Clean Green Financing Options

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FountainBlue’s July 11 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Clean Green Financing Options and featured:
Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
Panelist Tobias Kraus, Manager of R&D Finance, Tesla Motors
Panelist Shannon Fraser, U.S. Export Assistance Center – Silicon Valley, US Department of Commerce
Panelist Matt Lecar, Principal, Smart Grid Center of Excellence, Energy Applications & Systems Engineering, GE
Presenting Entrepreneur Brian Farhi, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Solar Nexus
Presenting Entrepreneur Michael Niver, Director of Project Finance, SolarCity
We would like to thank our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and the series. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists agreed that the lack venture fundings have impacted the industry overall, making it very difficult for all-but-the-best to secure funding. So those with the great technology innovations who were able to bootstrap the technology development, partner with corporates, academics and others, leverage government grants, and otherwise show traction for the their clean energy innovation are those who have gotten funding during the downturn, and are well positioned to receive funding now that there is more money in investment funds.
The panelists commented on venture funding opportunities and trends, predicting that there will be a shake-out in the venture industry, and only those who have proven investment track records will remain, a bifurcation between those who found money for their funds before the monies dried up and those that didn’t. The remaining investors will be chasing the entrepreneurs who have gone into hiding during the downturn, working with corporations, consulting, or developing in stealth mode. But the time will come soon when those investors and those entrepreneurs will again meet, and we shall all benefit from the union.
In regards to policy, our panelists advise us to collaboratively create aligned, stable, predictable, transparent, economic-based policies at the widest possible level which are based on research and facts, not arbitrary numbers and standards, which are transparent, easy-to-implement, fair, and spark technology innovation and getting sustainable products and services into the hands of consumers, businesses and utilities.
In general, clean tech companies are extremely capital-intensive, so our panelists advised entrepreneurs to create a solution which follows the strategy of software companies who can produce technologies and generate revenues more quickly. You may also opt to create a smaller-scale solution of the end product which shows the validity and scalability of both the technology and market. Below is additional advice from our panelists:
Work with the best people to deliver proven, measurable value.
• Work with the best and brightest who have a proven track record, an innovative technology and a large market. Then prove that the technology works and the customers are willing to buy it. It’s not about the volume or impact, it’s about working smarter to build momentum and credibility, making your company attractive and fundable.
• Create win-win partnerships with corporates in your space to validate technology and market, to leverage their financial resources and channels, as well as their space and infrastructure.
• Minimize risk as you grow your business and keep reaching for the next milestone, the next level and types of customers.
Be resourceful in addressing your funding needs.
• Leverage government grants to fund early stage development efforts as they generally don’t take much equity share. But wean yourself both from government grants and from customer incentives, rebates and policies as you want to prove that your business can stand on its own, and isn’t just a result of an artificial market.
• Build strategic and broad network with potential investors. Then ask for a large amount of money to do big things, but run your company leanly and efficiently.
Be strategic about your offerings, with an eye to the needs of the customer.
• Customers are interested in sustainable solutions, but may not want to invest the big check up front, so think of revenue model including financing and leasing that would help you win these customers over while growing your business.
• Consider building a strong residential base first to help you sustain your company are you expand to target corporations and utilities, who have much longer sales cycles.
• Don’t rely on stimulus dollars or other monies to stimulate the economy and the clean energy sector, but do partner with all stakeholders to foster quicker and easier adoption of rapidly-scalable, innovative, game-changing technologies.

Below are some suggestions for some hot new clean energy opportunities:
• Provide online infrastructure and support tools which would help current providers better communicate and better serve their customers, leveraging the best of todays technology enterprise solutions, from ERP to cloud to automation.
• As the industry matures, consider targeting niche markets – the long tail of the market.

In summary, note that success breeds success – the more you succeed and build traction and momentum, the more likely you are to earn more wins. And there are plenty of opportunities for the biggest and dirtiest industry on the planet. If all stakeholders work together to forge change, to spark entrepreneurship and innovation, we may see the biggest changes in our lifetime, and a more promising future for those who come after us.
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FountainBlue would like to thank and acknowledge our panelists for our July 11 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Clean Green Financing Options:
Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
Panelist Tobias Kraus, Manager of R&D Finance, Tesla Motors
Panelist Shannon Fraser, U.S. Export Assistance Center – Silicon Valley, US Department of Commerce
Panelist Matt Lecar, Principal, Smart Grid Center of Excellence, Energy Applications & Systems Engineering, GE
Presenting Entrepreneur Brian Farhi, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Solar Nexus
Presenting Entrepreneur Michael Niver, Director of Project Finance, SolarCity
We would also like to thank our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and the series.

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