Tuesday, November 21, 2006
- Solaicx has taken in $3mm from Applied Ventures. The silicon wafer manufacturer plans to use the funding to help build out a second manufacturing facility. In addition to generally addressing the current silicon shortage, Solaicx claims their process provides significant efficiency gains in silicon production as well.
- Materials discovery firm Intematix has taken in a $16.5mm Series C led by Crosslink Capital and Samsung Ventures. New investor Presidio STX and existing investors DFJ, East Gate Capital, and Pacifica Fund also participated in the round. The company's materials development efforts are finding applications in solid state lighting, fuel cells, and other clean technologies.
- Intechra, an e-waste management and recycling company, has taken in a $6.5mm round of financing led by SJF Ventures and including participation from Richland Ventures, Chrysalis Ventures, and Clayton Associates. The financing will be deployed toward a recent acquisition.
TranSiC AB, a power transistor spin-off from the Royal Institute of Technology, , has raised $600,000 venture capital in a first round financing co-led by Volvo Technology Transfer Corp. and Midroc New Technology AB. The company's products are applicable toward a number of clean energy technologies including hybrid vehicles, DG, etc. Kista, Sweden
- Austria's IDENTEC Solutions, a developer of long-range RFID technology, has taken in a 10mm euro round of financing led by SAM Private Equity, and also including participation by Sustainable Performance Group, RFID Invest, gcp gamma capital partners, and a private investor. SAM and the other investors are looking for cleantech applications of RFID including asset management approaches to minimize the emissions impacts of transportation.
- Stion, the solar startup formerly known as NStructures, has sold a "significant minority stake" to Moser Baer PV, part of MBPV's continued $17mm effort to get into solar. Stion remains very stealthy...
- Two other deals highlighted/ scooped by PEWW today: The Beam, an online directory for green building professionals, has raised $5.17mm in a Series A led by VantagePoint Venture Partners. And car-share provider ZipCar has raised a $25mm Series E led by Greylock with participation from existing investors Benchmark and Boston Community Ventures.
- Cleantech investor news: New Resource Bank has officially opened its doors... And here is more information on the previously-mentioned Masdar Clean Tech Fund.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
SunPower buys Powerlight
While there have been some earlier small moves, today a big move came with the announcement that SunPower is going to be using their healthy market valuation to acquire Powerlight.
This follows on the SunEdison acquisition of Team Solar, and various other vertical integrations over the past year or so. It's very interesting to note Joel Makower's take in the Red Herring article linked above that this represents "Plan B" for Powerlight in their attempts to go public.
Joel has his own take here, and links this announcement to the upcoming Clean Tech Investor Summit. Neal Dikeman also has his take here.
For cleantech investors involved in solar, this may mark the beginning of a phase of exits via M&A versus IPO, a natural progression as the industry continues to mature. As the solar IPO wave potentially crests in 2007, investors evaluating new solar plays will need to adjust their expectations accordingly.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Firefly and Infinite Power; European cleantech VCs in a "choppy" market?
- Firefly Energy, which has developed an alternative set of components for improved performance in lead acid batteries, announced a $10mm Series B led by Stark Capital, and including existing investors Caterpillar, KB Partners, the Illinois Finance Authority and the Tri-County Venture Capital Fund. The financing will go toward further product development and other efforts.
- Infinite Power, which announced a raise back in September, has taken in additional strategic financing (amount undisclosed) from In-Q-Tel -- so it's been a big day for energy storage techs. Infinite's approach involves thin-film lithium.
- Here's an interesting take on some info the CTVN put out about European cleantech VC investments.
Last week's Energy Venture Fair
Had the pleasure of attending the annual Energy Venture Fair this past week. It's an interesting pitch-fest where dozens of energy tech startup CEOs come to give 15 minute presentations to potential investors (or, more often than not, each other).
Because about five company presentations go at the same time, it's always fun to see which rooms are crowded and which are not. This year's big winners (based upon the number of investors sitting taking notes) appeared to be anything solar- or biofuels-related, which is really no surprise. But there were some interesting companies present, and a nice breadth of techs and markets represented. You can read about the companies that were selected as "Most Promising" here: Wilson TurboPower, Zolo Technologies, KiteShip, Ice Energy, and Hythane. Neal Dikeman also has a few thoughts on the event.
