Recent Posts:

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

Rob Day: April 17, 2012, 8:44 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, 9:00 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, 11:10 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, 10:00 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...

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...