Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Imperium's $100mm raise, and a lot of other news

  • Following up on an item from last month, it appears that Imperium Renewables (f/k/a Seattle Biodiesel) is set to announce a $100mm raise of equity and debt. Several hedge funds and a pension fund are new into the deal -- the city of Seattle's employee pension fund is participating (apparently putting in $10mm of the round), with Stark Investments, Ardsley Partners, and Sound Energy Partners also involved. It's unclear how much of the raise is equity, and to what extent existing investors (including Vulcan Ventures, Technology Partners, Nth Power and Ignition Partners). [Other past news on Imperium here, here and here]
  • DayStar, a publicly-traded developer of thin film PV technology, has raised a $5mm PIPE from a group of six investors, with Millennium Partners the largest funder. The money is intended to help bridge the company (which lost $15mm during the first nine months of 2006) while it raises significantly more capital toward the building of a production line in Malta.
  • Enerkem Technologies, which is developing syngas production technologies for both tar sands and waste feedstocks, has raised a C$8.6mm round of financing. New investors Rho Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures led the round, which also included participation by existing investors Solidarity Fund QFL and Innovatech Sud du Quebec.
  • UltraCell, a micro fuel cell developer, has raised a $10.3mm Series C, according to a press release by BASF Venture Capital, which is providing $3mm of the raise. Other investors in the round aren't disclosed in the release, but existing investors include Sevin Rosen, OnPoint, Star Ventures, BankInvest Group, and ES Tech Ventures.
  • Kreido Laboratories, which is developing biodiesel plants based upon its proprietary technology for the flexible use of multiple feedstocks, has gone public in a reverse merger as part of a $25mm private placement. Wellington Asset Management led the investment group involved in the raise; the company plans to open their first plant in 2007, and two others are also in development. The company is also changing their name to Kreido Biofuels.
  • This site doesn't delve much into the political angles of cleantech investing, but it's impossible to ignore that politics and cleantech VC have seen their boundaries increasingly blurred recently. Here's one article on VCs getting into policy and political discussions... and now here's another example of a politico getting into investing (of course, it's hardly a stretch to think about Steve Westly getting involved with technology investing, although it's interesting to see him co-habitating with Kleiner). This blurring of the lines illustrates that political and policy analysis skills are increasingly important for VCs and other investors looking to be active in the energy technology space.
Other news and notes: Here's a nice general "state of the sector" piece... An interesting critique of lithium ion as an energy storage technology by Tyler (time to start buying up Bolivian salt pan rights?)... A nice overview of the ongoing shift of political and business attitudes around climate change policy... More on the ongoing hydrogen highway debate... Finally, a small encouraging piece of news about sustainable energy research -- but mostly, I just enjoyed the mental image of a "nanocollege."

Friday, January 26, 2007

MIOX raises $14.5mm Series B

Water purification equipment manufacturer MIOX Corp raised a $14.5mm Series B, led by Sierra Ventures and including participation by Tao Capital and the New Mexico Community Capital Fund, Flywheel Capital and existing investors. The company last raised a $12mm Series A in 2005. VentureWire (no link) reports that 2006 revenue was "under $20mm", and that the funding will be used to finance a "very aggressive growth path."

In other cleantech news, VentureWire also reported (again, no link) today that Technology Partners (including cleantech champion Ira Ehrenpreis) is expected to close on $200mm of an anticipated $250-300mm Fund VIII by March. The firm now focuses on health care and cleantech... And according to the article, they're looking to hire another cleantech partner to work with Ira.

Way behind

Apologies to those who regularly check this site for news and updates on the industry (and there are more of you than I ever would have expected...). A major relocation is always tough, and being without internet access for several days makes things like blogging that much tougher. Nevertheless, greetings now from (VERY) chilly Boston -- and hopefully we'll be able to be more timely and active going forward.

So, here are more than a week's worth of items and thoughts in rapid-fire fashion, in hopes of somewhat catching up:

1. Battery developer A123 announced a $40mm round of financing, with GE Commercial Finance leading the round and P&G (makers of Duracell batteries) also involved, along with existing investors (including Alliance Capital, FA Technology Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, OnPoint, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Motorola, Qualcomm, and A123Systems Chairman Desh Deshpande). This fourth round of financing brings the company's total venture funding up to $102mm. More info is found here and here.

