30 July 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 07/30/10

Calvin on the Beach @ OKI.
A vacation edition of The Green Skeptic's Friday links.

I've been on the North Carolina coast this week and haven't been paying close attention to the web and Twitterstreams, but here are a few things from some of my pals that caught my eye from the beach:

Two posts from Julian Wong of The Green Leap Forward about the "battle" between China and the US for the leadership position in cleantech: US Clean Energy Investment at Home Is Best Response to China and Julian's testimony before the US-China Commission: Of Solar Tech and Chicken McNuggets.

Chris Nelder published "Beyond Carbon Legislation: Energy Transition," in the wake of the US Senate Climate Bill being declared DOA.

Gregor MacDonald pointed us to Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute's 2000 predictions about coal consumption trends, evolution in the auto industry, and future world oil production Optimism, harsh realism, and blind spots—10 years later.

Gregor also had this to say about California as the Governator declared a state of fiscal emergency for the state: Collapse is a Process.

Finally, CleanTechies posted "A Price for the Volt, But None for Carbon.

Have a great weekend. I'm back from vacation next week.

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28 July 2010

San Diego's Cleantech "Collaboratory"

San Diego has a lot going for it: beautiful weather all year round, a great coast, and...well, the new StockTwits HQ on Coronado.

And now, after several years of investment, hard work, and a smart Republican mayor, Jerry Sanders, who saw and seized the opportunity, San Diego has an emerging cleantech community.

"We're here to serve as a catalyst," says Holly Lepre, vice president of CleanTech San Diego, a non-profit formed a few years ago to promote San Diego as a world leader in the cleantech economy. "We're trying to stimulate the demand that drives and attracts new companies."

When I visited in May, CleanTech San Diego was about to announce that the region has reached 700 cleantech companies.  Earlier in the year the organization ranked number seven in the Cleantech Network's global "Top 10 Cleantech Cluster Organizations for 2010."

San Diego is also fast becoming a hub for next generation biofuels.

In June, the California Department of Labor granted $4 million to the region to develop a job training initiative for the emerging biofuels industry in both San Diego and the Imperial Valley

And earlier this month, the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, received a large part of a three-year, $9 million federal Department of Energy grant, and a consortium of seven companies, including San Diego-based Sapphire Energy, General Atomics, and Sempra Energy, are providing an additional $3 million to finance research and development.

Sapphire is developing what it calls "green crude," a 91-octane gasoline made from CO2, sunlight, and photosynthetic microorganisms. Last year, Sapphire attracted BP's former head of global refining, Cynthia Warner, to be its president. Warner saw the writing on the wall and decided "it was a lot better to create the key to the future than to nurse along the dying past."

Sapphire is not alone among next generation biofuels companies attracting dinosaur industry interest.   J. Craig Venter's La Jolla-based Synthetic Genomics recently launched a new greenhouse facility as a part of a multi-year partnership with Exxon Mobil Corporation.

But it's not just biofuels in sunny southern California. There are, according to Cleantech San Diego's Lepre, 176 solar companies in the region, including Spanish turnkey solar manufacturer Siliken, which has its US headquarters here, and Envision Solar, whose "solar trees" are starting to sprout up in around the country.

Envision is based in the Kearny Mesa district and housed in EcoHub, the area's first cleantech incubator. Yves Perez, founder of the Eco Investment Club, formed a partnership with Mark Mandell of property management company Square One Development, to start the incubator in a 12,000-square foot office plaza.

"We're in a secret race for the cleantech capital of the world," says Perez. "Win this secret race and we could double the number of San Diego-based cleantech companies and startups, and 700 becomes 1400 or more."

Bob Noble, president of Envision Solar explained why his company became one of the first in the EcoHub, "We wanted to be in a space where the building owners not only understood our mission but wanted to be part of it. Being surrounded by like minded-professionals opens up new avenues for collaboration and partnership."

That collaborative spirit is a key to San Diego's success, according to Lepre. "San Diego is a natural setting for a clean tech 'collaboratory.'"

