Friday, September 07, 2007

You're in the wrong spot!

Cleantech Investing has moved to its new home on Greentech Media. If you're seeing this message, you're missing out on all the latest posts! Click here to go to the new site, and bookmark (or to keep up with the latest... Thanks, Rob

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Expansion Capital and Tioga Energy

First off, thanks to everyone for all the kind words regarding the move to Greentech Media. So far so good!

  • Expansion Capital Partners is announcing today (will provide a link when we have one) that they have closed their Clean Technology Fund II at more than $100mm. To all my former colleagues at Expansion Capital, many congrats!!
  • Tioga Energy has added an additional $4mm to their Series A financing, bringing the total amount of the round up to $14mm. Nth Power provided the bulk of the second closing, according to PE Hub. We mentioned the first closing back in June.

Overdue update

Picked a bad week to fall behind on deal updates, it would appear...
  • CPV developer SolFocus announced $52mm in new funding this week, and they may not be done pulling together what could be a $70mm round when completed. According to PE Week Wire, $27.4mm of the new financing is targeted at launching a new Spanish subsidiary, and $24.6mm is Series B financing into the parent company. Insider NEA led the round again, with participation by Moser Baer India, Metasystem Group, NGEN Partners, Yellowstone Capital, David Gelbaum, and other investors. SolFocus also recently acquired a Spanish tracker company, Inspira.
  • Also according to PEWW, secretive solar startup Sierra Nevada Solar has raised $4.5mm in financing. AlarmClock reports that the financing was provided by EarthBright, a San Francisco-based cleantech investment group funded and led by Jonathan Bonanno, chairman of the Cleantech Investment Committee of the Keiretsu Forum, as well as angel investor Ryan Scott.
  • Plextronics, which is developing organic PV cells, OLEDs and RFID technology, has raised $20.6mm in Series B financing -- Matt Marshall has details. Strategic investor Solvay Group led the round, which included participation by Firelake Capital, Birchmere Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures, and Newlin Investment Company. The round brings the total investment raised by the company to $37mm over the last five years.
  • Jonathan Shieber in today's Clean Technology Investor has an interesting column about the birth of Fisker Automotive Inc., a new plug-in hybrid vehicle startup with plans to introduce a four-door car in 2009. Shieber reports that the company, which has been founded by car designer Henrik Fisker and Quantum Fuel Systems CEO Alan Niedzwiecke (they met during the course of a used car transaction), is looking for outside capital -- and they estimate they'll need $100mm over several rounds to make a go of it. Interesting benchmark for EV and related startups... Of course, the obvious question is: What was an auto designer doing buying a used Land Rover, shouldn't he be driving around in some fancy prototype?
  • Also according to Shieber (this time in VWire), BC-based General Fusion has raised $1.2mm in seed financing to pursue the commercialization of the company's small fusion reactor technology. We briefly mentioned fusion in passing last week, alluding to the fact that General Fusion isn't alone in pursuing the commercialization of "hot" fusion approaches. If one of the entrepreneurial teams driving toward this goal could achieve "net positive" energy from any of these approaches, it would potentially be a big game-changer... There is more info in this interesting article about Canadian clean tech ("the sexiest area of the North American venture-capital world"), including hints that the company may be looking to raise additional capital.
  • UK-based Solarcentury has raised a GBP13.5mm round of financing, co-led by zouk ventures and Good Energies. Vantania Holdings Ltd and Foursome Investments, along with existing investors VantagePoint Venture Partners and Scottish and Southern Energy, also participated.
  • PEWW also broke the news that fuel cell backup power system ClearEdge Power has raised $6.47mm of an anticipated $19.47mm Series C. Applied Ventures is mentioned as an investor.
  • CTI also reported this week that Terrabon, a cellulosic ethanol technology developer, has raised $1.25mm in seed financing, bringing their total investment from "individual investors" up to $4.5mm.
  • PEWW reported last week that PV startup Solexant (with technology to "harvest energy from the entire solar spectrum") has raised a $4.3mm Series A, with backing from Trident Capital, Firelake Capital, and X/Seed Capital.
... And even more updates to follow soon...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Cleantech Investing acquired by Greentech Media

There's been a lot of news in the world of cleantech investing over the past few days, but we'll have to get to that later...

