Cleantech investors, companies, media and green PR folk watched today's A123 Nasdaq debut with intense interest as the battery maker became the first cleantech concern to IPO in some time. Up 36 percent in early trading, A123 has not disappointed. With cleantech patents at an all time high, cleantech investing on the rebound and stimulus money starting to flow, there could be more green IPOs in the coming months.
A123 benefits from being at the intersection of two important trends: energy storage and the electrification of cars. Batteries have long been cited as a technology that needs to improve for renewable energy to reach its full potential. Car electrification dominated discussion among some of the panels at AlwaysOn GoingGreen last week as Tesla, Bright Automotive, Coda, Fisker and their investors littered panels at the event.
Expect A123's IPO to be a further boon to battery start ups in the coming weeks and months, as VCs look to find the next big technology in that sector.
Posted by Jason Morris on September 24, 2009 at 1:32 PM
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At last week’s GoingGreen West 2009 conference the issue of water -- safe, clean, reliable water sources to be exact -- got a good deal of attention. Maybe because, despite the heavy fog that was wrapped around the Golden Gate Bridge, California labors through its third straight year of drought?
The panel “The Water Grid & Water Markets” covered a variety of current and very cool near-future technologies. From water quality IT dashboards (IBM) to off grid, mini-desalination plants (Energy Recovery) to subsurface water storage (Schlumberger Water Services), there’s a plethora of solutions available and emerging that address the growing water crisis. It’s clear that the biggest challenges are not great new ideas or innovations but rather finding ways to lower costs and leverage public policy to drive adoption.
One technology that I’ve been coming back to is on-site water recycling. “Gray” or wastewater recycling systems are nothing new; however, the process traditionally has received fairly lousy PR. Often likened to sewage, grey water actually comes from showers, dishwashers and other household sanitation, except the toilet. Graywater is an important part of solving the crisis, but like all things water related, California struggles with graywater provisions. Expensive systems, low rebates and restrictive mandates have resulted in fewer than 10 residential systems permitted and legally installed in Los Angeles every year.
Hopefully that is changing. In late July the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) Codes and Standards Division announced the adoption of the state’s new graywater standards. If successful, these new standards could make it easier for systems to be implemented and safe water be reused. According to the HCD, these systems can help a family of four reduce its annual water consumption by 22,000 gallons of water--from the laundry system alone.
With countries like China practicing well-established regulations of water reclamation for hotels, institutions and schools for years, the US seems behind the curve yet again in our water use practices. However, California’s HCD new standards are helping lower the cost of greywater systems and encouraging adoption, and seem to be a big step in the right direction. We’ll have to keep an eye on them in the coming months to see how the program takes hold.
Posted by Erin DelLlano on September 22, 2009 at 12:51 PM
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Yesterday we had the pleasure of having Camille Ricketts, the lead Green writer for VentureBeat, into our San Francisco office. For the twenty PR clients we work with in solar, smart grid, biofuels, water desalination, carbon management and Green IT, Camille is a top contact--especially for those looking to reach a green investment audience. Camille considers herself to still be a bit new to the Green space, although at more than six months she is a grizzled veteran in the high-turnover world of media.
She ran through a good background of VentureBeat and her specific focus, all of which was useful. But perhaps the most helpful information for a Green PR person is tips and tricks for working with a journalist more effectively. So onto Camille's preferences:
-Follow Up: She is very conscientious about email pitches and will follow up on nearly everything if given the time. Therefore, she prefers second contact to come in the form of an email and requests a bit of patience because she will try to respond.
-Social Media: Camille doesn't mind direct messages on Twitter as long as you have something that can be of use to her. She'll read them and Tweet you back if she is interested.
-Sources: While Camille likes speaking with venture capitalists, she doesn't want a VC source that is simply going to cheerlead for a company. She wants details on why a deal came together and why the VC chose your company over a competitor.
-Embargoes & Exclusives: Both Camille and VentureBeat as an outlet, appreciate the use of embargoes and exclusives by PR people. They will honor embargoes as long as a PR firm is good to its word and VentureBeat does not get scooped after agreeing to one. VentureBeat writers pride themselves on integrity and will not agree to something they won't honor. Like almost all media outlets, they like an exclusive because it allows them to do a longer piece without fear of being scooped. The good news is that I think they're likely to get more exclusives moving forward thanks to a strong syndication relationship with the New York Times web site.
-Future Focus: Camille expects to be writing a lot about Smart Grid and Green IT in the coming weeks as VentureBeat ramps up for its GreenBeat 2009 event in November. With Al Gore, John Doerr and other high profile presenters, it should be a great event.