2. German solar cell company Sulfurcell has received a new round of financing (amount undisclosed) from the Masdar Clean Tech Fund and existing investors. The company claims efficiencies of 7.5% on their product, and they aim to quintuple production capacity by 2009 and to increase efficiencies to 9%.

3. Waste gassification tech developer Nexterra has raised a C$6.8mm third round of financing led by ARC Financial Corp. The round brings total investment in the company up to C$16.6mm. The company has completed their first commercial facility.

4. Canadian solar PV company Day4 received a C$11mm round of financing, with existing investor British Columbia Discovery Fund taking part. VentureWire reported that the deal was led by Goodwood Capital Fund.

5. Cleantech investors in the news: Israel Cleantech Ventures has reportedly made a first closing at $15-25mm. John Balbach has joined the Cleantech Group as a Managing Partner. And here are Vinod's bold predictions for 2007 (including predictions on Supreme Court rulings, among other topics)...

6. More solar financings: Organic PV developer Plextronics has raised $750k from the Sustainable Energy Fund of Central Eastern Pennsylvania ("The SEF"). The company raised a $13.1mm Series A in the fall of last year.

7. A wonderful example over the last couple of weeks about how simple news items can be covered in widely divergent ways: See here and here. Of course, then there's this further indication of the overall annual growth in clean energy financing. So what's going on, has there been a big pull-back, or even a "correction" in cleantech venture investing? Or is the unprecedented growth still underway? Observant readers are undoubtedly ignoring the hyperbole on both sides -- reporters and PR folks have a way of making things "newsworthy" when the basic reality is that (as we discussed just last week) a few mega-deals drove total tracked dollar amounts up dramatically last year, but the underlying trend has (so far) pointed toward continued growth in investor interest in the sector. "An underlying positive trend in dealflow" is not really a newsworthy description, unfortunately, so the dollars grab the headlines. But cleantech investors will be paying more attention to the number of deals done, rather than the total investment sums, when there are so many quasi-VC/quasi-project-finance deals skewing the dollar amounts each quarter. Of course, we still expect to see total cleantech VC dollar amounts go down in 2007 -- but overall dealflow is more of an open question. Stay tuned...

9. Jet-lagged cleantech investors around the world: Cleantech investing is on the rise in China, and Europe continues to be attractive -- although the European automated meter reading market isn't looking good... or is it? Meanwhile, the anti-ethanol pro-tortilla lobby has made inroads in Mexico.

Other news and notes: The public sentiment is clear, but the SOTU wasn't. The impacts on cleantech investments won't be nearly so clear-cut as they were from last year's speech, but clearly ethanol and other alternative fuels and fuel efficiency technologies are looking up, politics-wise... Finally, a nice take on "why now?" by Neal Dikeman.

Monday, January 15, 2007

2006 Cleantech investments total $2.9B... and other catch-ups

  • The Cleantech Venture Network released early data last week on 2006 sectoral venture investments, and they tracked deals totaling $2.9B. Of that, $2.1B was in energy technologies; and of that, $1.3B was in energy generation. The group stated that energy investments nearly doubled from 2005, and that sectoral investments overall went up 78%. These represent just the dollar amounts, and it will be even more interesting to see the number of deals this represents, and what the median deal size was, for all of the various cleantech sectors.
A small prediction: The total amount of cleantech venture dollars invested will likely go down in 2007. Why? Because the significant growth in "venture dollars" invested in energy generation technologies from 2005-2006 was in many ways driven by non-traditional investments, such as fundings of solar companies intended to help build out their production lines. While some VCs may have participated in these financings, they do somewhat skew the total dollar figures, since the rounds are necessarily much larger than your traditional venture financing -- we saw back in Q3 that a mere 5 deals out of 47 made up 60% of the "venture dollars" tracked in cleantech in that quarter. Such mega-financings have mostly gone into solar and biofuels. And it's only an educated guess, but while there will be more such large fundings in solar and biofuels in 2007, it will probably be a smaller number.

Note that this only refers to total dollar amounts. The number of deals done in cleantech may continue to go up, as LP interest is still strong and more and more investors are getting into the space in one way or another.
  • Chemical detection system developer Innov-X Systems announced a $27mm round of financing from Summit Partners. The company's handheld chemical detectors have environmental monitoring applications. Revenues are now "approaching the $50 million mark."
  • VentureWire last week reported on the recent financing of electric car manufacturer Think Global. Here's an excerpt:

It seems the rumors of the death of the electric car have been greatly exaggerated.