Because today we're very proud to announce that Cleantech Investing and Greentech Media are joining forces. I'll also personally be joining Greentech Media's Advisory Board.

We're very excited about the move. Greentech Media is launching a phenomenal one-stop-shopping news site for all things clean and green, and it's a great opportunity to team up with Scott and Rick and Eric and Jennifer and all the other folks at GTM.

C-I started out two and a half years ago on somewhat of a whim, as an attempt to capture some of the day to day developments in the fast-emerging cleantech venture investment sector, pretty much just for friends and family. Since then, the sector has exploded, and news now comes out so often and so rapidly that one busy investor working in his spare time can't possibly capture it all anymore. It never helped, either, that yours truly is not much of a web design expert... So when the opportunity came up to collaborate with a world-class online media team like GTM's, it just made a lot of sense. The experience of the GTM team, and the resources we'll be able to collectively focus on what's happening in the sector, will be invaluable for making sure C-I continues to be a useful resource.

But I'm also pleased to note that I'll continue to be the primary author of this site going forward, albeit with a lot more help/collaboration. It's been surprising (nay, shocking) to me for some time now just how many people have been reading the quickly jotted-down notes and thoughts of a modest venture investor every few days. Subscribers to the RSS feed, for instance, have pretty much been doubling every six months since the beginning of last year. It's been a lot of fun, and it'll be even more fun to be doing it as part of such a strong team. Look for even better content and a much better setup from this partnership, in other words...

During the post-launch period, we'll eventually bring all the past content and ongoing posts over to the new home on the GTM site on a permanent basis. In doing so, we'll work to make sure that however you may have been coming to C-I in the past, whether via RSS reader or daily email or directly via, it'll be a seamless transition for you. And now it'll also be easy for you to go from C-I right over to the main GTM site to learn more about anything related to cleantech you may be looking for.

As always, if you have any comments or questions (or especially business plans...), don't hesitate to contact me at Thanks for reading!

[PS: For you reporters out there, don't bother to ask... "terms of the transaction were not disclosed."]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Propel Biofuels

Extremely pleased [self-promotion alert] to share the announcement that Propel Biofuels has raised a $4.75mm Series A round (see Propel's pdf press release here), with funding provided by @Ventures and Nth Power. The investment round also included participation by several leading Seattle-area businesspeople, including Andrew Stout (founder of Full Circle Farms), Barry Barr (founder of KAVU), and Jack Rafn (founder of RAFN Construction). Also coming onto the board alongside Peter Mills of @Ventures and Nancy Floyd of Nth Power will be Arthur Rubinfeld, previously Exec VP at Starbucks, where he was responsible for building out the company from 100 locations to over 3,800 stores worldwide.

There are around 200,000 gas stations across the United States, but only 750 biodiesel refueling stations and 1,200 E85 refueling stations. And most of these locations aren't convenient or accessible to most drivers. As automakers bring clean diesel autos and flex fuel vehicles to market, and as venture-backed biofuels producers ramp up their volumes, the ability of most Americans to easily find locations to fuel their cars with biofuels remains a huge bottleneck in the market's development.

Propel's BDS Unit directly addresses these challenges, with a low-risk, no-upfront capital system for independent gas station owners, green-minded retailers and others who want to offer biofuel choices to their customers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

