Recent Posts:

Looking Back On 2012 Cleantech Investing Predictions

Rob Day: December 24, 2012, 12:07 PM

It's been a crazy year in cleantech, and a lot of things didn't go as expected.

Especially by me, apparently.

Even if I'm not particularly good at it, I find the annual prediction exercise to be useful for developing a coherent picture of the coming year, as at least a starting point for planning. And it's also just a bit of fun to take some guesses and see how they turn out.

2012 flummoxed me because I was too optimistic this time last year. I thought we were about to turn the corner on cleantech venture firm fundraising, and thus that we would start to see a rebound in dealmaking. I failed to see just how toxic the politicization of cleantech would become. And I generally...

An Open Letter to Limited Partners from a Cleantech Investor

Rob Day: December 10, 2012, 12:00 PM

Dear venture capital limited partners:

I get it.

You were promised that cleantech was going to be the Next Big Thing and it didn't happen. Instead, you've seen the GPs you've backed in the sector have to face a legislative/political headwind, a dearth of big exciting exits, and a number of high-profile flameouts. At this point you're doubtful that there are big returns to be made in the sector and your colleagues are telling you cleantech is a bad place to put capital and so you're pulling out altogether, at least for the time being.

Sure, some cleantech-focused GPs tell you that cleantech hasn't actually performed worse than other sectors for the venture capital category, and...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Localization

Rob Day: November 27, 2012, 8:41 PM

"Cleantech" being a catch-all term that covers a wide range of mostly disconnected industries and markets and technologies, it's always interesting to note commonalities across subsectors where you can find them.

One such macrotrend which I believe will end up driving a lot of cleantech innovation is the emergence of distributed alternatives to previously centralized processes. 

There are two factors underlying this trend.

First of all, long-range transportation costs appear likely to be higher going forward, simply because they are so dependent upon oil prices. This is not a given. But there are reasons to believe oil prices are likely to rise over the medium to long run,...

The Role of the DOE in Obama’s Second Term

Rob Day: November 8, 2012, 10:30 AM

Have been on a run of policy-related columns lately, and am eager to get back to talking about cleantech entrepreneurs and investors.

But I have had a few people request some thoughts on the role of the DOE in Obama's second term, so figured I would tackle that first.

In short, my overall perspective is that the DOE under Secretary Chu has launched some important things, but now needs to transition from a focus on technological innovation (without losing the progress made there) to a focus on commercialization and consensus-building.

First, let's recap what the DOE actually does, because many people don't really know. The DOE is a massive organization, with something like...

Don’t Fail This Time

Rob Day: November 1, 2012, 9:54 AM

We all watched with horror this week as Sandy carved a path of destruction through some of the most populous areas of our country. Please, stop reading this, go find a way to help, and then when you can, come back to the rest of this. Let's focus on helping those in need as a clear first priority.

It's been fascinating to me to watch how quickly the media and some politicians have pivoted this week, post-Sandy, to talking seriously about the dangers of climate change. Whereas just last week I felt the conversation was so pushed to the sidelines that even just forcing a sober discussion would be a step forward.

Let's acknowledge one basic fact: If we ever get to the point where...

A Modest Proposal

Rob Day: October 20, 2012, 3:37 PM

"It is remarkable how little concern men seem to have for logic, statistics, and even, indeed, survival: we live by emotion, prejudice, and pride."

- Dwight Eisenhower, in a letter to Winston Churchill


The above quote is very true, and it would appear particularly so right now regarding rhetoric about clean energy policy. Over the past week, we've seen a bunch of op-eds, some fiery, some sober, attacking clean energy policy and its proponents. And of course, then there are lots of reactions from the clean energy community and its proponents, some rebuttals with data, but a few just some form of a primal scream. The issue has become politicized to an illogical level, pundits...

A Few Things to Note in the SolarCity S-1

Rob Day: October 18, 2012, 8:55 AM

I'm a few days late to this party, but finally took a look at the SolarCity S-1 yesterday. A few things have already been written about the business, so I won't redundantly go into all the discussion of operations, risks, etc. (Even better, read it for yourself.) But here are a few items I'll add in that caught my eye.

First of all, for a business model like this, discussions about cashflow and margins aren't straightforward. Much has been written about this being a high cash burn model -- but you have to look under the hood on that, and then really pay attention to the IRRs of their projects, which is the heart of the business. That's not spelled out in the S-1, of course, but...