Recent Posts:

The two VCs

Rob Day: September 20, 2010, 10:38 PM

Fred Wilson recently wrote that there are now two venture capital industries: One software-based, and one that is capital intensive. He argues that the former has gone capital efficient, and the latter (including "cleantech, biotech and other capital intensive tech businesses") that "operates largely the same way it has operated for the past twenty or thirty years". It's a good post, as with many of his thoughts, well worth reading if you haven't seen it already. He mentions forthcoming data that should be interesting to see.

I think he's right. There really are two divergent strategies in venture capital right now. The one goes for as little cashburn and as quick an exit as...

It’s time: Cleantech needs more roll-ups

Rob Day: September 20, 2010, 9:24 AM

Rolling up startups is hard to do correctly.  It's easy to say that two companies would work better as a combined entity, but in reality it's quite difficult to do regardless of the scale of the companies involved -- you have cultural shifts to make, personnel who will need to change roles and perhaps leave, a combined set of investors to fit into the same size boardroom, significant operational disruption, not to mention the difficulties involved in pricing and structuring the deal, etc.

So it's not something to be bandied about loosely.  But nevertheless, I think it's time for more cleantech startups to be thinking about how they can team up and carry forward as combined efforts.

...

Some brief thoughts from the European Energy Venture Fair

Rob Day: September 9, 2010, 3:25 AM

I am in Zurich this week attending the 2010 European Energy Venture Fair.  It's a good "one stop shop" event for meeting most VCs and investors involved in clean energy in Europe.  It's very heavily geographically focused -- there are not many investors from North America who aren't cross-Atlantic shops, and I haven't found many Asian investors, etc.  And so I assume it makes it a nice cross-section of where European cleantech investing is right now.

So some quick thoughts in no particular order:

1. In going around the room (~200 or so participants), the first thing that strikes you is how many smallish funds there are in this community.  <$200M in size, even for growth-stage focused...

All you need is… R&D?

Rob Day: August 31, 2010, 11:45 PM

I'm not much of a web guy, but I'm terrifically impressed with Twitter these days.

For one thing, after I posted a pretty critical take today on a book I'd just read, it was a new experience to have the author (Vinnie Mirchandani, "The New Polymath") pretty immediately reach out to me to ask why I felt that way.  That launched a good online dialog between the two of us.  We agreed that cross-disciplinary innovation is huge for cleantech in particular.  We agreed on the need for significantly more resources to be put behind it, and to be put into the sector in general.  We disagreed on the level of demonstrated effectiveness shown by IT entrepreneurs and investors crossing over into...

It’s not the information, it’s what you DO with the information that matters

Rob Day: August 25, 2010, 11:01 AM

Now that energy efficiency is all the rage in cleantech venture circles (note to cleantech VCs: don't pitch LPs on your firm being "differentiated" because you target capital efficient businesses...), investors have been particularly attracted to the energy efficiency plays that appear to be at the intersection of energy efficiency and information technology.  The hope being that these investments would scale like an IT play, but be accessing the large market opportunity in energy efficiency.

The majority of such investments I get approached on, however, are simply information gathering and presentation tools.  A dashboard, either for the home or for a larger building, showing the...

Anxiety and optimism

Rob Day: August 13, 2010, 3:55 PM

Wondering what the general emotion of the cleantech venture sector is right now?

The three posts I put up today (here, here and here) should paint the picture pretty well.

Things are happening.  Deals are getting done.  Startups are making progress, moving into production and revenue phases.  Some exits are taking place.  Emotion: Cautious optimism.

But funding remains tight.  And companies are having to take inside-led rounds to get by.  Moving into production phases makes that challenge even more acute.  Investors are backing their companies through a few months hoping they'll be able to unlock additional funding quickly, from one source or another.  But economic jitters continue,...

A look at how bad 2009 was for solar companies

Rob Day: August 13, 2010, 3:36 PM

At Canaccord Genuity's very good sustainability dinner in Boston this week, I had an enjoyable conversation with CG's Marc Marano, a leader on their cleantech team.  He told me about some pretty interesting data they'd pulled together on the solar industry.

We're all familiar already with what a down year 2009 was for financings, but perhaps no sector was harder hit than solar panel manufacturers.  Marc's team had pulled together a list of all the financings in the solar sector for the five quarters Q1 2009 through Q1 2010.  And looking over their tally, I see 18 follow-on rounds during that period to solar panel manufacturers or their suppliers.

Twelve of those rounds were insider...