Recent Posts:

The Six Ways to Create Venture Capital Returns in Cleantech

Rob Day: March 13, 2012, 12:38 PM

In my last column, I rushed us through my take on 15 years of cleantech venture capital history. Because if we're going to look at the path forward, we need to understand how we got here in the first place. I would also refer everyone to Matthew Nordan's great four-part take on the state of cleantech venture capital from a little while back, particularly Part 2, where he argues that cleantech has performed at par with the overall venture capital category.

To which I would say: nuts to that.

It's not that I in any way wish to slight Matthew's smart analysis; it's a must-read. But if the conclusion is that cleantech has been at par with other sectors simply because on average it...

How the Heck Did We Get Here?

Rob Day: March 8, 2012, 3:09 PM

Over the next few columns I’m going to talk about what I see as a critical set of lessons and paths forward for cleantech venture capital. But first, I thought it would be necessary to set the table by laying out my own vastly oversimplified version of how cleantech venture capital got to this point.

Where to begin? In the 1990s, there were a very few venture investors tackling alternative energy and environmental technologies. They had small funds and invested mostly in hardware plays of some kind. Sectors like solar and electric vehicles certainly didn’t dominate.

Then the dot-com bubble and IPO frenzy happened. This rising tide lifted a lot of boats, including in this sector....

What Is the Appropriate Role for Government in Cleantech Innovation?

Rob Day: February 28, 2012, 4:00 PM

It's not a popular thing to argue right now, but yes, there certainly is a vital role for government in support of cleantech innovation.

Let me start by acknowledging that I absolutely understand and quite often agree with the sentiment that government shouldn't be in the business of venture capital. Market-based policies are, to my liking, almost always preferable to policies where government employees select and fund specific innovators or companies. Thus, the most effective way for governments to support cleantech innovation would be to price in externalities like climate change and dependence on imported energy, and then let the market sort things out.

But that's not likely...

What’s Going On With Corporate Investors in Cleantech?

Rob Day: February 22, 2012, 10:00 AM

Walt Frick posted a good rebuttal to the Wired "cleantech bust" article recently, in which he points out that venture dollars going into the sector remain high.

This is true, but as one of my fellow panelists at the Kellogg PE/VC conference yesterday pointed out, a lot of those dollars are simply follow-ons into existing investments. And furthermore, corporate investors have really been filling the gap recently.  One lawyer I spoke with recently who sees a lot of cleantech transactions told me that over the past 12 months, most transactions he's seen have included a strategic investor as the predominant "new money" in the deal.

It's clear that many large corporations have...

Large Corporates and Family Offices: A Need to Connect

Rob Day: January 30, 2012, 3:41 PM

One thing many cleantech VCs are good at is connecting with large corporations' strategy and venture groups. They regularly chat to compare notes, discuss market trends, share investment perspectives, identify areas of needed investment, opportunities to work with the VCs' portfolio companies, etc. It's a win-win.

I was surprised upon joining the family office community to discover that these groups are (with some definite exceptions) not as good at this. There are probably several reasons: 1) family offices are often already affiliated with some companies that the family owns, dampening the supposed need; 2) corporate strategic groups don't think about family offices because the...

“How Do I Get a Job in Cleantech Venture Capital?”

Rob Day: January 10, 2012, 7:38 PM

Around this time of year, the amount of inbound requests for coffees and "picking your brain" chats is always pretty overwhelming, as business school students and others start thinking about how they would love to be a cleantech venture capital investor.

I wanted to write down a few thoughts for such folks in case they would be helpful. Unfortunately, much of what I have to give is simply tough love. Because it's very, very hard to break into cleantech venture capital. When you account for the few specialist teams out there still actively investing in the sector, and then further account for the number of such firms that are hiring any new associates, I would estimate there are...

12 Predictions for ‘12

Rob Day: December 28, 2011, 4:52 PM

'Tis the season for making year-end predictions, and even though I'm clearly not very good at it, I got dragged into doing them a while back. So here are some for 2012. Enjoy these with the appropriately sized grain of sodium chloride.

1. Both dollar totals and deal totals for U.S. cleantech venture capital will be up more than 20% over 2011.

I'm basing this on the hope of a bit more economic stabilization, allowing some of the currently fundraising venture funds in the sector to successfully close and start writing checks. Furthermore, more and more corporate and other large investors are putting money directly into venture capital type investments in the sector, and I...