Recent Posts:

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...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Angels

Rob Day: October 16, 2012, 7:56 PM

Now should be a period of happy hunting for angel and other seed-stage investors looking for new deals. Venture capitalists have abandoned the sector, at least temporarily. The Cleantech Group's early Q3 numbers showed a continued decline in early-stage dealflow, with only 55 early-stage deals tracked worldwide in the quarter. If that number holds upon further review, it would be the lowest such quarter for early-stage deal activity over the past five years. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurs have remained active and in my opinion have brought forth even more investable ideas, more pragmatic approaches with more relevancy for existing markets. So it's wide open spaces for angels and...

The Next Wave of Cleantech Investing Is Here

Rob Day: October 8, 2012, 1:00 PM

The next wave of cleantech is here.

The old form of cleantech is dead or dying, everyone agrees. I don't know too many investors out there still looking for capital-intensive ways of making commodities, as marked the height of the pre-2008 cleantech wave (and that I've been guilty of myself in some cases, I must admit). And there will be yet more bad news piled onto our sector thanks to those types of investments. Just this past week I learned about yet another high-profile capital-intensive cleantech startup that is on the ropes cash-wise, and likely to be a bad headline soon. My message isn't that things are about to turn a corner, in terms of the negative tones in the press,...

Book Report: Clean Tech Nation and The New New Deal

Rob Day: September 27, 2012, 8:34 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, 10:36 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, 9:08 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...