Recent Posts:

NIMBY in My Backyard

Rob Day: August 25, 2011, 8:33 AM

When my travel-heavy schedule permits, I try to show up at the meetings for my town's Renewable Energy Committee. They're usually a quiet affair, as the committee is a small group of volunteers who help the town assembly look into issues like energy efficiency improvements to the schools, some renewable energy opportunities, streetlight replacements, etc.

So I was pretty surprised to show up last night to find that instead of the usual four-person meeting, there was a packed room of around 20. Why? Because of recent local newspaper articles suggesting that the REC was about to put up a wind turbine at the town's middle school.

I sat back and just watched, and it was a...

Big Dreams and Narrow Niches

Rob Day: August 10, 2011, 11:43 PM

For cleantech entrepreneurs who were out raising funds from VCs three years ago, it was easy: Just make the biggest claims possible. Talk about reinventing the entire planet, VCs wanted to think big. Bigger dreams just meant bigger rounds.

These days, market disruption is still a major goal of many VCs investing the sector. But pragmatism, capital efficiency, and execution are the watchwords of the day. This presents the cleantech entrepreneur with a dilemma -- do they talk in very focused terms about a couple of market sub-segments where they know they can do well, or do they talk about massive market disruption but risk coming across as not being serious enough?

For what it's...

What Family Offices Should Learn From VCs

Rob Day: July 29, 2011, 1:39 PM

Just got back from attending Dealcatch earlier this week. My thanks and congrats to Chrysalix, and co-sponsors Nixon Peabody and Cascadia Capital, for a really productive (and fun!) networking event. Lots of opportunities to catch up with fellow cleantech investors, talk about specific deals, discuss industry trends, etc.  More firms should hold events like that; it has to be pretty valuable for them.

Being there also really helped illustrate a contrast I've observed between institutional venture investors and many (but not all) family offices I've run across over the past few years: the willingness to actively engage in such conversations with each other.  

VCs, generally...

The Rise of Information-Based Cleantech

Rob Day: July 23, 2011, 2:36 PM

Information-based cleantech is an emerging "next big thing" in the sector.

During most of the last decade, cleantech VCs were putting a lot of capital into the production of physical commodities -- proprietary ways of turning photons into kilowatt-hours, or biomass into liquid fuels, etc. It takes a lot of capital and time to successfully bring such commodity-production innovations to market. And then, after all that time, effort and money, you're chasing commodity price curves. This isn't to say that there haven't been and won't be successful efforts in such investments. But it's unclear how these investments fit the traditional venture capital model, and indeed a lot of capital...

Michael Porter Should Be Happy

Rob Day: July 13, 2011, 9:08 AM

The Brookings Institution is releasing a report this morning, "Sizing the Clean Economy", which you should take the time to check out.

The report counts up the number of "clean economy" jobs by sector, painting a picture of an increasingly important set of markets and employers in the U.S.  Hopefully, data points like these will continue to highlight the existing and growing importance of our sector.

The thing I find most interesting, however, is the clear indication that innovation clusters matter -- particularly sector-focused ones.  This will come as old news to anyone familiar with Michael Porter's and others' ongoing work on the subject. But I've found it's not often...

It’ll Get Better

Rob Day: July 11, 2011, 6:52 PM

If you're a cleantech entrepreneur whose company will need more capital over the next 12 months, you have to be worried. Cleantech remains out of favor among many LPs, VC itself remains out of favor, and most cleantech VC firms are running out of money. Confirming some of this, Dow Jones reported today that while VC firm fundraising was up 19% in terms of dollars closed in the first half of the year, actual fund closings were down 38%.  

Meanwhile, even the Cleantech Group couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to report Q2 as anything other than a down quarter. And in my opinion, if you look at the charts in their very handy press-pack presentation, you have to conclude that cleantech...

Why These Companies Are IPOing (Revisited)

Rob Day: June 30, 2011, 9:41 PM

Almost a year ago, I wrote about several cleantech IPOs that were taking place at that time, in somewhat skeptical terms. And I wasn't alone. With the renewed, recent spate of cleantech IPOs and filings (Kior, Luca, et al), I looked back on that same column and thought it was worth bringing up and discussing again.

How are those IPOs from back then doing now? A123 is trading way down, Codexis is down significantly, Tesla is a little bit up, Amyris is quite a bit up, PetroAlgae is a pink sheet, and Gevo lowered their offering price but has been fairly flat since the IPO. So it's a mixed bag, not a resounding set of successes from which to draw inspiration. And yet, here it is...