Very interesting post yesterday from VentureBeat about how Cleantech & Green patents have hit a record, driven in large part by an explosion in Fuel Cell patents. That said, every sector was up save for wind. Solar patents, biofuel patents, etc. all saw big increases over Q2 of 2008 when the financing environment was healthier.
Schwartz represents a large patent and intellectual property firm, Finnegan, with an established Green industry practice, and we're guessing business has been pretty good for them and firms like them.
What does this mean? Well, we know that Cleantech and Green Venture Capitalists love patents since investing in companies without some legally enforced technical barrier to entry is seen as somewhat foolish. New technology development and a spike in patents could lead to an even bigger rebound in early-stage investing. And while the spike could have been driven in part by emerging-growth companies like Bloom Energy, it also points to the fact that large company R&D is likely increasing in cleantech, for example, automakers in fuel cells, GE and others in wind and smart grid, etc. It also could lead to future acquisitions of smaller companies with strong patent positions, by some of the larger companies in the market.
Many of these patent holders will also likely look for Department of Energy (DOE) grants and R&D grants from other government entities, in order to commercialize some of these technologies. This points to even more competition in the green public affairs world.
Overall, this is yet another sign that the cleantech financing environment and green PR noise will further rebound in 2010.
, DOE grants
Posted by Jason Morris on August 27, 2009 at 12:10 PM
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Schwartz Communications is proud to announce that the firm is now a member of the Coalition for the Green Bank, an industry organization in support of the creation of a cleantech financing fund at the federal level. The Green Bank is a measure in the Waxman-Markey energy bill which is currently slotted behind healthcare insurance reform in Congress.
The measure will be an important part of financing future cleantech companies and market adoption. With the Green Bank, a financial recovery and a rebound in cleantech venture capital investment, 2010 promises to be a bright year. There are a number of leading companies, including Applied Materials, Blue Source and GE Energy Financial Services putting their cleantech public affairs and public relations support behind the organization.
We're excited to be part of the Green Bank support team.
Posted by Jason Morris on August 23, 2009 at 4:50 PM
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Few regions of the country have been hit harder by water scarcity issues than California. From Santa Cruz, Monterey, Long Beach, Carlsbad and Huntington Beach-seawater desalination has been turned to in a big way to combat the problem. It also has had to fight an uphill PR and Public Affairs battle thanks to outdated perceptions around the process, especially regarding energy costs. In working with Energy Recovery, Inc., a company that manufactures an energy-saving pump for seawater reverse-osmosis (SWRO) desalination, we've seen firsthand how much misinformation persists with government, media and general public audiences.
On Wednesday, the Marin County water board approved (unanimously) the creation of a $105 million dollar desal plant
. Unfortunately, town halls in San Rafael (where the plant will be) echoed the inaccurate perceptions around what this will mean for people's drinking water as well as NIMBY-related aesthetics objections—all which aren't helping to pull California out of its water emergencies. Water recycling and conservation are great and more of each is needed, but those measures alone won't help save a water system built to serve 18 million people in a 36 million resident state.
Venture capitalists realize that water is the next looming crisis nationally and something that goes beyond the bounds of local communities. By building plants along the California coast—and other coastal regions such as Florida and Texas—more of the existing water can go to agriculture, lessening the need to draw water from river deltas and reducing the impact on fish and wildlife along rivers and their tributaries. That is why companies in reverse osmosis membranes, carbon nanotubes and other technologies are beginning to see a significant amount of private investment.
At least the proposed Marin County desal plant is raising the issue, and presenting an opportunity for stakeholders in the industry to teach people how new technologies are improving the process by reducing energy consumption and impact to wildlife. Perhaps then more people will appreciate how and where desalination fits in as one piece to solving the water crisis—which includes recycling, conservation, and most importantly, education.
Posted by Erin DelLlano on August 20, 2009 at 5:24 PM
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What struck me about this piece was not just the fact that I think LaMonica's premise is right, but that PR firms like Schwartz have also found themselves entering cleantech company engagements at an earlier point than in security, application development, virtualization, medical devices, etc. The question is why? It is complicated question with several answers--some generic and some only applicable to the firms involved.
