starbucks, where he was responsible for building out the company from 100 locations to over 3,800 stores worldwide. There are around 200,000 gas stations across the United States, but only 750 biodiesel refueling stations and 1,200 E85 refueling stations. And most of these locations aren't convenient or accessible to most drivers. As automakers bring clean diesel autos and flex fuel vehicles to market, and as venture-backed biofuels producers ramp up their volumes, the ability of most Americans to easily find locations to fuel their cars with biofuels remains a huge bottleneck in the market's development. Propel's BDS Unit directly addresses these challenges, with a low-risk, no-upfront capital system for independent gas station owners, green-minded retailers and others who want to offer biofuel choices to their customers.

EnerTech, Secure Energy, Reklaim, Thermilate, and other news

Rob Day: August 28, 2007, 7:01 AM
  • Well-known energy tech venture firm EnerTech Capital has raised a $75mm first close toward a $250mm targeted third fund, according to VentureWire today. LPs include CalPERS, Dow Ventures, Kuwait Petroleum, and Masdar. Another LP, Acorn Factor, a publicly-traded investment group, expects to be occasionally co-investing with EnerTech on their expansion-stage energy deals.
  • Jonathan Shieber reported in Friday's CTI that Secure Energy Inc. has raised $5.5mm of a targeted $8mm round of financing. Secure Energy is converting a Caterpillar manufacturing site in Decatur, IL into a coal gasification plant.
  • PE Week Wire reported on Monday that tire / oil / etc. recycler Reklaim has raised $7mm of a $10mm Series B, led by Goldman Sachs.
    ;li>VWire reported on Friday that UK-based Thermilate, which sells a paint additive with insulative benefits, has raised a $1.5mm round of financing, with participation by Enterprise Ventures on behalf of the Coalfields Enterprise Fund.
  • In the continued pursuit of a strong New England cleantech cluster, Xconomy is reporting that the New England Energy Innovation Collaborative (NEEIC) and the newly-formed Clean Energy Council will be joining forces. [note: my firm @Ventures is a member of NEEIC, and I'm on the advisory board for the CEC] Speaking of the NE cleantech cluster, here's a nice profile of GreatPoint.
  • Cleantech investors in the news: Ray Rothrock lays out Venrock's investment strategy in "new electrons".
Other news and notes: A quick nanotech overview... 190 non-Si PV developers worldwide? Wow... A nice column on Demand Response... An interesting interview with Hunter Lovins... Underwater turbines getting set for launch in Ireland (tip of the hat to Karen Shilo for sending in that one)... Finally, an amusing story on continued efforts toward cold fusion -- but interestingly, despite what's described in the article there have been some serious venture-backed efforts to commercialize warm fusion lately.


Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Two-For-One on September 11!

Foley Hoag ( has graciously offered to host and sponsor at their Emerging Enterprise Center in Waltham the kick-off event for the MIT Enterprise Forum Energy Special Interest Group followed by the next REBN-East networking event. Entrepreneurs, come to learn about new business opportunities from experts at the US Army Natick Labs during the MITEF ESIG program and your business cards and elevator pitches for the networking afterwards. More details below!

Registration/ RSVP

If you are attending the MITEF ESIG Event, please register at the MITEF website (

If you plan to attend ONLY the REBN-East Networking Event, please RSVP to Rob at

And, as always, please forward this invitation to any of your renewable energy research and business colleagues that you think might be interested!

Program Information:

REBN-East, the MITEF Energy Special Interest Group, and the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center are pleased to announce a joint program:

4:30 – 6:30: MITEF Energy SIG Tech-In Program #1: US Army Natick Labs

6:30 on: REBN-East Happy Hour

Do you want to start a clean energy company, but don’t know where the market opportunity lies? Do you have an interesting clean energy technology but are looking for new markets where it might be used? Do you want to enter your exciting new technology in the 2008 Ignite Clean Energy Competition but don’t know what product to target first? The Energy Special Interest Group at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge is pleased to present its fourth year of programming, which will be focused on Market Pull.