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26 July 2010

BizVoice Interview with The Green Skeptic

A few months ago, I was interviewed by Tom Schurman for BizVoice, a publication of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, on the subject of clean energy, green jobs, and the difficult balancing act of the green movement overall.

Here is a link to a PDF of the BizVoice article "Balancing Act."

23 July 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 07/23/10

Red, yellow and green (unlit) LEDs used in a t...Image via Wikipedia
Greetings, it's Friday. I'm getting ready to head down to Oak Island for a little R&R, but not before posting this week's links of interest:

Applied Materials ($AMAT) gave the ax to its thin-film solar business, laying off 500, according to a report in VentureBeat, which could be a blow to Green Skeptic fav First Solar ($FSLR) and other thin-film companies: Thin Film Solar.

A new report from Navigant Consulting describes how US Utilities need clean energy to remain competitive: Utilities.

A piece in the New York Times on privacy and social networks is a must-read: "The Web Means the End of Forgetting".

Green Skeptic favs Silver Spring Networks and EnerNoc ($ENOC) made Greentech Media's Top 10 Green Incumbents List: Top 10 Green.

Another Green Skeptic favorite, Cree, extended its LED market leadership with what it calls the industry's most color-consistent LEDs (press release): $CREE.

No surprises really that China topped the US in energy use. The first time since the early 1900s that the US has not been the top energy consumer: China.

Earth2Tech's Katie Fehrenbacher compares plug-in car chargers: Design Battle: How The Plug-In Car Chargers Compare, while Philly-based and self-proclaimed "cheap electric car maker" BG Automotive gave up the game (a wee too early, in my opinion): BG bites dust.

Senator Mark Udall Co-Sponsors The Startup Visa Act of 2010.

And, finally, the Climate Bill officially died as Senate Dems determined it could get no power, Captain: Climate Fail.

(Disclosure: I hold long positions in FSLR, CREE and ENOC. This post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be investment advice nor an offer, or the solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any securities.)

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22 July 2010

Hockey in the Himalayas? Adam Sherlip's Ice Cool Goal

A few years ago, Adam Sherlip was working with the New York Islanders hockey team and Team USA star and Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero, coordinating their  Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope initiative, a youth hockey development program in northeastern China.

Project Hope hosted a team from China to compete in a tournament against teams from the New York metropolitan area. But when Adam visited Heilongjiang Province and saw the rinks Project Hope had built at schools there, his life completely changed.

"Traveling to the opposite side of the world teaching kids hockey was one of the most memorable experiences in my life to date," Adam says. "Hockey has a culture and a language that transcends borders and the differences we may have off the ice."

The experience led him to start The Hockey Foundation to support grassroots hockey around the world, especially in places remote to the rest of the hockey world. Places like Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas.

To Adam Sherlip, hockey is more than a game. He believes sports can help bring about social change and improve understanding between people.

For those who have never played a sport, it is hard to grasp how sports change lives, but they do. Sports promote leadership and teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as physical activity that can improve self-esteem and confidence.

Hockey, by virtue of its fast pace -- and the dangers of having blades on your feet while and carrying a big stick -- has other lessons to teach: about perseverance, coordination, and paying attention. Despite the impression given by fighting in professional hockey, the sport also teaches respect for others.

Adam brought all of these things with him to Ladakh in January 2009, along with donated equipment..

Why Ladakh? "Ladakh came about from a random email from Angela that mentioned it briefly," Adam says. "And when I researched this Buddhist region and the progressive, self sufficient school there, I knew I had to be there to assist and see how they lived."

He hopes to spread to other parts of the world in coming years.

For now, Adam wants to return to India this fall. He's actively raising the $10,000 it will take to support hockey development for children and adults in Ladakh, a region of Jammu & Kashmir, India's northernmost region, as well as children in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It will also help support the Ice Hockey Association of India.  They are also looking for equipment donations and corporate support.

His ultimate goal with the Hockey Foundation? To "share happiness and change lives, one puck at a time."

