Recent Posts:

Lessons From The Past Ten Years: Self-Description

Rob Day: August 28, 2012, 3:48 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, 1:36 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, 8:41 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, 10:50 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...

This Quarter in Cleantech Venture Capital investing

Rob Day: July 13, 2012, 12:00 PM

The various deal-tracking groups continue to step up their game, doing a better and better job each year. Looking forward to seeing additional takes from CB Insights, Ernst & Young and others, but just reviewed the Cleantech Group's Q2 media presentation (as reported on by GTM here) and had a few additional thoughts and reactions to lob in:

1. It really feels like 2012 is a shakeout year.

Remember that the way these numbers get reported, and given the paucity of exits in the sector, there's a fundamental momentum to see deal counts always go up over time. Every quarter's new deals will require multiple follow-on rounds, so as new companies are added to VC firms' portfolios (and...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years, Part Four: Gaps

Rob Day: July 3, 2012, 10:28 AM

I had the opportunity to address a group of foundation managers, investors, entrepreneurs, and DOE staff at a roundtable at MIT last week, discussing the subject of capital gaps in cleantech.

That there are capital gaps -- parts of the cleantech innovation, commercialization and adoption cycle where more capital is needed than is available -- isn't a surprise to any readers of this column. But I continue to see lots of conflicting takes on where exactly the gaps are and what causes them.

As I described to the group, we've spotted not just one or two, but five different capital gaps affecting the cleantech market. Some are more obvious than others. For a couple of these gaps,...

Why We Will Win: Enthusiasm

Rob Day: June 20, 2012, 11:17 AM

The headlines can be depressing right now, I know. Because so much journalist attention is being paid to venture capitalists and politicians, when VCs are running scared away from the cleantech sector, and politicians are treating our industry like a punching bag, it can feel like things aren't going well.

That ignores the fact that I see a lot of cleantech companies (outside of a couple of sectors like upstream solar) doing very well operationally right now, growing revenues, achieving profitability, etc. And just as important is seeing how many large corporations are also more and more engaged in the sector, as customers, partners, and acquirers. If the economy can just hold off...