Recent Posts:

Why We Will Win: Enthusiasm

Rob Day: June 20, 2012, 10:17 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...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years, Part Three: Team

Rob Day: June 5, 2012, 12:01 PM

It doesn't matter what kind of business model your startup is pursuing: tech development, service models, financial models, operational projects, etc. Unless you just get really lucky (which does happen, but can't be planned upon), you will need a team that executes at a very high level in order to succeed.

And yet, high-execution management teams are, from what I've found, the single rarest resource for the cleantech entrepreneurial sector. Much more rare than good business ideas. Don't read this as me saying that there are a lot of sub-par individuals out there -- but a lot of folks whose past experiences haven't (yet) prepared them for the unique challenges of their current...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years, Part Two: Urgency

Rob Day: June 3, 2012, 7:15 PM

I've seen it happen way too many times: cleantech startups that miss their revenue forecasts, but not because they're losing sales opportunities to other vendors. Instead, it's just because it takes longer to get opportunities in the pipeline to a "yes."

It's understandable how this happens. The cleantech startup will have an offering that's an economic no-brainer for the potential customer from a payback period standpoint, and the potential customer makes all the right noise about being interested. But day to day, energy spending simply isn't a priority for most of these potential customers, so their decision-making slips. And then it's compounded by the fact that the customer...

Experience Curves: Why Doesn’t Your Senator Understand Them?

Rob Day: May 29, 2012, 8:43 PM

Do you know what an experience curve is? Does your representative in Congress know what it is?

It's a well-established and oft-proven truth of manufacturing costs that as you make more of something over time, costs come down. This is separate from manufacturing scale effects, which can also drive costs down, but, simply put: the more we make of something over time, the more we figure out how to drive the costs out. 'Incremental innovations' add up to significant cost savings over time.

BCG summarized this way back in the mid-1960s this way: Costs fall about 20 percent to 30 percent every time cumulative installations double.

This is not rocket science. It's well understood,...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years (Part One): Trust

Rob Day: May 21, 2012, 6:40 PM

Over the past ten years of cleantech venture capital, there have been a lot of hard-earned lessons learned. I'm going to start a periodic series of recapping some of what I think we cleantech investors and entrepreneurs have learned, and discussing ways to address those lessons.

To start off, today's topic is the importance of building trust in these markets.

With a few exceptions, cleantech markets (energy, water, etc.) are very reticent to adopt new technologies. They are risk-averse customers by design (you don't want your lights going off, do you?) and by tradition, and also just because often the buyers of these technologies have a million other things going on and so they...

The Boston Cleanweb Hackathon Rocked

Rob Day: May 7, 2012, 8:50 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, 12:58 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...