Now that's a real cool goal.

For more on Adam and hockey in the Himalayas, including video footage or to support their efforts, go to The Hockey Foundation. You can also follow The Hockey Foundation on Twitter @HockeyFndtn and find them on Facebook.

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20 July 2010

NYC ACRE and Varick Street Incubator Turn One Year Old

The New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC ACRE) turns one year old this month.

NYC ACRE is part of the business incubator at 160 Varick Street in SoHo, which is a joint venture between the New York City Economic Development Corporation, NYU-Poly, and Trinity Real Estate.

"This initiative was built on the strength of our tenants, the support of NYU Poly and NYSERDA, and the desire of the community to grow," says Micah Kotch, operations director for NYC ACRE. "The credibility of our partners -- the City, the NYC Investment Fund, Columbia University, Pratt, and NYU -- has been instrumental in our success."

Among the first tenants was Ecological LLC, which helps the commercial real estate sector reduce costs through improved efficiency. The firm has been one of the most successful ACRE companies, growing from 5 to 14 full-time staff in a year and raising nearly $3 million in funding. Kotch says the firm will soon be graduating to a larger office space.

Of the 35 companies in the Varick Street incubator, nine are cleantech related; the others range from financial services to social media and cybersecurity. Together, Kotch calculates, NYC ACRE and the NYCEDC sponsored incubator have created 125 jobs and attracted $15 million in capital.

In addition to office space, tenants have access to mentors and other technical and strategic advisors, including advisory committee members from SJF Ventures, Braemer Energy Ventures, and Expansion Capital, as well as programming designed to help tenants attract funding and strategic partners. NYC ACRE also runs a Cleantech Executive program to help fill the leadership talent gap in the sector.

One ACRE tenant, M.J. Beck, an economic and strategic consulting firm, recently became the on-demand energy consultant for the City of New York, while another, Wind Products, Inc (formerly AeroCity), will soon install the city's first building mounted wind turbine using their technology.

Two other ACRE companies have been making headlines as well as progress. ThinkEco's product, the "modlet" (or modern electric outlet) was a finalist at the 2009 CEA-sponsored "i-stage" competition and the company recently closed an angel round.

Brooklyn-based SyntheZyme, an early stage green chemistry company commercializing natural biosurfactants developed by Dr. Richard A. Gross at NYU-Poly, is hoping to provide alternatives to toxic methods of cleaning up the Gulf oil spill.

In year two, Kotch hopes to continue to create new jobs, build sustainable companies, and help them get funding. But, as with most things in the cleantech sector, Kotch says, "We need long-term price signals that will allow the sector to grow."

Meanwhile, as Ecological and a few other tenants graduate, there are over 100 applicants waiting in the wings for space at the site. While not all of them are cleantech companies, the success of NYC ACRE tenants speaks to a good start for cleantech at the incubator.

Even New York City Mayor Bloomburg is pleased with the results of the incubator effort. "I'm already impressed by the ideas developed by the entrepreneurs based there," he wrote in a letter about the incubators to John Sexton, president of NYU, and Jerry Hultin, president of NYU-Poly. "The number of companies at the incubator, the additional jobs created by them, and the sense of community on the floor are all testimonies to your outstanding work so far."

Mayor Bloomberg recently announced the NYC Media Lab, a partnership between NYCEDC, NYU Poly, Columbia, and NYC.gov, and NYCEDC has several other incubators up and running, including one for fashion designers in the garment district and a "kitchen incubator" at La Marquetta in East Harlem.

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16 July 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 07/16/10

Here are some links to articles of interest to The Green Skeptic this week:

Nick Hodge Deconstructs the Smart Grid and some investment opportunities in Seeking Alpha: Smart Grid

Fred Wilson (despite being on vacation in Europe) wrote a compelling piece on the "seed fund phenomenon," which has implications for cleantech investing: AVC

One of my favorite San Diego companies, Envision Solar, announced it is teaming up with Pennsylvania-based battery storage company Axion on "solar tree" parking lots that track the sun from NYT Green.

