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Friday folderol

Rob Day: October 30, 2009, 3:37 PM

Some random items, including some administrative housekeeping:


1.  If you haven't seen it, it's worth reading DOE Secretary Chu's op-ed on weatherization and all of the governmental support being thrown toward that part of energy efficiency.  Heady times for residential and commercial energy efficiency efforts.  Side note:  The Secretary of Energy is publishing his op-eds in the Huffington Post now?  Wow, this Internet thingy might actually be catching on.


2.  How the government "picks winners and losers" is a topic of much conversation these days, re: cleantech and otherwise.  It's especially a topic given the structure of some of the programs being used to accelerate...

Great returns from cleantech

Rob Day: October 28, 2009, 3:11 PM

Did you see the Q2 venture returns report from Cambridge Associates and the NVCA (note: pdf)?  If so, you were probably as intrigued by the chart on page 7 as I was.

On that page is a chart of "US Venture Capital Dollar-Weighted Internal Rate of Return on Vintage Year Companies" broken out by sector.  They don't break out cleantech as a category, but they do break out Energy.  And the numbers are pretty noteworthy.

Energy category IRRs vs. All Companies IRRs

2002  Energy = 43.0%, All = 8.75%

2003  Energy = 46.0%, All = 12.3%

2004  Energy = 10.4%, All = 12.8%

2005  Energy = 33.5%, All = 9.66%

2006  Energy = 23.7%, All = 4.46%

2007  Energy = 20.1%, All = 0.65%

2008  Energy = 9.10%, All...


Rob Day: October 26, 2009, 9:44 AM

Okay, so maybe I jokingly tried to start an "ARPA-E" chant at Obama's MIT speech on Friday, simply because I thought it might be the only crowd ever wonky enough to get it.

But acronymical joking aside, it's a potentially valuable DOE program that could end up helping one of the major capital gaps that's emerging in cleantech venture capital:  Seed stage and early stage development of ideas that are promising but will take too long to commercialize than most VCs can handle.

So it's great to see the news release today with $151M of grants to 37 efforts.  Including:

  • Sadoway's liquid-metal batteries
  • Low-cost LED crystals
  • 1366's "mono-equivalent silicon" wafers
  • FloDesign's smaller-format...

Obama at MIT

Rob Day: October 23, 2009, 11:14 PM

Had the honor of being invited to Obama's speech at MIT today.  Thanks to the Clean Economy Network and the Renewable Energy Business Network, we were able to bring 50 local green businesspeople to the event (thanks, CEN!).  You can read the transcript here and some coverage here.

The President got a few demonstrations of technology MIT researchers are working on, before giving the speech, and then he spoke for 15 minutes or so to an auditorium full of 750 students, green entrepreneurs, researchers, cleantech investors, politicians, and other key stakeholders. 

A few points from his speech that particularly stuck out for me (paraphrasing):

  • Energy tech innovators and entrepreneurs are...

Why the story matters

Rob Day: October 23, 2009, 10:16 PM

Just stumbled upon this article in Wired with the blaring headline that EEStor is worth $1.5B!

The writer starts with Zenn Motor's market cap of $169M today, points out they own 10.7% of EEStor, and that Zenn isn't going to be selling their own vehicles anymore, and VOILA! If you give zero value to the rest of Zenn Motors, divide $169M by 10.7%, thus EEStor is worth an implied $1.5B!  Amazing!

Or, you know, the market could be valuing Zenn at $169M, and that stake in EEStor at $0. Because Zenn is still going to be selling things, just not fully manufactured cars, and it's unclear when or if EEStor is going to be producing profits.

Or anything in between.  So what we can tell by the...

Okay, so it’s broken.  Now what?

Rob Day: October 22, 2009, 9:16 AM

I've been having a lot of conversations with cleantech investors lately, and it's clear there's an emerging "consensus" (as much as you can ever get true alignment in such an industry) that the traditional venture capital model applied to cleantech isn't working -- at least in how it's been applied to date. 

To recap, we have seen billions of dollars this decade put into venture capital and "venture capital" deals in energy tech in particular, but not only have there been relatively few exits, many VC-backed cleantech companies have been way behind in their promises regarding commercialization and adoption.  Cleantech VCs have been more effective at making headlines than at making...