Recent Posts:

Book Report: Clean Tech Nation and The New New Deal

Rob Day: September 27, 2012, 7:34 PM

It's back to school season, so apparently that means it's time for a couple of book report assignments.

Had the opportunity to review Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder's new book, Clean Tech Nation.

In the book, Pernick and Wilder make the basic argument that the U.S. is on the verge of missing out on an opportunity to have the world's leading cleantech industry. It's also a good snapshot of the current state of the U.S. cleantech sector, and a download of a bunch of CleanEdge's always-useful data on the sector. It's worth getting a copy for all of that good info by itself, although I suspect some of the startups they highlight as industry leaders might have a pretty short half-life...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Fragmentation

Rob Day: September 10, 2012, 9:36 AM

One thing I've learned as an investor that is true beyond cleantech: offering a compelling value proposition to customers is important, but it's not sufficient for a startup to be able to grow revenues quickly.

Growing revenues rapidly as a startup (with limited marketing resources, brand recognition, etc.) requires essentially fishing in a barrel. You need a concentration of either customer mindshare, or of actual customers. The best situation, of course, is to have both: a bunch of easy-to-find customers who all put a priority on the problem you're solving. That way you can quickly and cheaply reach new customers, you get their attention, and you quickly convince them to open up...

Bad Analysis of a US Carbon Tax by AEI

Rob Day: August 30, 2012, 8:08 AM

If "thought leaders" don't put much thought into their analysis, the analysis is worse than useless. 

That is the case with this terrible piece of "analysis" from Benjamin Zycher of American Enterprise Institute that came out this morning. He takes a look at whether a U.S. carbon tax could be "efficient" in the economic sense -- that is, if it would net out to being positive economically. When I'd heard recently that the AEI was starting to look at and talk again about carbon tax policies, I'd been encouraged to hear it, so I eagerly read the column as soon as I saw it this morning (thanks to Coral Davenport for tweeting it out). Unfortunately, Zycher appears to have approached...

Lessons From The Past Ten Years: Self-Description

Rob Day: August 28, 2012, 2:48 PM

Because of some of the unique features of our markets and customers, early-stage cleantech startups quite often have to walk a fine line when figuring out how to describe themselves to the outside world.

At the heart of the problem is that the entrepreneurs have two completely different target audiences for these messages. The first are prospective customers, who are typically change-averse, can be somewhat technophobic, and often aren't currently seeking a solution. But the second major audience is funders, and VCs want to find something that's very "different," that's somewhat daring, that they can describe to the partners at their firm (and to their LPs) as something "sexy" and...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: PR

Rob Day: August 10, 2012, 12:36 PM

What is the right PR strategy for cleantech startups?

It's a question I've been thinking about a lot lately, and talking about with communications professionals. Because I feel that those of us in cleantech (myself in particular) have generally done it wrong over the past ten years.

Wrong in one of two ways -- either 1) going out too hard, too early, or 2) starving a growth opportunity.

I've backed companies that've made both of these mistakes, so I understand how they come about.

In the first "too hard, too early" mistake, there are companies in our sector (you already know them, so I don't feel the need to name them) that've put on a heavy PR push ahead of having fully...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Overreaction

Rob Day: July 25, 2012, 7:41 PM

It would be easy to be pessimistic about the current state of the cleantech innovation sector. We’re under attack by politically motivated facts-and-patriotism-be-damned foes; there’s clearly a shakeout happening in several sectors such as upstream solar; and more and more VCs are abandoning the sector (just over the past week, I heard of two more cleantech-specific VC firms that are shelving plans to raise new funds). These are not fun times, to be sure, and these are very hard times for early-stage entrepreneurs in particular.

But it’s important to recognize what this period really represents: the inevitable period of investor 'over-pessimism' following an innovation-driven...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Youth

Rob Day: July 24, 2012, 9:50 AM

Had a lot of good feedback from my earlier post about teams and evaluating skills gaps; we even used a version of this as a self-assessment tool for the Cleantech Open Northeast semifinalist teams, which seemed to be helpful.

Since then, however, I've gotten approached by a number of younger entrepreneurs who are worried that, as they look at their relative inexperience, this skills-gap analysis means generally pessimistic things for them.

To be fair: Yes it does.

But not prohibitive things. In fact, a good skills-gap analysis is probably even more important for first-time entrepreneurs than more experienced entrepreneurs, even if it shows a lot of gaps. Every entrepreneur has...