For our first event of the year on September 11, 2007, several Team Leaders from the US Army Labs at Natick will present the energy needs of the Warfighter/Soldier in several critical areas:

(1) Lightweight energy sources for individual warfighters;

(2) Energy sources for unit organizations/collective protection including high efficiency lighting and field photovoltaics;

(3) Combat Feeding Equipment and System Energy Sources; and

(4) Propulsion and power sources for individual Warfighter robotic applications (SUAV)

Our presenters:

· Dr. Lynne Samuelson, Chief Scientist, Office of the Director

· Mr. Don Pickard – DoD Combat Feeding Directorate, "Combat Feeding Equipment and System Energy Sources."

· Mr. Steve Tucker, Shelter Technology, Engineering & Fabrication Directorate, and Barry DeCristofano, Lead for the E-textiles program, "Flexible Photovoltaics," (power shades, battery chargers, etc.)

· Ms. Jean Hampel, Shelter Technology, Engineering & Fabrication Directorate, "High Efficiency Shelter Lighting and Insulation.

· Mr. Kailash Shukla, Technology, Systems & Program Integration Directorate, "Soldier Power Needs."

Our presenters will also discuss how to work with these labs to develop the technology they want and need.

This event is a joint program with the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center with assistance from Grayhead Associates, the Massachusetts Defense Technology Initiative (MassDTI) and the Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition (MHC).

The MITEF Energy SIG events are made possible by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC).

4th Annual Energy Tech Investor Conference:  Photo Caption Contest

Rob Day: August 23, 2007, 3:24 AM
Loyal readers -- The organizers of the upcoming SRI 4th Annual Energy Tech Investor Conference (see details below) have kindly offered up two free tickets for the event to readers of this site. If you want one of the tickets, however, you've got to earn it.

At the conference organizers' suggestion, we're launching a "Cleantech Photo Caption Contest"!

Below are three pictures that might inspire you -- you can pick any of the three that you like. Simply pick one of the three, come up with a funny caption (15 words or less), and email it to me by the end of the day, Thursday August 30th. Make sure you indicate which picture you're captioning! And you can submit as many entries as you want.

Two winning captions will be selected by yours truly and the SRI team. Judging will be totally subjective (this is a VC site, after all), but generally speaking points will be awarded for humor, topicality, and brevity, in that order. Make sure your entry is something that you wouldn't mind having your name attached to in public...

Photo #1: Solar-powered robot

Photo #2: Fuel

Photo #3: Al and Sir Richard

Each winner will receive a free ticket to the 4th Annual Energy Tech Investor Conference (value of $1,595 each), which is taking place October 3-4 in San Jose. It should be a good networking opportunity. Dan Reicher ('s new Director of Climate Change & Energy Initiatives) will be keynoting, and the lineup includes many other cleantech industry luminaries (see the agenda -- more details can be found at the conference website).

So make us laugh!

And for everyone else who doesn't win, the organizers have kindly extended a discount to Cleantech Investing readers. CLICK HERE to register using this discount, and enter the code ENERGYTECH300 when you do.

DoE VC Day, and Inside Greentech

Rob Day: August 21, 2007, 5:14 PM
I have had the pleasure of attending the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Venture Capital Technology Showcase day today and tomorrow (tip of the hat to MIT's Bill Aulet for helping make the connection). It has proven to be a fascinating look into the organization of, and specific research efforts of, the DoE labs system.

First of all, taxpaying readers will be pleased to know that the DoE is not spending any money on free lunches, drinks or coffee for venture capitalists; or on brightly colored wall paint or floor tiles in the indomitably beige corridors; or even on wall decorations of any kind (except for repeated instances of posters featuring perhaps the weirdest Hollywood cross-promotion ever: a rat from a recent Disney movie holding up a compact fluorescent bulb and wearing a big grin, urging people to replace their incandescents, the relationship between rats and CFLs remaining somewhat unexplained...). What budgets are made available to the Department are going only into productive research, clearly!

Secondly, what is also clear so far is that recent efforts in the EERE group to drive commercialization are having some immediately positive effects, as evidenced by the strong presentations by researchers. The first day was very informative, with a lot of great market and cost data in key research areas like solar and biofuels. And the technologies presented as available for commercialization, while necessarily just a flavor of the overall volume of research being undertaken, show a thoughtful recognition of the realities both of the market and of technology needs on the ground. It was a very strong performance and hopefully a good jump-start in turning some of these needed technologies into new entrepreneurial efforts toward broad market adoption.

