Recent Posts:

Coal and gas, revisited

Rob Day: December 13, 2010, 4:03 PM

I had the pleasure of taking part in a roundtable discussion at MIT a few days back, with researchers, investors, entrepreneurs and others there to talk about what cheap natural gas might mean for U.S. efforts to combat climate change.  The assumption being that unconventional gas development efforts (shale gas, etc.) and the resultant massive expansion of reserves here in the U.S. points to a prolonged period of relatively cheap natural gas.

Somewhat to my surprise, the group mostly thought this was a bad thing.  Because, many felt, cheap natgas would mean building out more of a power infrastructure based upon gas instead of solar/wind/etc. power.  "We cannot achieve our 2050...

Dangerous times for U.S. cleantech

Rob Day: December 8, 2010, 5:13 PM

WARNING: Personal political opinion and discussion follows.  Feel free to ignore if you think it's not relevant to you.  But trust me, it actually is...

It is a dangerous time for the cleantech sector, which is now under pressure on multiple fronts.

The moribund economy continues to hinder the revenue growth efforts of many cleantech products and services companies that, often after several years of development efforts, now have a product ready for the market.  

Cleantech VCs are also increasingly tapped out -- at or near the end of their funds.  And as we've discussed here recently, many VCs who had been investing in cleantech are either narrowing where within the sector...

How cleantech VCs are reacting to the broken venture model

Rob Day: November 30, 2010, 9:34 AM

In many of my recent conversations with colleagues, there's a recurring theme: As a group, these investors are increasingly convinced that the traditional venture capital investment model as applied to cleantech hasn't been working.

In part, this is because there's increasing conviction among VCs and LPs across sectors that the venture capital model overall is broken and needs re-invention.  And in part, this is because the exit window has been so tough to hit for so many venture-backed startups across all sectors, over the past decade. So it's not just a cleantech thing.

But even so, with some exceptions the overall body of cleantech VCs I speak with do recognize that there are...

Cleantech venture capital isn’t baseball

Rob Day: November 10, 2010, 9:09 AM

It's rugby.

Sorry, this is a bit of a stretch but I wanted to illustrate a basic learning many cleantech VCs have had to go through over the past few years (myself very much included).

I hear some investors say all the time that they're looking to "hit 'em where they ain't."  That quote comes from "Wee Willie" Keeler, a professional baseball player from a century ago, and when used by VCs, they're typically meaning that they're going to be looking for investment opportunities in sectors and market segments where other investors aren't also placing bets.  The theory being that therefore you can get out ahead of the crowd and establish investments in early leaders in a...

Smart grid: Lessons from networking?

Rob Day: November 8, 2010, 9:37 AM

In my last post, I mentioned the smart grid / energy intelligence "panel" at the Future Forward event last week.  It ended up being a great informal conversation between the panelists and attendees, so I thought I would share a bit of what I heard that I thought was interesting.

The participants included:

Eric Emmons, of Siemens Venture Capital, and one of the smartest guys I know on all things cleantech-related.

Martin Flusberg, CEO of Powerhouse Dynamics, a networking and energy software serial entrepreneur.  Powerhouse Dynamics has developed a home energy monitoring system.

Tom Pincince, President and CEO of Digital Lumens, a former networking hardware entrepreneur and...

A tale of two communities

Rob Day: November 6, 2010, 8:14 PM

I was asked to moderate a panel at the Future Forward executive retreat, a long-running event in the IT community in Boston.  Pretty impressive group of around 150 C-level IT execs in attendance, good smart speakers.  Made sense that the cleantech panel to be held as one of the breakout sessions would be about smart grid and customer energy information, since that is a sector that has strong overlap with IT.

Nevertheless, whereas the panel on cloud computing had something like 80 people, the panel on smart grid / energy data had 8.  The IT execs at the event clearly had very little interest.

Frankly, I can understand why.  These IT execs don't know any peers who've made it rich...

Q3: Behind the ugly numbers

Rob Day: November 1, 2010, 12:52 PM

The kind folks at Ernst & Young sent over their Q3 cleantech venture deal data this morning.  You've probably already seen the headlines, but suffice to say they've confirmed what many have been saying, that Q3 was a pretty big pullback quarter.  They tallied a 55% decline in deal dollars versus Q3 2009, and not only were deals getting smaller on average, but the total number of deals was also down 22%.

Can't say this was a surprise.  As we've been talking about for a while, it's seemed that the deal and dollar totals this year and last have been somewhat propped up by insider rounds.  And also, VCs are themselves running out of money, and it's a brutal time to be fundraising from...