Generally speaking, the cleantech market is a dogfight. The days of nine-figure VC rounds for cleantech companies are likely over and so companies need to be visible, talking about the technology or service they have developed, why it is unique and the corresponding market opportunity. If you consider there will likely be 3-5 companies that get to $100 million in revenue in each market niche, that means dozens will be left in the cold
. Selling off IP or worse, going out of business. The race to be one of the handful of success stories starts day one since every day a company holds back, competitors are generating awareness and mind share with government audiences, venture capitalists, investment banks, partners, customers, etc.
For Schwartz, our technology business has always followed the venture capital and private equity markets. If VCs start pouring dollars into a market, they typically advise their portfolio companies that the first external marketing spend should be PR. We have also represented a number of firms themselves, including PR for Charles River Ventures, Matrix Partners, Pod Holdings and Fairhaven Capital. Given the fact that many cleantech companies are taking VC money earlier, it leads them to hire firms earlier. This also attracts larger companies to a market, like GE in wind or Sanyo in solar, and results in our working with some innovative divisions of bigger concerns.
We've seen this early trend explode recently. We've launched three cleantech companies
out of stealth in the past three months from a PR standpoint--two in solar and one in renewable fuels. One of our clients asked us to come in before they had a public-facing web site. They wanted us involved in grassroots messaging, category branding, web site development, etc. We helped them manage the entire process and worked with them for multiple months before one ounce of external communications was executed. It was one of the most successful launches we've ever had by a number of different PR and business metrics. This is the new PR paradigm for agencies in cleantech and the point at which many clients should begin engaging with their firm.
The message: Be able to support them early on or get out.
Another Schwartz-specific dynamic is the fact that we offer public affairs, which can help early-stage cleantech and green companies raise capital from government grants, loan guarantees and appropriations requests. This can be in the form of direct R&D type grants, loan guarantees for building or retrofitting a plant, or revenue from a government funded project.
That said, even though it is starting earlier, PR and Public Affairs need to be grounded in pragmatism in what is an increasingly cynical environment. "If I had a nickle for every company that said 'energy independence' I'd be rich," said a Forbes reporter during a recent interview with a client. The fact of the matter is that 2005 through mid-2008 saw a number of solar, biofuel and wind start ups make some outlandish claims based on assumptions that $100 million rounds would forever grow on trees and that they had the silver bullet to thin-film manufacturing or algae biofuel extraction.
We've heard a lot about "shovel ready" projects for government funding. Well, companies need to have "PR ready" claims that are defensible not necessarily in the moment, but definitely over time.
The message: Hyberbole is the enemy of credibility.
So as I look at the marketing and business lifecycle of a Cleantech start-up, technology development and patent protection are obviously the first steps but that is also a good inflection point for targeted public affairs looking at grants. After that initial funding is received, companies are then looking to reach a broader government audience, gain support from pilot partners and customers, and immediately go into their next fund raise. This creates the need for a web site and a targeted public relations campaign. Once there is product or service to sell, the full-blown public affairs and PR campaign begins, supporting lead generation, brand awareness and appropriations drives for customer projects.
What does it all mean? It means that the world gets noisier in PR and public affairs for companies in solar, wind, biofuels, batteries, geothermal, batteries and smart grid, than it does in security, open source and the data center. It means that plenty of really early stage companies make announcements at PVSEC, National Biofuels, Intersolar, Wind Power, PowerGen, AlwaysOn GoingGreen and Solar Power International, and demand attention.
So while PR has always been the emerging growth company's best marketing weapon, for cleantech companies, it becomes a bigger part of the puzzle at an earlier stage than ever.
Posted by Jason Morris on August 19, 2009 at 9:12 PM
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Schwartz today welcomes some new folks into our family: Hayhurst Media, a UK-based communications firm. The acquisition of Hayhurst represents both a serious expansion of our European talent and deeper penetration of two core areas---healthcare and cleantech.
Out of the gate, we’re adding more than two dozen European clients and two of the most talented PR professionals I’ve ever met. Hayhurst is run by the founding husband and wife team (sound familiar?) of Richard and Amanda Hayhurst. It’s an outstanding cultural fit. We’re a people business, and both Richard and Amanda are both fantastic business pros, writers and human beings.
We’ve even done some projects with them over the years, and have seen first hand the same results-orientation, professionalism and smarts the Schwartz team brings to our clients every day.
Richard and Amanda will become co-managing directors for Schwartz UK, reporting to Kristina Ebenius, our European managing director.
Our clients (current and future) benefit from having Hayhurst Media as part of the Schwartz team. A deeper team in the UK along with our pan-European coverage from Stockholm means even easier integration of EMEA communications efforts with the US Schwartz team. Not to state the obvious, but we live in a multi-channel business world with more companies eager to ramp their influence and sales abroad, and that includes both sides of the pond.
