FountainBlue’s Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Leading Edge Clean Energy Solutions. Please join me in thanking our sponsors at Goodwin Procter, KPMG and SRI for their support of this event and for the series! Please also join me also in thanking our lively and engaging panel for so generously sharing their perspectives and advice:
• Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
• Panelist Matthew Denesuk, Partner, IBM Venture Capital Group, IBM
• Panelist Kathy Fields, Co-Chair, Silicon Valley Office, Partner, Corporate and Private Equity and Technology Companies Group, Goodwin Procter LLP
• Panelist Barbara Heydorn, Director, Center of Excellence in Energy, SRI International
• Panelist Seth A. Hindman, Industry Manager, Autodesk, Inc.
• Panelist Sendil Palani, Senior Financial Analyst, Tesla Motors
• Presenting Entrepreneur Bob Frostholm, President, QSolar
• Presenting Entrepreneur Michael D’Amour, CEO and President, LUMEnergi
• Presenting Entrepreneur Tony McGettigan, President and CEO, Luxim
Below are notes from our conversation.
Clean energy holds so much promise for meeting customers’ business, economic, social and ecological needs. Indeed, clean energy solutions hold the promise for delivering the world from its current economic funk. But in order to realize its potential, clean energy leaders, from entrepreneurs to intrapreneurs to investors and policymakers must drive innovation in both technology and business model, to an industry which relies on so many technology, policy, social and economic factors. Indeed, a whole value chain of providers and players can both benefit from and pose barriers for innovation and entrepreneurship in the clean energy space.
Our panelists represented the sheer diversity of the industry – from energy generation to energy management and distribution, from transportation to building to smart device solutions, from services to manufacturing, from early stage emerging start-ups to established corporations diversifying into clean energy, to service providers and research institutions driving the technologies and business forward.
Our panelists agreed that the many clean energy sub-industries provide a tremendous economic and business opportunity to all. However, the challenge is that 1) technology innovation is necessary to research, develop and manufacture clean energy products and solutions at grid parity, 2) a technology-based infrastructure between all and parties in the value chain will help facilitate communication and collaboration between all parties, from the entrepreneurs to the intrapreneurs, from investors and policymakers to researchers and academics and utilities, and 3) standard business practices apply – from the need to identify a market opportunity, to serving customers, to providing efficiently delivered solutions by an effective team.
The panelists had the following advice for clean energy entrepreneurs:
1. Leverage existing and new software solutions to effectively research, manufacture, deliver solutions.
2. Build on the clean/green passion of your staff, partners and customers. They WANT to choose your company and its solution as they feel it’s the ‘right thing to do’. Leverage that passion to grow your business.
3. Help create a standard for clean green solutions which would help move the industry forward, within being too limiting in the early days.
4. Ensure that there is a NABC (SRI terminology): N for (customer) need, A for approach (solution/technology), B for benefits (to all parties), and C for competition (who’s doing what now and how will you differentiate?).
5. Consider financing options as you grow you clean energy company, and perhaps strategic partnerships that can help meet financing challenges. (What can you do to ease the financial pain of initial adoption for your customers?)
6. Partner with all players in the value chain to build a clean energy ecosystem which would benefit all.
7. Build a sustainable, positive, risk-tolerant company culture that will grow with you, focusing on rewarding your people, remaining focused on customer and market needs, continually raising the performance bar.
8. Diversify your products and services to serve the market needs. Your initial idea might diversify into multiple offerings rather than the initial offering. One example is Tesla is doing electric vehicles AND energy storage. Another example is that established technology companies from IBM to Autodesk are diversifying from software and hardware solutions into clean energy offerings, to meet market needs.
9. Know your target customer, but be willing to diversify beyond that niche market to open more channels.
10. Be opportunistic about funding and expansion opportunities.
11. Work with policymakers to develop a predictable policy in support of clean energy innovation and manufacturing. Outcome-oriented legislation, rather than prescriptions on what is adopted/how a requirement should be met, will help grow the industry, and entrepreneurs have an obligation to communicate this to policymakers and encourage and support long-term policy/administration leadership to ensure that these policies take hold.
12. Build clean energy focused synergies across divisions, companies, industries to benefit all.
The panelists raised the following questions and thoughts, to help entrepreneurs identify hot clean energy opportunities:
• What are some simple, non-sexy, solutions with existing technologies that can be re-worked with a clean-green objective? An example might be simple monitoring and feedback systems that work with existing devices. (The impact could be 10 to almost 80% energy reduction!)
• Even though solar is a crowded market, there are many solar opportunities ahead as well. But the technology and business model innovations must be there as well.
• Lighting retrofits for both home and business will continue to grow, and there’s an opportunity to partner with government and builders to create new lighting standards.
• Innovations in transportation including electric vehicles provide opportunities for innovation, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
• Through January 2010, Autodesk is offering software grants to clean energy/clean technology engineers, designers, product developers, and manufacturers so they can visualize, simulate, and design digital prototypes of their products before building them. The Autodesk software grant, valued at up to $150,000, is being offered to emerging clean tech companies in North America who are ready to engage in an implementation plan with the support of our local reseller partners. For more information and to apply for a grant, visit http://www.autodesk.com/cleantech.
• For more information about Luxim and its lighting technology, visit http://www.lifi.com.
• For more information about LUMEnergi’s product line, visit http://www.lumenergi.com/products/ov/.
Stimulating Conversation, Building Community, Nurturing Industry
At FountainBlue, we support transformative leadership, one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time. We hope that these particular notes stimulate conversation on a topic of common interest, build a community of connected stakeholders, and in general, advance business opportunities in this area.
Our notes are copyrighted by FountainBlue for 2006-2010. We welcome you to forward our notes to interested groups, provided that you copy us on your distribution, and that you provide acknowledgment to FountainBlue and our sponsors and speakers.