Very unfortunately, I missed Steve Jurvetson's plenary keynote, which several people I spoke to later said was very good, and only caught the tail end of Tim Healy's (CEO, EnerNOC) rallying-cry speech. But I was able to see most of the investor panel that spoke at lunch on day one, which included Stephane Dupont of the NVCA as moderator, and Philip Deutch of NGP Energy Technology Partners, Scott MacDonald of SAM Private Equity, Pete Higgins of Second Avenue Partners, and Erik Straser of MDV. Some notable statements from the panelists (and as always, having no claim to journalism, note that these are often paraphrased, so names are omitted to protect the innocent):
"In these markets, lifecycle adoption varies. There are opportunities for both grand slams and longer term plays."As for me, I would suggest winnowing down the presenting companies a bit so that the event could be truncated to one day. With a two-day event full of repeated presentations, investors naturally come to only one or the other but not both. And that's a big hindrance on the value of networking. Keeping the event to one day would improve the networking for investors, and that would probably bring even more of them out... But overall, a very interesting couple of days in Santa Clara.
"Spend the time to think through the issues and put yourself in your investors' shoes. Get them up to speed and make them comfortable as best you can."
"The absence of information is perceived by investors as bad news. Don't treat your board like they're the IRS, someone to keep at an arm's length relationship."
"We are seeing the top 20% of entrepreneurs in the Valley and elsewhere stopping what they've been doing and coming into these value chains [energy, etc.]. They know how to take risk out in a staged way, how to grow a business in a venture context. We like to see a balance -- know the domain, but it's best not to be so embedded in it that you don't know what aspects of the industry's history to listen to, and what not to."
"I've always found that a CEO who's upfront about challenges, and gives both the pluses and the minuses, is refreshing."
"Really, we invest in the technologist and not the CEO, because we invest fairly early. We need to make sure that there's alignment around the vision for the company, as well as the role for the technologist looking forward."
"In Europe, we're challenged to find entrepreneurial CEOs. There's not as much of a venture-backed, fast-growth culture."
"We look for very deep domain expertise in a founder -- that they're already in their customers' heads, and have knowledge of all of the subtleties that end up being very important when you're trying to get a P.O."
"We catch companies when the technology has moved from magic to science -- it's happened more than once, and it can be controlled. We will typically manage books for the company, and provide other support infrastructure, during the period when the VC is helping to figure out what to bring on board and when. And only when we've figured out the market, the customers, etc., is it time to provide the significant venture capital."
"Add infrastructure as slowly as you can. You can get by with a part-time controller for a while. Focus on what's most important in terms of getting that technology into the market."
"Everyone talks about IP, but few do it well. Maybe there are 15 people in the Valley who write good IP strategy. We try to identify the best strategists for a situation, then engage a litigator to gameplan what's likely to happen -- when you're eroding someone else's margins, they will react."
"At a certain level, IP is irrelevant. You need to execute, and that's how you create an advantage. IP is not a silver bullet."
"Right and wrong doesn't determine legal outcomes. So it's important to have the right team, not patents."
Mascoma, Luz II, Norsun, NIL, and other news
- Mascoma, which is developing cellulosic ethanol production technology, is expected to announce a $30mm round of financing on Monday, led by General Catalyst Partners, and including Khosla Ventures and Flagship Ventures (we've previously mentioned a smaller amount than the $9mm it's now known these two firms invested earlier this year), Kleiner Perkins and others. The funding is going to go toward a pilot-scale plant, and Samir Kaul mentions that he is expecting commercialization in 2008.
- Not sure how we forgot to mention this one, but hopefully better late than never: John Woolard of VantagePoint Venture Partners has joined centralized solar plant startup Luz II (no website yet) as CEO, and the firm has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from VPVP. The firm apparently already has a 500 MW power purchase agreement in place with PG&E, and is aiming for <10 cents per kwh at scale.
- Norsk Hydro has invested $23mm in Norsun, a Norwegian producer of monocrystalline silicon wafers. The company may also expand into other related businesses. Pre-money valuation was at least $23mm on the investment.
- Denmark's NIL Technology has sold a "major stake" to Bridgehead Group. NIL's lithography-based technology apparently has applications in fuel cells and refrigeration in addition to other more traditional lithography markets.
- Several IPOs have taken place or been announced in the cleantech sector lately that are noteworthy: In solar, China's Canadian Solar did a $115mm NASDAQ IPO that valued the company at around $400mm, and First Solar is planning a $330mm IPO. In other markets, biodegradable plastics developer Metabolix raised $95mm in an IPO, and Ecology Coatings is going to do a reverse merger go-public.