EnerTech, Secure Energy, Reklaim, Thermilate, and other news

  • Well-known energy tech venture firm EnerTech Capital has raised a $75mm first close toward a $250mm targeted third fund, according to VentureWire today. LPs include CalPERS, Dow Ventures, Kuwait Petroleum, and Masdar. Another LP, Acorn Factor, a publicly-traded investment group, expects to be occasionally co-investing with EnerTech on their expansion-stage energy deals.
  • Jonathan Shieber reported in Friday's CTI that Secure Energy Inc. has raised $5.5mm of a targeted $8mm round of financing. Secure Energy is converting a Caterpillar manufacturing site in Decatur, IL into a coal gasification plant.
  • PE Week Wire reported on Monday that tire / oil / etc. recycler Reklaim has raised $7mm of a $10mm Series B, led by Goldman Sachs.
  • VWire reported on Friday that UK-based Thermilate, which sells a paint additive with insulative benefits, has raised a $1.5mm round of financing, with participation by Enterprise Ventures on behalf of the Coalfields Enterprise Fund.
  • In the continued pursuit of a strong New England cleantech cluster, Xconomy is reporting that the New England Energy Innovation Collaborative (NEEIC) and the newly-formed Clean Energy Council will be joining forces. [note: my firm @Ventures is a member of NEEIC, and I'm on the advisory board for the CEC] Speaking of the NE cleantech cluster, here's a nice profile of GreatPoint.
  • Cleantech investors in the news: Ray Rothrock lays out Venrock's investment strategy in "new electrons".
Other news and notes: A quick nanotech overview... 190 non-Si PV developers worldwide? Wow... A nice column on Demand Response... An interesting interview with Hunter Lovins... Underwater turbines getting set for launch in Ireland (tip of the hat to Karen Shilo for sending in that one)... Finally, an amusing story on continued efforts toward cold fusion -- but interestingly, despite what's described in the article there have been some serious venture-backed efforts to commercialize warm fusion lately.


Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Two-For-One on September 11!

Foley Hoag ( has graciously offered to host and sponsor at their Emerging Enterprise Center in Waltham the kick-off event for the MIT Enterprise Forum Energy Special Interest Group followed by the next REBN-East networking event. Entrepreneurs, come to learn about new business opportunities from experts at the US Army Natick Labs during the MITEF ESIG program and your business cards and elevator pitches for the networking afterwards. More details below!

Registration/ RSVP

If you are attending the MITEF ESIG Event, please register at the MITEF website (

If you plan to attend ONLY the REBN-East Networking Event, please RSVP to Rob at

And, as always, please forward this invitation to any of your renewable energy research and business colleagues that you think might be interested!

Program Information:

REBN-East, the MITEF Energy Special Interest Group, and the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center are pleased to announce a joint program:

4:30 – 6:30: MITEF Energy SIG Tech-In Program #1: US Army Natick Labs

6:30 on: REBN-East Happy Hour

Do you want to start a clean energy company, but don’t know where the market opportunity lies? Do you have an interesting clean energy technology but are looking for new markets where it might be used? Do you want to enter your exciting new technology in the 2008 Ignite Clean Energy Competition but don’t know what product to target first? The Energy Special Interest Group at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge is pleased to present its fourth year of programming, which will be focused on Market Pull.

For our first event of the year on September 11, 2007, several Team Leaders from the US Army Labs at Natick will present the energy needs of the Warfighter/Soldier in several critical areas:

(1) Lightweight energy sources for individual warfighters;

(2) Energy sources for unit organizations/collective protection including high efficiency lighting and field photovoltaics;

(3) Combat Feeding Equipment and System Energy Sources; and

(4) Propulsion and power sources for individual Warfighter robotic applications (SUAV)

Our presenters:

· Dr. Lynne Samuelson, Chief Scientist, Office of the Director

· Mr. Don Pickard – DoD Combat Feeding Directorate, "Combat Feeding Equipment and System Energy Sources."

· Mr. Steve Tucker, Shelter Technology, Engineering & Fabrication Directorate, and Barry DeCristofano, Lead for the E-textiles program, "Flexible Photovoltaics," (power shades, battery chargers, etc.)

· Ms. Jean Hampel, Shelter Technology, Engineering & Fabrication Directorate, "High Efficiency Shelter Lighting and Insulation.

· Mr. Kailash Shukla, Technology, Systems & Program Integration Directorate, "Soldier Power Needs."

Our presenters will also discuss how to work with these labs to develop the technology they want and need.

