Recent Posts:

Can Philanthropists Fill the Gaps?

Rob Day: August 19, 2013, 2:21 PM

The NextWave Greentech Investing conference is coming up soon -- September 12th. And the crowd that's already registered is a nicely diverse mix of types of investors (LPs, VCs, corporates, family offices, etc.), in addition to entrepreneurs and others. One type of potential "investor" that doesn't get talked about as much, however, are the philanthropists who've traditionally played a small but important role in backing innovation, particularly in this sector.

Sarah Kearney (who'll be speaking at NextWave) thinks they can serve a much bigger role. She serves as the Executive Director of PRIME, a nonprofit that encourages philanthropic efforts in the energy sector. I asked Sarah...

Cleantech and Predictable Irrationality

Rob Day: August 13, 2013, 8:35 PM

Ahead of the NextWave Greentech Investing conference (early-bird registration rate ends Wednesday, btw), I'm taking a look at some of the shifts in thinking and strategy that are underlying this next wave of investors.

One of the more important shifts, I believe, is the abandonment of the quaint idea that buyers of clean technology are inherently rational decision-makers.

I mean "rational" in the economics sense, of course, I'm not intending to be disparaging of anyone. But during the past decade there was too often a sense that it all came down to unit economics for customers. That a compelling economic value proposition (a production cost for biofuels well below the market...

Lessons From the Past 10 Years: Focus

Rob Day: August 1, 2013, 12:11 PM

First off, if you haven't registered yet to attend NextWave Greentech Investing, go do so. The agenda's really coming together, for example Schneider's head of smart grid strategy will be there to tell everyone why they keep acquiring cleantech companies, and what that means for the next wave of exits. And the room's starting to fill up with investors and entrepreneurs, so I'm really looking forward to a good conversation. So go ahead and go register now, I'll wait.


OK, we're back. 

Speaking of B2B cleantech startups such as those Schneider and others increasingly want to acquire, I wanted to remind everyone of this crucial lesson from the classic book Crossing the Chasm...

What Is “NextWave Greentech”?

Rob Day: July 20, 2013, 7:11 PM

When the folks at Greentech Media asked me to chair their upcoming "NextWave Greentech Investing" conference, I immediately said yes. The chance to have many of the more active and innovative investors hang out together for a day, talking about how they're trying to reinvent the sector, is just simply going to be a lot of fun -- and hopefully pretty informative for entrepreneurs in the sector. Certainly it'll be a good place to look for funding!

But it still begs the question: What exactly is this next wave all about? How do you define it? We've touched upon this question a bit in past columns, but mostly by talking about what it's not. The concept is clearly about creating new...

A Conversation With Limited Partners, Part Two: Comparable Returns

Rob Day: July 15, 2013, 4:46 PM

In the last column, we discussed the divestiture movement's pressure on limited partners, and how it represents an opportunity and not just an obstacle to returns, even without using it as a negative screen.

This is all part of a broader conversation I've been having with other limited partners and fiduciaries lately, all leading up to the NextWave Greentech Investing conference in September, for which I'm told a few dozen LPs and GPs have already signed up. Which is great to hear.

Nevertheless, despite that happy news, for today's column let's start by acknowledging two uncomfortable facts for LPs.

First, that even the most discerning negative screens for LPs will indeed be a...

A Conversation With Limited Partners, Part One: Categorical Denial

Rob Day: July 2, 2013, 7:55 PM

In this column, over the next few weeks, we'll be increasingly speaking to the limited partner ("LP") community: Pension funds, endowments, corporates and others who are the major source of funding for venture capital firms. The upcoming "NextWave Greentech Investing" conference by Greentech Media has already brought in a lot of participants from the LP community (you haven't signed up yet? why not!) and is aimed at encouraging a broader conversation across LPs as to when and how to get back into the sector and the megatrends it's taking advantage of. So we've been spending a lot of time recently getting the LP perspective on where the sector is right now.

As such, I had the...

Some Thoughts on Cleanweb Business Models

Rob Day: June 24, 2013, 10:00 AM

It's great to see a significant upswing in entrepreneurial and venture capital interest in so-called "cleanweb" business opportunities. Regular readers of this column will know that I am a fan of the strong business and environmental potential from the application of web-based business models to resource efficiency. It skewers the popular misperception that "cleantech is always capital intensive and takes a long time to commercialize", and can have a significant impact.

However, all cleanweb startups are not created equal.

With the rise of the category, I've seen a rise in the number of cleanweb startups pitching venture capitalists with somewhat muddled business models. Just...