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Some brief thoughts from the European Energy Venture Fair

Rob Day: September 9, 2010, 3:25 AM

I am in Zurich this week attending the 2010 European Energy Venture Fair.  It's a good "one stop shop" event for meeting most VCs and investors involved in clean energy in Europe.  It's very heavily geographically focused -- there are not many investors from North America who aren't cross-Atlantic shops, and I haven't found many Asian investors, etc.  And so I assume it makes it a nice cross-section of where European cleantech investing is right now.

So some quick thoughts in no particular order:

1. In going around the room (~200 or so participants), the first thing that strikes you is how many smallish funds there are in this community.  <$200M in size, even for growth-stage focused...

All you need is… R&D?

Rob Day: August 31, 2010, 11:45 PM

I'm not much of a web guy, but I'm terrifically impressed with Twitter these days.

For one thing, after I posted a pretty critical take today on a book I'd just read, it was a new experience to have the author (Vinnie Mirchandani, "The New Polymath") pretty immediately reach out to me to ask why I felt that way.  That launched a good online dialog between the two of us.  We agreed that cross-disciplinary innovation is huge for cleantech in particular.  We agreed on the need for significantly more resources to be put behind it, and to be put into the sector in general.  We disagreed on the level of demonstrated effectiveness shown by IT entrepreneurs and investors crossing over into...

It’s not the information, it’s what you DO with the information that matters

Rob Day: August 25, 2010, 11:01 AM

Now that energy efficiency is all the rage in cleantech venture circles (note to cleantech VCs: don't pitch LPs on your firm being "differentiated" because you target capital efficient businesses...), investors have been particularly attracted to the energy efficiency plays that appear to be at the intersection of energy efficiency and information technology.  The hope being that these investments would scale like an IT play, but be accessing the large market opportunity in energy efficiency.

The majority of such investments I get approached on, however, are simply information gathering and presentation tools.  A dashboard, either for the home or for a larger building, showing the...

Anxiety and optimism

Rob Day: August 13, 2010, 3:55 PM

Wondering what the general emotion of the cleantech venture sector is right now?

The three posts I put up today (here, here and here) should paint the picture pretty well.

Things are happening.  Deals are getting done.  Startups are making progress, moving into production and revenue phases.  Some exits are taking place.  Emotion: Cautious optimism.

But funding remains tight.  And companies are having to take inside-led rounds to get by.  Moving into production phases makes that challenge even more acute.  Investors are backing their companies through a few months hoping they'll be able to unlock additional funding quickly, from one source or another.  But economic jitters continue,...

A look at how bad 2009 was for solar companies

Rob Day: August 13, 2010, 3:36 PM

At Canaccord Genuity's very good sustainability dinner in Boston this week, I had an enjoyable conversation with CG's Marc Marano, a leader on their cleantech team.  He told me about some pretty interesting data they'd pulled together on the solar industry.

We're all familiar already with what a down year 2009 was for financings, but perhaps no sector was harder hit than solar panel manufacturers.  Marc's team had pulled together a list of all the financings in the solar sector for the five quarters Q1 2009 through Q1 2010.  And looking over their tally, I see 18 follow-on rounds during that period to solar panel manufacturers or their suppliers.

Twelve of those rounds were insider...

Learnings from the Gevo S-1

Rob Day: August 13, 2010, 1:29 PM

S-1s are great.  You can't learn everything about a company from them, but you can learn a heck of a lot.  And when the company is pretty indicative of an entire subsector, you can use that company's data to help illustrate trends across a market.

Gevo's S-1 is well worth reading through.  Because the company is, I think, fairly illustrative of what many venture-backed "2nd generation biofuels" stories have looked like.  I don't have any insider knowledge of Gevo, so it's also a good one for me to talk about simply from what's in the S-1 and available to all...

Here are some interesting (to me, at least) tidbits:

1. The funding path [caveat - this is all as estimated and perhaps...

Why THESE companies are IPOing

Rob Day: August 13, 2010, 11:07 AM

As an active investor in the cleantech market I'm definitely hoping we can start to see some successful exits.  I, like others, am pining for a few successful IPOs with stellar returns that can be good beacons of hope for the rest of the sector's bets.  When there were practically zero venture-backed IPOs across all sectors, you knew there was a backlog of cleantech companies that were lining up to IPO and couldn't.  And of course now that the IPO window is re-opened slightly, it's not surprising to see venture-backed cleantech startups jumping in and filing to go public.

But why are THESE the ones that are doing so?  A123, Codexis, Tesla, Amyris, PetroAlgae, Gevo... Several with no...