26 February 2013

Is Cleantech a Dirty Word?

He used the "C" word.
"Is Cleantech a dirty word?"

I was asked this question over lunch today -- it's something that comes up regularly, like some disagreeable food.

Just a few months ago, when we began planning for our 5th annual Mid-Atlantic Cleantech Investment Forum, my friends and co-hosts at BlankRome's Venture Group announced that we were changing the name of the event to Mid-Atlantic Energy Technology Investment Forum

They even asked whether we were changing the name of our group, Cleantech Alliance Mid-Atlantic. My co-founder hedged and said we'd discuss it later.

Adam Lesser, writing over at Giga.om last month, asked, "Does the 'cleantech sector' need a new name?" 

"'Cleantech' is a dirty word right now in venture investing circles," Lesser posits. "And for me has never defined a sector as much as an idea—that we should leverage technology for the betterment of the earth." 

Over the past few years, we've had "clean energy" and "advanced energy"; once the favored term was "renewable energy" and even "alternative energy." And then there was the battle over "cleantech" or "greentech." And now there's even something called "cleanweb."

A year ago, Lesser's colleague at GigaOm, Katie Fehrenbacher asked whether it was time to bury the term.

Even as far back in September 2011, I wrote about Cleantech having a black eye and branding problem. (Longtime cleantech investor John Doerr referred to "Energy Tech," at an event I was covering.)

The question remains whether this is just a down cycle for cleantech.

Is the sky falling for cleantech, as I asked in a post last summer?

Or are we, as an investor friend of mine suggested six months ago, simply in Gartner's trough of disillusionment, shortly to be ascending the slope of enlightenment?

For now, I'm sticking with the "C" word. Get out the Lifebuoy!