Recent Posts:

A Simple Question

Rob Day: January 3, 2014, 3:19 PM

Happy New Year, everyone.

We're waiting for the release of year-end cleantech venture deal tallies before posting a wrapup of the year and a set of predictions for 2014. But in the meantime, I wanted to ask you a simple question.

In case you missed it, in an article from back in September, Stephen Lacey highlighted just how rapidly costs have been falling for many clean technologies. 

  • The cost of a solar PV module in the U.S. has dropped by something like 80% since 2008, including a 27% drop in 2012 alone.
  • The cost of LED lighting has dropped to something like one-sixth of what it was in 2008.
  • The cost of EV batteries has been cut in half since 2008.

So let's all...

Mind the Gap: Funding Challenges for Capital-Efficient Startups

Rob Day: December 19, 2013, 8:34 PM

Let me start with some background that you already know.

The venture capital model is predicated on one big concept: Investing capital in differently priced tranches over time as risk is removed from a developing entrepreneurial effort. It wouldn't make sense to invest all the capital a startup would ever need on day one -- how would you price it? What about the risk that the idea just doesn't work? So the VCs (and their brethren) invest a bit at a time as milestones are reached. And ideally, a new outside investor steps in at each of these funding events, to provide an outside valuation of the company at each stage.

When the system doesn't work -- when capital isn't present at...

How Crowdfunding Could Impact Cleantech Entrepreneurs (And Why It Probably Won’t)

Rob Day: December 2, 2013, 11:24 AM

Ever since the JOBS Act was enacted, there's been a lot of chatter about how crowdfunding could end up competing out venture capital as an asset category, and/or saving cleantech entrepreneurs during a time when generalist VCs have been backing away from the sector. 

I'm a fan of crowdfunding in general, and I think the democratization of startup funding is a good thing overall, especially for capital-light startups. It's already impacting the venture capital business in sectors like social media. And there's a lot of potential for crowdfunding to have a significant positive impact for cleantech entrepreneurs in particular. But I'm pessimistic that it will do so, at least anytime...

Convergence in Building Energy Intelligence

Rob Day: November 4, 2013, 11:32 AM

Every system in buildings is being made intelligent: HVAC, lighting, security, fire detectors, plug loads, appliances, you name it.

Right now, many of these systems are being made intelligent separately from each other. But that won't remain the case for long. Sensors and intelligence will converge into fewer devices and systems. This will likely happen at first for cost-saving reasons: having fewer redundant independently "smart" devices lowers cost per node. And later it will happen because the more nodes attached to the same network, the more value can be derived from that network.

What this means is that now-familiar devices will start to disappear in our buildings, as their...

Lessons From the Past 10 Years: Pooled Assets

Rob Day: October 22, 2013, 1:51 PM

Solyndra, Tesla, Fisker, cap-and-trade, "America is addicted to oil" -- there have been a lot of watershed moments, good and bad, in the cleantech sector over the past ten years. It's been a lot of big ups and downs, a wild ride. 

But one development doesn't get as much attention, and yet quietly may end up being more important than any of the above. In 2008, US Bancorp started putting money into pooled project finance structures for residential rooftop finance, backing the likes of early movers Sunrun and SolarCity.

It's not the first time financial players got involved in backing asset pools rather than individual projects one at a time, of course. But the application in...

The 3 Pillars of NextWave Greentech Entrepreneurship

Rob Day: October 7, 2013, 6:27 PM

If you watched the presentations at the NextWave Greentech Investing conference last month, you heard a lot of talk about how the "next wave" is here, as well as talk of various new investment strategies being deployed.

But from the entrepreneur's perspective, what does this mean? If you've launched a cleantech startup, or are thinking about doing so, what should you be keeping in mind?

There are a lot of underlying trends to consider in this wide-ranging sector of ours. But three themes in particular stand out for me, and should be top of mind for all entrepreneurs active in the market.


1. The rapid shift away from centralized systems to more distributed assets and...

It’s Not as Bad Out There as You’ve Been Told

Rob Day: September 23, 2013, 2:14 PM

Over the past couple of weeks since NextWave13, as has become usual, I've had a few conversations with entrepreneurs and investors with a lot of exposure to mainstream venture capitalists, and who've subsequently developed a deep pessimism about what's going on in our sector.

Just this morning, for instance, I fielded a call from one entrepreneur who used to work in other tech sectors, then spent the past several years in this sector, and now is wondering if he should just pack it in and go back to those other tech sectors. He was calling to see if I was still bullish on the sector. But when I said I most certainly was (with the requisite caveats about new investment models that...