Amidst all the ongoing debate about governmental policies and broader positions on energy and environmental issues, this event by the EERE group has done a lot to bring together clean energy technologists and potential financial backers, and will hopefully become a regular event.


Making news today is the public announcement that The Cleantech Group (parents of the Cleantech Venture Network) has acquired Inside Greentech. The merged groups will launch a new cleantech media effort,, with Inside Greentech's Dallas Kachan heading up the group.

Congratulations to both groups, it's a great match and (as I'm quoted suggesting in Inside Greentech's announcing article) a great indication that cleantech is continuing to capture investor and business leader interest. Enough to support multiple media efforts covering the sector, at least. Neal Dikeman had a very good post today recapping much of the recent ramp-up in green tech media activity.

More to follow as this fast-emerging space continues to evolve.


Final note on the day: Even two years after Katrina, the revitalization efforts continue. This effort to marry rebuilding efforts and green building technologies is worth noting...

Are electric vehicles the next “frothy” cleantech venture subsector?

Rob Day: August 21, 2007, 5:13 AM
Looks like we're going to get to figure out the answer to that question over the next few years, as we see just how many EV startups can succeed...
  • Not sure who posted it first, PE Hub or VWire, but the news came out at the end of last week that Venture Vehicles has raised a $6mm Series A led by NGEN and including DVC Technologies NV. The company's first concept vehicle, with a design licensed from Carver Engineering (a subsidiary of DVC), is a tilting three-wheeler that they say will be able to go zero to 60 in 6 seconds, hit a top speed of 100mph, get mileage of 100mpg, and cost less than $20k.
  • Jonathan Shieber at VWire broke the news Friday that Craton Equity Partners, a first-time fund in southern California, has raised over $120mm of a targeted $250mm fund.
  • Energy efficiency continues to be hot: Efficient lighting equipment manufacturer Orion Energy Systems has filed for an $100mm IPO. [Self-promotion alert: Orion has been backed by Expansion Capital Partners and others]
  • Two more scoops by VWire: 1. "Green drywall" developer Serious Materials has around half of a $40-50mm round of financing soft-circled, according to the CEO, although they are still "trying to lock down the lead". The company is tracking toward revenues well north of $20mm in 2007, and took in a $5.5mm first round of financing in 2006. 2. News came out on Monday that algae-to-biofuels developer Inventure Chemical raised an undisclosed amount of Series A financing -- VWire reported that the size of the round was $2mm and that Cedar Grove Investments, Brighton Jones Wealth Management and angel investors provided the funding.
Other news and notes: More fine work by Lux Research on the applications for nanotech in cleantech... Two great solar columns by Neal lately, here and here... Finally, in the ongoing efforts to build regional cleantech clusters, here's an intriguing proposal.

Heliovolt and Metrolight

Rob Day: August 15, 2007, 11:19 AM
Two other cleantech deals hot off the presses today:
  • Tech Confidential is reporting that CIGS startup HelioVolt has raised a $78 77mm Series B. According to the site, a first close has been completed and a second close is expected later this month. Investors in this round are said by HelioVolt's PR folks to include "A DC investment firm", "A Middle Eastern clean tech fund managing $100B worth of investments", and "a multi-billion dollar company in Spain". Readers can fill in the blanks (or just wait until tomorrow's PR if you can't guess already). NEA had led the company's previous $8mm Series A... Tech Confidential speculates that HelioVolt is now positioned to be the first of the many CIGS players to actually get product to market, but they're just speculating. [8/15 note: Corrected the size of the round as requested by the company's representatives] Meanwhile, Kevin Bullis writes in the Technology Review that silicon ain't dead quite yet.
  • Metrolight, which has developed advanced ballasts for more efficient use of high-intensity discharge (HID) lights for high-bay (ie: warehouses), outdoor and other lighting applications, has raised a $9mm round of financing co-led by Virgin Fuels, and including Gemini Israel Funds, Israel Cleantech Ventures, and Alshuler Shaham Ltd. The company is based in Israel, but will be using the funds for more market push into the U.S. and Europe.