GE announced its $200 million smart grid challenge and unveiled an electric vehicle charger: $GE

Shari Shapiro over at Green Building Law Blog offered her perspective on the Smart Metering controversy brewing in states around the US in "Smarting Over Smart Meters The Sequel--Maryland Rejects Smart Meters." And I added my two cents in "Smart Meters, Smart Grid and Dumb Folks."

New ARPA-E awards were announced for grid-scale storage, power electronics & building efficiency: ARPA-E

Smart grid networking startup Trilliant snags a massive $106M investment: Trilliant

And BP announced it is buying Verenium’s biofuels business for $98M, proving there is such thing as an exit in cleantech investing: Boston Business Journal

Probably the most thought-provoking piece I read this week was Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's take on "The Creativity Crisis" in Newsweek.

Have a great weekend everyone.

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13 July 2010

Smart Meters, Smart Grids and Dumb Folks

green powerImage by S Migol via Flickr
My friend Shari Shapiro at Green Building Law blog makes some good points about the recent smart meter debate going on in California, Texas, Maryland, and now Fairfax, Virginia: 

Smarting Over Smart Meters The Sequel--Maryland Rejects Smart Meters

I agree with Shari that "smart metering is as close as you can get to free market allocation of electricity. When demand is high, prices increase, when demand is low, prices decrease."

And I don't buy the irrational fears about smart meters being "Big Environmental Brother" telling you what to do and taking information about your usage for nefarious purposes.

If folks are that concerned about privacy issues, they best get off the grid entirely, throw out their cable box, stay off the Internet, and cut up their credit cards. Oh, and while they're at it, better stop using that GPS-enabled mobile phone.

Smart metering, which is only a small piece of the overall smart grid puzzle, as Katie Fehrenbacher of Earth2Tech pointed out last week, allows for greater choice and control by consumers over their usage and relative costs of electricity.

Sure, utilities can "control" demand when they need to, but that will only enhance the reliability of electricity delivery, an increasingly important need as our lives, businesses, and economies become even more entwined with the grid.

And that grid is getting old and tired.

"Most of the electric utility infrastructure deployed in the industrialized world was built between 60 and 80 years ago," says Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen, a unit of ABI Research, which released a study on Smart Grid Applications last week.

"Much of this infrastructure is outdated," Fisher says, "and with the continuing increase in demand for power year after year, the grid cannot safely and reliably manage the loads of today and tomorrow without significant upgrades."

Further, the "cumulative global investment in smart grids, including smart meter implementations as well as upgrades to the transmission and distribution infrastructure, will approach $46 billion by 2015," according to the ABI report.

That sounds like an incredible free market opportunity to me. We are fools to ignore it or let the Chicken Littles kill it with their ungrounded fears.

Don't let the dumb folks take the smart out of your investing in the future.

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09 July 2010

Friday Green Skeptic Linkfest

Friday again? Where did this week go? Here are your Friday Green Skeptic Links of Interest for 07/09/10:

Katie Fehrenbacher reports on how Smart Meters are A Fraction of the Smart Grid Market in Earth2Tech: Smart Meters.

Sequoia and Foundation Capital invest $12.5 Million in Smart Grid Software Company @emeter

Green Skeptic favorite Cree & Philips sign comprehensive LED patent cross-licensing agreement to help accelerate growth of LED lighting: $CREE  (Disclosure: I am long CREE.)

Cleantech VC Rob Day warns that cleantech venture capital remains tepid, not hot in Cleantech Investing.

A New Report from the IEA says $46 Trillion more investment is needed for Cleantech by 2050: IEA

Jon Karlen of Flybridge Capital posted this reaction to Vinod Khosla's WSJ interview about Capital Efficency in Cleantech: Venturing Forth and here's a link to the WSJ piece (via my friends at FoxBusiness): Khosla on Cleantech

A solar-powered plane few for 26 hours, including at night, and set new records from Yale e360.