We’re thrilled with today’s news and know that the Schwartz/Hayhurst match is a great one. Not much time for celebrating though. There are a lot of innovation-oriented companies out there that need this growing team’s help!
Tags: cleantech PR
, green PR
, healthcare PR
, London PR
, medical PR
, public relations agencies
, UK PR
Posted by Bryan Scanlon on August 18, 2009 at 5:13 PM
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There was an interesting piece from Martin LaMonica at CNET this morning focused on what it will take from an investment standpoint to drive the coming greentech or cleantech revolution. He talks about the different options (government, investment banks, VCs) and where each could fit in the puzzle.
LaMonica points out that several years ago, VCs were the source of investment for capital-heavy technologies like solar and biofuels. As a result, they got into nine-figure VC rounds that were supposed to get many manufacturers to $1 per watt solar cells or $50 per barrel oil equivalents. Instead, many companies fell short of their promise and VCs have been faced with either pumping in more cash or helping portfolio companies find new sources of money (hello DOE!). Unfortunately, all of the fancy PR in the world cannot rewrite history to show that companies actually made those projections about 2013 instead of 2010.
He also mentions that many companies just don't fit the old VC approach of finding a great technology, a solid patent position and a large market opportunity, and then invest. It will take the government and banks to get many companies to commercialization.
One expert, Bracken Hendricks of the Center for American Progress, thinks that the creation of the Green Bank, a proposal in the House version of the Energy Bill, would be a key cog in government driving cleantech innovation. I agree completely.
What does it all mean? Financing has significantly dampened cleantech progress both from a macroeconomic standpoint, as well as from an individual company financing point of view. However, more and more companies and VCs are figuring out the cleantech financing puzzle which could be another critical factor in 2010 being a year of hyper-growth in cleantech.
There is also a next wave of cleantech start ups who are not just innovating from a technology standpoint, but also from a manufacturing/commercialization standpoint that will eliminate healthy percentages of the capex requirements to reach full-scale manufacturing. Keep an eye out for such companies in solar, biofuels and wind.
Posted by Jason Morris on August 17, 2009 at 2:30 PM
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Get prepared for more citizien "rage" at town halls. No, not town halls where the discussion is focused on health insurance reform. But instead town halls focused on the energy bill---legislation that could help alleviate US dependence on foreign sources of energy, ease geopolitical tensions by reducing our interest in politically unstable regions like the middle east, battle the effects of climate change, create thousands of Green Collar Jobs and reduce the cost of energy for every American.
So why the rage? Well it seems that the petroleum industry is extremely interested in prodding or paying people to exercise their first amendment rights, including employees (hence the paying) and retired seniors. Maybe they think that seniors are missing out on the healthcare town halls since the AARP supports a public healthcare option?
The American Petroleum Institute issued a memo (Daily Kos has it) asking "Energy Citizens" (i.e. employees, retired people, anti-environment protestors and the bored) to demonstrate against climate legislation. It seems API has data that suggests jobs will be lost and energy costs will skyrocket if this legislation is passed. Only offshore drilling apparently creates jobs in this country. What does Greenpeace think?
"It's the most powerful among us, masquerading as grass-roots outrage to stifle debate on global warming," Michael Crocker, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said in a statement printed in the Washington Post. I'd agree with that assessment. Drill baby, drill.
Is the energy bill perfect? No legislation can be. But when you are talking about a long-overdue bill to address a ticking timebomb like climate change (or healthcare, or social security, etc), perfect is the enemy of good.
What's maybe most interesting is that there are a number of members of API that also dabble in renewables like BP and Shell, both of whom manufacture solar products and both of whom are also members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Talk about PR conflicted.
Now skeptics may say that Shell and BP only belong to the group to try and moderate policy positions that come out of the group, but it could also be that they have read the tea leaves and know that only the election of Dick Cheney as our next president would stop the movement to renewable energy and stronger climate change policy in the US.
Not to be outdone, the coal industry and other conservative lobbies will join in the rally. Will SEIA, SEPA, AWEA and others turn out people to counter those rallies? If so, the biggest beneficiaries may be people who drag coolers of springs water to the events to sell for $4 apiece as protestors bake in the August sun.
Posted by Jason Morris on August 16, 2009 at 3:36 PM
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