Recent Posts:

Some Thoughts on the Boston Cleanweb Hackathon

Rob Day: May 1, 2012, 2:01 PM

Home Depot is terrible at selling LED light bulbs. Amazon is even worse.

Have you had the experience yet of trying to buy LED bulbs at one of these places, realizing once you try the product at home that you hate: a) how it looks, b) how it fits; c) the light quality; or d) all of the above? And then you have to go through the trouble to take it or send it back for a refund. When you're paying $30 per bulb and making a 20-year purchase, these things kind of matter.

I don't blame Home Depot or Amazon -- they're not really designed to be the places where people discover which new products are up to PAR (sorry, bad pun). But if they're not the answer, what is? Lighting...

How to Interpret Q1 Greentech VC Numbers

Rob Day: April 20, 2012, 12:42 PM

Over the past couple of weeks, various deal-trackers have come out with their Q1 tallies for cleantech venture capital dealflow, and it's a bit confusing this time around.

The Cleantech Group came out with its totals (see the great slide deck here), showing that Q1 saw an increase in the number of cleantech deals (from 176 in Q4 to 185), even as dollar amounts went down. Interestingly, they talk up a rebound in early stage (Seed + A) investing, as well.

DowJones Venture Source has a pretty different number reported in the overall tally reported today, showing energy deal counts drop from 30 in 1Q11 to 29 in 1Q12, of which 23 were in renewables. This isn't from the helpful...

An Experiment

Rob Day: April 20, 2012, 8:39 AM

Regular readers of this column will know that I often describe non-tech entrepreneurial efforts, like channel disruption and implementation services, as crucial to the next phase of development of the cleantech market. We still need technical innovation, of course, but it's not the limiting factor in this market right now -- actual implementations are. There are now lots of commercially viable, economically sustainable clean technology solutions available for customers, but we need to see buyers start to adopt and implement them. 

Regular readers of this column will also know that I believe VCs have not yet done a great job of tackling this other type of business opportunity, at...

Sovereign Wealth Funds and Large Pension Funds: Stymied by Greentech VC

Rob Day: April 17, 2012, 7:44 AM

Some very, very large check-writers have been getting bigger and more interested in private equity investments. Sovereign wealth funds and large pension funds don't get a lot of attention, but they're huge players in the investment world. And as I've been speaking with several members of that community, two points have come through fairly clearly: 1) many (especially those outside the U.S.) are interested in doing direct investments in the cleantech space, broadly defined; and 2) they feel stymied in trying to do so.

They are interested in investing in cleantech markets for the same reason you are, Gentle Reader: because the macro trends are too obvious on a global scale to not...

A Greentech VC Bridge Too Far?

Rob Day: April 6, 2012, 8:00 AM

I've been talking with a lot of fellow cleantech investors lately, and we all commiserate about how busy we have been so far this year.

I think this is tied to a couple of things. First, as of the beginning of the year, it seems like just about every startup hit the fundraising trail. And secondly, the sector is maturing, and so a much greater percentage of these startups are investable as compared to in the past: strong management teams, good revenue prospects, attractive markets, etc. So it's a really good problem to have as an investor, to be overwhelmed with intriguing dealflow. It's a good sign for the sector, and a sign that it's a great time to have capital to deploy as an...

Guest Post: Capital Efficiency and M&A Opportunities

Rob Day: March 26, 2012, 10:10 AM

Today's guest post comes from Oliver Guinness of Clearpoint Ventures. In recent posts, we've talked about the need for re-examination of various venture capital investment models and how they've been applied to the sector. Oliver and his colleagues' take on the sector is an interesting version of the old "evolution vs. revolution" debate. As such, I asked Oliver to write up their investment approach in his own words. Enjoy!

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When we launched Clearpoint Ventures a couple of years back, we used Steve Blank’s “Customer Development” methodology to come up with an alternative strategy for investing in cleantech. We knew the energy and building sectors were extremely different from...

Some Examples From the VC Front Lines

Rob Day: March 16, 2012, 9:00 AM

In the last couple of posts we first looked over the past 15 years of cleantech venture capital, and then we looked at the various ways to generate VC-type returns in the sector -- and concluded that some of those models are being over-applied and others are being under-applied.

Within the sector, I'm starting to see some investors who get this kind of thinking and are building new types of efforts accordingly.

This harkens back to some of what I laid out a while back in my presentation "Cleantech Venture Capital in 2015," particularly the theme-driven builders and the "lean cleantech" players. We're now starting to see them emerge.

Here are a few examples I've noticed and am...