A resurrected Think Global AS, which told VentureWire it secured a $15 million funding commitment from existing investor InSpire Ventures, is only the latest in a line of venture-backed companies raising new capital to bring electric cars or hybrids to the masses.

Late last year Draper Fisher Jurvetson co-led a $20 million round for the Bangalore-based REVA Electric Car Company Pvt. Ltd. alongside the Global Environment Fund. And in June 2006, a consortium of venture firms and individual investors came together to back a $40 million round for San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla Motors Inc. co-led by VantagePoint Venture Partners and the founder of PayPal Inc., Elon Musk.

And the big automakers are warming to hybrid electric vehicles. General Motors Co. recently unveiled a hybrid electric concept car, the Chevrolet Volt, at an auto show in Detroit, while Toyota has been marketing its gas-electric hybrid vehicles for several years.

"We are very happy now that GM and others have announced that they believe in the electric car," said InSpire Ventures Chairman, and Think Global Chief Executive, Jan-Olaf Willums.

And in other electric car news, here's more info on the Tesla Roadster...
Other news and notes: Here's a nice profile of The Acumen Fund, a unique non-profit that makes venture-type investments in developing countries, often in cleantech applications... A fuel cell venture exit: BASF Future Business is buying PEMEAS, with terms undisclosed... Here's an interesting interview on the general topic of smart metering and demand response... On the topic of solar investing, here's another interesting 2007 prediction... Phil Angelides is starting an investment group that will be partially directed at green building projects... Finally, is there anyone who isn't launching a solar project financing or development firm these days??

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy new year!

Things are a bit hectic right now, so let me simply point to a few interesting articles and news items from the last few days...

1. A couple of interesting articles in VentureWire over the past couple of weeks. The first one was on the topic of green buildings. VentureWire continues to stymie efforts to promote their good work by not providing links to their articles, but here's an excerpt:
In the last two quarters of 2006, investors including DFJ Element, NGEN Partners, Nth Power and Rockport Capital Partners have invested in companies that are looking to create more ecologically and economically efficient tools for the construction industry.

"Because of the turnover in buildings, and the demand for new buildings, there are a lot of opportunities in the sector," said Peter Grubstein, a founder and managing partner for energy and materials investment firm NGEN Partners.

"Is the green building business a revolutionary business? I don't think it is," he said. "But there are evolutionary changes in a large market that is ready to change."

Helping pull investors into the construction market are reports like the one from McGraw-Hill Construction and the National Association of Home Builders published in June. That study indicated that the residential green building marketplace is expected to boost its market share to between $19 billion and $38 billion by 2010, up from $7.4 billion in 2005.

"We're going to industrialize the next 40 million people on the planet, and they're going to take a big step up in housing," said Erik Straser, a general partner in the energy and materials practice group at Mohr Davidow Ventures.
2. Another interesting VentureWire article (also by Jonathan Shieber), on the topic of green media. Again, an excerpt:

The market for consumers seeking lifestyles of health and sustainability is about $226 billion, according to an industry tracking non-profit group called Conscious Wave Inc. Of that, the projected market for environmentally sustainable products and services is projected to be about $187.6 billion, including organic foods, environmentally sustainable products and green building.

"There's a lot of investment interest in who is going to be the Amazon.com of green," said Joel Makower, the co-founder and principal of Clean Edge, a research and publishing company focusing on cleantech markets, and a senior adviser with the sustainability strategy firm GreenOrder.

Makower also serves as an adviser to billion-dollar venture capital firm VantagePoint Venture Partners, one of the first investors to back a green presence online. According to Stephan Dolezalek, a managing director with VantagePoint and the co-head of the firm's cleantech practice, VantagePoint has invested in the Beam Inc. Based in Cambridge, Mass., the Beam is a start-up whose first online property, GreenBuildingBlocks.com, is a directory for architects, developers and suppliers who work with green materials.
3. We've talked recently about the role of the London AIM for cleantech investments (link req's scrolling down a bit). Now comes an interesting study from New Energy Finance on the subject. Click here for a pdf summary of the study.

4. Other interesting news items: A useful update on ethanol production figures, and some provocative thoughts as well... A stronger IPO market is good for all venture investment sectors, including cleantech... Finally, here's a great summary of green business stories in 2006 -- haven't seen any 2007 predictions of relevance anywhere yet, however.
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