Recent Posts:

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...

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...