Recent Posts:

The Boston Cleanweb Hackathon Rocked

Rob Day: May 7, 2012, 9:50 AM

I was absolutely blown away by how creative and productive the hackers were at this weekend's cleanweb hackathon here in Boston.

As a recap: Around 15 teams of programmers and other hackers came together at Greentown Labs to spend 30 or so hours creating new cleantech-related web and mobile apps from scratch. Most came in with ideas in mind, of course, but they had to write fresh code to compete. Many worked through the night Saturday, and then, bleary-eyed and over-caffeinated, they presented their work on Sunday afternoon to a panel of entrepreneur and investor judges. They were all scored on the categories of Impact, Originality, User Experience, and Completeness.

I frankly...

Greentech Policy: Back to the Drawing Board

Rob Day: May 4, 2012, 1:58 PM

It's clearly political silly season yet again, and we can all expect that the rhetoric will continue to be dog-gone bad. We can also tell, unfortunately, that federal clean energy policy will be a lightning rod for a lot of that mendacious rhetoric this year. So I don't expect anything significantly good or bad to happen this year on a federal energy policy front. Just lots of shouting and lies, and maybe some small token legislative actions.

So it seems like a good time to step back and reflect on the choices the cleantech sector has made, in terms of how we position ourselves with regard to policy. Thus, I've come up with four basic questions I think everyone should be asking...

Some Thoughts on the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon

Rob Day: May 1, 2012, 3:01 PM

Home Depot is terrible at selling LED light bulbs. Amazon is even worse.

Have you had the experience yet of trying to buy LED bulbs at one of these places, realizing once you try the product at home that you hate: a) how it looks, b) how it fits; c) the light quality; or d) all of the above? And then you have to go through the trouble to take it or send it back for a refund. When you're paying $30 per bulb and making a 20-year purchase, these things kind of matter.

I don't blame Home Depot or Amazon -- they're not really designed to be the places where people discover which new products are up to PAR (sorry, bad pun). But if they're not the answer, what is? Lighting...

How to Interpret Q1 Greentech VC Numbers

Rob Day: April 20, 2012, 1:42 PM

Over the past couple of weeks, various deal-trackers have come out with their Q1 tallies for cleantech venture capital dealflow, and it's a bit confusing this time around.

The Cleantech Group came out with its totals (see the great slide deck here), showing that Q1 saw an increase in the number of cleantech deals (from 176 in Q4 to 185), even as dollar amounts went down. Interestingly, they talk up a rebound in early stage (Seed + A) investing, as well.

DowJones Venture Source has a pretty different number reported in the overall tally reported today, showing energy deal counts drop from 30 in 1Q11 to 29 in 1Q12, of which 23 were in renewables. This isn't from the helpful...

An Experiment

Rob Day: April 20, 2012, 9:39 AM

Regular readers of this column will know that I often describe non-tech entrepreneurial efforts, like channel disruption and implementation services, as crucial to the next phase of development of the cleantech market. We still need technical innovation, of course, but it's not the limiting factor in this market right now -- actual implementations are. There are now lots of commercially viable, economically sustainable clean technology solutions available for customers, but we need to see buyers start to adopt and implement them. 

Regular readers of this column will also know that I believe VCs have not yet done a great job of tackling this other type of business opportunity, at...

Sovereign Wealth Funds and Large Pension Funds: Stymied by Greentech VC

Rob Day: April 17, 2012, 8:44 AM

Some very, very large check-writers have been getting bigger and more interested in private equity investments. Sovereign wealth funds and large pension funds don't get a lot of attention, but they're huge players in the investment world. And as I've been speaking with several members of that community, two points have come through fairly clearly: 1) many (especially those outside the U.S.) are interested in doing direct investments in the cleantech space, broadly defined; and 2) they feel stymied in trying to do so.

They are interested in investing in cleantech markets for the same reason you are, Gentle Reader: because the macro trends are too obvious on a global scale to not...

A Greentech VC Bridge Too Far?

Rob Day: April 6, 2012, 9:00 AM

I've been talking with a lot of fellow cleantech investors lately, and we all commiserate about how busy we have been so far this year.

I think this is tied to a couple of things. First, as of the beginning of the year, it seems like just about every startup hit the fundraising trail. And secondly, the sector is maturing, and so a much greater percentage of these startups are investable as compared to in the past: strong management teams, good revenue prospects, attractive markets, etc. So it's a really good problem to have as an investor, to be overwhelmed with intriguing dealflow. It's a good sign for the sector, and a sign that it's a great time to have capital to deploy as an...