Overall, Camille shared some great information about working with a top outlet covering how finance and policy are impacting the cleantech market.
Posted by Jason Morris on September 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM
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The last few weeks may have been the best PR stretch of 2009 for solar, wind and other cleantech and green markets, especially from a finance standpoint. It should provide a considerable uplift to spirits at AlwaysOn GoingGreen next week as the cleantech venture capital, private equity and investment banking community gathers to discuss industry issues in water, smart grid, energy management, solar, wind, energy storage and renewable fuels. Some of the positive news from the past few weeks:
-Treasury grants started flowing from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), promising to fund a new way of renewable energy projects in wind and solar.
-The Department of Energy (DOE) loan program blessed Solyndra with a $500+ million guarantee, promising to create more than 3,000 green collar jobs in the process.
-Vinod Khosla's firm, Khosla Ventures, raised a $1.1 billion round which is expected to help fund dozens, if not scores or start-ups across the sector.
-IBM predicted that a "smart grid of water" business could be worth $20 billion over five years.
-Cleantech patents hit an all time high in Q2, showing that companies and entrepreneurs continue to innovate and that many new Green technologies are likely coming to market in 2010 and beyond.
That last bullet flew under the radar in many circles (a partner in a late stage VC firm I talked to said he had not heard anything about IBM's interest in water) and water as a whole gets less attention than energy on a national level. I am a firm believer that water is the next big sector that will attract massive investment and media attention, as the US comes to better understand that water is a national issue.
Couple all of these developments with Hara and other companies being successful in their fundraising activities, and you have what looks to be a significant financial thaw across various green industries. It could also be with Obama's speech on healthcare reform tonight that some form of bill gets passed and that the Energy & Water bill moves back to the top of the legislative priority list, which could result in the creation of the Green Bank and more funding avenues for cleantech companies.
With GoingGreen, PVSec, Solar Power International, Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations Conference, Power-Gen, Clean Tech Futures and a number of other events upcoming, we'll be able to monitor the impact of all of this news on the collective psyche of the cleantech market. It should be a fun final third to 2009.
**Schwartz Plug Alert**
We issued a release today highlighting the growth of our Cleantech & Green PR and Public Affairs Practice during 2009. We've become the Agency of Record for ten great organizations thus far in 2009, thereby doubling our footprint in the market. It's an exciting time to be in PR.
, doe grants
Posted by Jason Morris on September 9, 2009 at 9:54 PM
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Important news yesterday that the Treasury Department has granted more than $500 million in grants to some major cleantech projects, most of them related to wind power. These grants are in cash versus the traditional 30 percent tax credit that companies had been receiving. Expect solar, wind and biofuels projects to receive additional funding in the coming months.
With new cash flowing in from the government, green VCs and foreign investors, the market is looking at a major rebound in Q4 and 2010. All of the positive news around financing should help offset falling solar panel prices, declining wind patents and biofuel production snafus, leading to a better green PR environment in the coming months.
Posted by Jason Morris on September 2, 2009 at 12:32 PM
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Major and somewhat astonishing financing news for cleantech companies today as Khosla Ventures has managed to raise the biggest venture capital fund since 2007 in what people have called an impossible fund-raising environment. Vinod Khosla obviously still sees tremendous opportunity for investing in early-stage cleantech companies with the hopes that one or more become one of the "ten Googles" he predicted would emerge from Cleantech earlier this year.
It also seems incredibly Warren Buffet like to be raising a fund at a time when others have turtled and to be investing capital when other VCs are a bit concerned about the corporate viability of their investments. Maybe now is the best time to be investing, when cleantech company risk seems low due to more reasonable valuations and with an increase in government loans and support. If the recent boom in cleantech and green patents is any indication, there will be a lot of companies looking for money in the coming 12-24 months.
The firm also announced that it has brought on Facebook's former CFO, giving it more cache with social media and web 2.0 start ups. What does this all mean for the green PR and marketing world?
It means that the demise of cleantech has been dramtically exaggerated and that we're likely to see an investment recovery in 2010, continuing the trend that started in Q2. It also means that cleantech and green marketers should use the Khosla fund as a proof point that things are only going to get noisier and that competitor marketing coffers are likely to increase over the next 12 months.
Khosla's fund will likely be the buzz as Vinod Khosla keynotes AlwaysOn GoingGreen in two weeks.
Posted by Jason Morris on September 1, 2009 at 12:09 PM
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