This event is a joint program with the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center with assistance from Grayhead Associates, the Massachusetts Defense Technology Initiative (MassDTI) and the Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition (MHC).

The MITEF Energy SIG events are made possible by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

4th Annual Energy Tech Investor Conference: Photo Caption Contest

Loyal readers -- The organizers of the upcoming SRI 4th Annual Energy Tech Investor Conference (see details below) have kindly offered up two free tickets for the event to readers of this site. If you want one of the tickets, however, you've got to earn it.

At the conference organizers' suggestion, we're launching a "Cleantech Photo Caption Contest"!

Below are three pictures that might inspire you -- you can pick any of the three that you like. Simply pick one of the three, come up with a funny caption (15 words or less), and email it to me by the end of the day, Thursday August 30th. Make sure you indicate which picture you're captioning! And you can submit as many entries as you want.

Two winning captions will be selected by yours truly and the SRI team. Judging will be totally subjective (this is a VC site, after all), but generally speaking points will be awarded for humor, topicality, and brevity, in that order. Make sure your entry is something that you wouldn't mind having your name attached to in public...

Photo #1: Solar-powered robot

Photo #2: Fuel

Photo #3: Al and Sir Richard

Each winner will receive a free ticket to the 4th Annual Energy Tech Investor Conference (value of $1,595 each), which is taking place October 3-4 in San Jose. It should be a good networking opportunity. Dan Reicher ('s new Director of Climate Change & Energy Initiatives) will be keynoting, and the lineup includes many other cleantech industry luminaries (see the agenda -- more details can be found at the conference website).

So make us laugh!

And for everyone else who doesn't win, the organizers have kindly extended a discount to Cleantech Investing readers. CLICK HERE to register using this discount, and enter the code ENERGYTECH300 when you do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DoE VC Day, and Inside Greentech

I have had the pleasure of attending the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Venture Capital Technology Showcase day today and tomorrow (tip of the hat to MIT's Bill Aulet for helping make the connection). It has proven to be a fascinating look into the organization of, and specific research efforts of, the DoE labs system.

First of all, taxpaying readers will be pleased to know that the DoE is not spending any money on free lunches, drinks or coffee for venture capitalists; or on brightly colored wall paint or floor tiles in the indomitably beige corridors; or even on wall decorations of any kind (except for repeated instances of posters featuring perhaps the weirdest Hollywood cross-promotion ever: a rat from a recent Disney movie holding up a compact fluorescent bulb and wearing a big grin, urging people to replace their incandescents, the relationship between rats and CFLs remaining somewhat unexplained...). What budgets are made available to the Department are going only into productive research, clearly!

Secondly, what is also clear so far is that recent efforts in the EERE group to drive commercialization are having some immediately positive effects, as evidenced by the strong presentations by researchers. The first day was very informative, with a lot of great market and cost data in key research areas like solar and biofuels. And the technologies presented as available for commercialization, while necessarily just a flavor of the overall volume of research being undertaken, show a thoughtful recognition of the realities both of the market and of technology needs on the ground. It was a very strong performance and hopefully a good jump-start in turning some of these needed technologies into new entrepreneurial efforts toward broad market adoption.

Amidst all the ongoing debate about governmental policies and broader positions on energy and environmental issues, this event by the EERE group has done a lot to bring together clean energy technologists and potential financial backers, and will hopefully become a regular event.


Making news today is the public announcement that The Cleantech Group (parents of the Cleantech Venture Network) has acquired Inside Greentech. The merged groups will launch a new cleantech media effort,, with Inside Greentech's Dallas Kachan heading up the group.

Congratulations to both groups, it's a great match and (as I'm quoted suggesting in Inside Greentech's announcing article) a great indication that cleantech is continuing to capture investor and business leader interest. Enough to support multiple media efforts covering the sector, at least. Neal Dikeman had a very good post today recapping much of the recent ramp-up in green tech media activity.

More to follow as this fast-emerging space continues to evolve.


Final note on the day: Even two years after Katrina, the revitalization efforts continue. This effort to marry rebuilding efforts and green building technologies is worth noting...
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