- Two cleantech-related funds getting started up: In Europe, Capricorn Cleantech Fund of Belgium has done a first close of 26mm euros, and is looking for the fund to be 75-100mm euros when fully closed. Initial LPs include PMV, Electrabel, and MRBB. And in Texas, TXU is going to devote $200mm to a corporate venture group that will look to invest in alternative energy technologies. (Both of these were mentioned by PE Week Wire last week)
Monday, November 06, 2006
It's been quiet lately...
So that having been said, here are some news items and tidbits from recent public announcements and articles:
- Bill Gates' Cascade Investments and PNM Resources have formed a joint venture, EnergyCo LLC (soon to be renamed, no doubt), to invest in unregulated energy businesses. Given Cascade's previous energy investment activities, alternative energy tech investments may be on tap...
- "Fair trade" sourcer World of Good has raised a $4mm Series B, from DFJ, Omidyar Networks, and Cliff Higgerson.
- Boston-Power Inc., a developer of advanced lithium ion batteries, has raised an $8mm Series A led by Venrock Associates and Gabriel Venture Partners. The company had previously raised angel/management seed financing. The company joins A123 and Li*On in the lithium battery space, among others.
- The business of climate change: We didn't mention the recent Stern Review out of the UK, which attempted to put a dollar (pound?) figure on the overall future economic cost associated with climate change, but it was sobering news. Joel Makower puts it nicely into perspective. It also once again helps make the case for a strong economic value proposition for climate-friendly technologies and businesses -- not least of which, of course, would be technology-enabled energy efficiency, which we've discussed before, and which can provide winning economics even today, without any necessary market shifts. It furthermore helps make the case for the continued development of carbon emissions credit markets, as private market-based solution schemes proliferate and mature, even in the absence of regulatory change. We've talked before about how the development of such markets will be another big impetus for adoption of clean energy technologies (and thus a nice value accelerator for cleantech investors). Hence, it's very interesting to note that Morgan Stanley is planning to invest $3B in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions credits and related businesses over the next five years. The GHG credit market is starting to come together...
- Other cleantech market updates: The market for sensors and related technologies continues to develop. For those taking a close look at such applications and affiliated techs, this news about Zigbee and mesh networking (millions of components to be sold in 2006?) is also interesting... Electricity transmission remains significantly underinvested in the U.S. -- with important implications for investors in distributed generation, smart grid, and infrastructure techs... Here's a nice overview of tidal energy efforts.
- Finally, more cleantech investor news, which both relate to Miasole (self-promotion reminder): This article provides some interesting insight into Khosla Ventures' approach and portfolio... And here, Fred Destin explains why Atlas is excited about their participation in Miasole's recent fundraising round.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
AbTech raises $6.8mm Series A
Also, looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow (Thursday the 2nd) at the next REBN event, "Everything You Need To Know About California Cleantech Legislation," generously hosted by Nixon Peabody up in the city. For more details and to RSVP (space is getting pretty tight), contact Nick Allen.
Transonic Combustion, WaterHealth, Moteiv, and other news
- Transonic Combustion, which is designing internal combustion engines using proprietary fuel injection and other technologies for energy efficiency, has raised an undisclosed amount of financing from Venrock Associates, Rustic Canyon, and Khosla Ventures.
- A couple of fundings made public by PEWW: WaterHealth International, which is developing distributed drinking water purification systems using UV, has raised $7.25mm of an anticipated $12mm Series C round, with current investors including Dow, Monsanto, J&J and Plebys. Also, wireless sensor network developer moteiv has raised a $3.85mm Series A including funding from Onset Ventures, Claremont Creek Ventures, PacRim Venture Partners, and Capital Valley Ventures.
- Battery Ventures is ramping up their cleantech team, with the announcement that David Dreesen has come on board as a partner, coming over from Nth Power to focus on cleantech investments. They also announced the promotion of Jason Matlof to partner.
- Some public market moves of relevance: Vycon Inc., a manufacturer of flywheels, is planning an AIM listing to raise $18mm in financing. PV panel manufacturer Canadian Solar is planning a $100mm IPO on the NASDAQ. And Abengoa Bioenergy has taken in $10mm in strategic financing from Dyadic International.