If you attend enough events covering venture capital investment in greentech, the same, sometimes obvious, themes start to repeat themselves.

  • VCs need to invest in billion-dollar markets.
  • Teams are important.
  • The company has to be capital-efficient, but paradoxically, must scale big, quickly.
  • Scale is important.
  • We need consistency in government policy.

This week's Groundhog Day-like VC event was a "Quarterly Venture Breakfast with Pillsbury Winthrop and PricewaterhouseCoopers" in Palo Alto, California.  There were no highlights.

Today's panelists:

  • Steve Bengston, PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Sven Strohband, Mohr Davidow Ventures
  • Don Wood, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
  • Rick Yang, NEA
  • Moderator: Allison Leopold-Tilley, Pillsbury Winthrop

If the first question that the moderator asks is from 2004 ("What is cleantech?"), then you know you're in for a low-information event.  Don Wood of DFJ brought some sense to the question by saying, "We haven't spent a lot of time trying to define it."  

Bulletin: We're long past the point of asking what cleantech is.  

Steve Bengston of PricewaterhouseCoopers gave a third-quarter cleantech venture capital update:

  • There will be about $20 billion in venture capital invested in the United States this year. 
  • About 15 to 20 percent of VC dollars have gone into greentech.  
  • Q3 2010 VC investment in greentech was $625 million in 58 deals, $333 million in Silicon Valley, $110.8 million in Texas, $57.5 million in the Midwest.  Sorry, New England.
  • Trilliant was the largest Q3 deal. 
  • The average cleantech deal size was $10.8 million.
  • Expect more interest from strategics like Applied, Bechtel, Intel, Google, Cisco and Chevron.

As a grizzled veteran of tracking VC data -- I am confident in saying that looking at VC data from quarter to quarter is a fool's game despite the moderator's inquiry on quarterly trends.  It's a lumpy and noisy set of data that yields no meaningful information when parsed at that resolution.

Trends to look out for in 2011:

  • More efficiency investments
  • More lighting investments
  • Greentech venture capital is going to start to look a lot more like regular venture capital