Greentech Media had fun with "Ten [Cleantech] Power Point Slides That Shook the Earth." (See One Cubic Mile of Oil image above.)

And speaking of slides, I took up "The Six Slide Challenge" offered by Fred Wilson on AVC.com and, more specifically, Andy Swan's outline in comments on that post. Here's what I can up with for my consulting and advisory firm VerdeStrategy

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07 July 2010

Video: Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic Spring Event

A video of the Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic Spring Networking Event, featuring Terry Cooke's talk on Cleantech and China is now available. (The editors were too generous with my introductory remarks, but you'll get a sense of the event from the opening sequence.)

Here is a link in case you can't see the player: http://youtu.be/yeTBSSjJeQk

A more comprehensive account of Terry's remarks can be found here: http://bit.ly/aa3Vb9

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06 July 2010

The Six Slide Challenge

I have an outline for a pitch deck that I recommend to clients of VerdeStrategy. It calls for 11 slides (10 if they can, but no more than 11) and goes more or less like this:

  1. Company name/logo/tag, full contact info
  2. What Do You Do? Core Value Proposition
  3. Team (Management/Advisory)
  4. What Pain are you Solving?
  5. How? What's Your Solution/Benefits
  6. Secret Sauce/IP/Differentiation
  7. Go-to-Market Strategy
  8. Competition/True Size of Market/Opportunity
  9. Business Model/Stage
  10. Plausible Financials (Projections for 3-5 years)
  11. The Ask/Milestones/Summary

There's some variation therein, obviously, depending upon the business model or the intended audience. I've gleaned a lot from experts ranging from Garr Reynolds, Guy Kawasaki, and Bill Reichert, among others. As a template, it works pretty well.

A couple of weeks ago, Fred Wilson published a post on investor pitches in which he recommended only six slides. "You can explain your business in mind numbing detail or you can inspire an investor and let them imagine," Fred suggested. "Guess what works better?"

But it was my pal Andy Swan's comments on Fred's post that really got me thinking. He outlined the following six slides:

1. Imagine a world where....
2. Here's how we get there...
3. Known obstacles to overcome
4. The pot of gold
5. Why our team is awesome
6. Routing number for investment

I decided to play around with it on Friday afternoon and try to describe VerdeStrategy, my consulting and advisory firm focused on the cleantech, energy, and environment sectors.

Could I describe VerdeStrategy in six slides using the "Swanified" outline? Could I further get across the essential value proposition we offer in, as Fred stipulated, "six slides that will inspire and leave something for the imagination"? It was a challenge I couldn't resist.

Here is my first take. Let me know what you think:

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02 July 2010

Friday Green Skeptic Linkfest

I'm going to try something new here on the green skeptic.  Each Friday, I'll post links to a group of articles and posts of interest over the past week or so. Let me know if you find this useful and I'll make it a regular feature.

First up, Heidi Moore on Tesla's IPO: False promises for clean tech: http://bit.ly/dxIWTN

Joise Garthwaite writes about Who to Know and Where to Start with Greentech in China on Earth2Tech: http://bit.ly/cE3BQL

and TechCrunch reports on the Cleantech Group's initial Q2 numbers: CleanTech Venture Investments Total $2 Billion In Q2, Exits Reach More Than $8 Billion.

Two companies I've advised, BlackGold Biofuels and Southern Bancorp, finished 3rd and 4th, respectively, in Business Week's America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs: http://bit.ly/docH6R

Three great posts for entrepreneurs from Fred Wilson, Andy Swan, and Hugh MacLeod:

First, Fred's "Six Slides" post: http://bit.ly/aJIQSj

and Andy's advice: Work backwards, from the customer to the company: http://bit.ly/cr04a2

And Hugh's newsletter featured one of his great cartoons on entreprenuership today: gapingvoid

Finally, W.S. Merwin, a champion of the natural world and its enduring bounty, will be named the 17th U.S. Poet Laureate: http://nyti.ms/cCKvPO

Have a great holiday weekend everyone (in the US, anyway) and enjoy it safely.

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