If you were expecting this post to be a comprehensive review of the new Microsoft Surface, launched this afternoon in a mysterious event in an undisclosed location hosted by he-who-shall-not-be-named (continuing with the mystery theme, not a comment on you, Mr. Balmer), then I am sorry to disappoint you. The Twittersphere has made it clear that Surface pricing details and availability had not yet been disclosed as this post went to "press."
Instead, I decided to look at this news through cleantech goggles and discuss what the impact will be from an energy perspective. So in the battle of Microsoft Surface versus Apple iPad versus Android Tablets, who wins? I have no clue.
I do, however, have an idea who loses: the consumer. Don't get me wrong, the world will continue to get top-flight devices built on platforms by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Samsung that will keep them checking email, watching video and shooting pigs with birds long into the night.
Where the consumer loses is when battery technology can't keep pace with the accelerating power and feature race taking place in today's tablets and smart phone industries. The battery issue will continue to hold companies back from putting all of the power and features consumers want in devices, and even impact the physical form factors they take.
There are several new battery chemistries that hold promise, but most of today's devices don't employ them. Until they get beyond lithium ion, I think we're in for some bad reviews about the charge/discharge capabilities of next generation devices.
Energy storage is a major issue that rears its ugly head in transportation (electric vehicles), renewables (grid-level storage) and now, consumer electronics. It's high time that the media, government and private industry more intensely focus their attention on one of the biggest technology bottlenecks facing society.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 18, 2012 at 7:32 PM
| TrackBack (0)
It's not hard to get me excited about clean technology companies since I believe so strongly in their impact on the economy, the environment and the overall good of humankind. And at Schwartz MSL, we're fortunate to handle public relations for a number of true "platform" type of players that are not only selling products, but also providing the necessary "building blocks" to enable an entire ecosystem of third-party products and services, like Tendril (smart grid), Picarro (GHG measurement and isotopic analysis for food safety, emissions management, etc), Enviance (environmental compliance and emissions tracking), Leyden Energy (energy storage) and too many others to mention.
Well, today you can certainly add Virdia to that list. The company has just launched with new public and private financing from leading venture capitalists like Khosla, Burrill & Company and Tamar Ventures; a new CEO from Genencor; and the imminent opening of its pilot facility.
So what is Virdia doing that is attracting so much attention? The company has a proprietary and proven process that turns wood chips into cellulosic sugars and lignin used in the production of biochemicals, the development of second generation biofuels and other industries. The process the company is using is actually decades old, with some major upgrades, including the recapture of solvents used to produce the sugars. The result is something that promises to be sustainable and scalable.
Virdia's successful ramp up can come none too soon, as the market needs a scalable, cost-competitive and high quality supply of cellulosic sugars for the fermentation processes that companies use to produce biochemicals, fuels and nutritional additives. And it isn't just for the environmental good of society that we need cellulosics succeed--it is also important to the billions of private and public equity invested in companies like Amyris, Coskata, LS9 and others to deliver materials for sustainable product development.
Many of these companies launched on the assumption that cheap, scalable sources of cellulosic sugars would be a given. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened and this is where some companies launched the proverbial cart before the horse. The market has had to rely on corn and other crop-based sugars that suffer from price volatility related to the success or failure of short growing seasons, fuel prices, food prices, water prices and agricultural land prices.
Product manufacturers value cost certainty and long-term contracts, which are almost impossible when dealing with seasonal sources of sugars. The wood for cellulosics comes from sustainably harvested and replenished wood sources grown over multiple seasons, reducing exposure to weather and resourced-driven price fluctuations, to deliver a more consistent cost structure.
Cellulosics will happen and so will the categories of products they enable, and so the major question is (as Virdia's CEO Philippe Lavielle says), "who will win the sugar wars?"
, burrill & company
Posted by Jason Morris on March 6, 2012 at 12:16 PM
| TrackBack (0)
The largest news in April for clean energy could have been Solyndra’s debt woes, a PR debacle that could prevent its IPO, result in millions of dollars of squandered federal funding and provide a massive PR salvo for opponents of government investment in cleantech movement.
Thankfully, concentrating photovoltaics manufacturer Amonix raised $129 million in private funding, the DOE distributed $106 million in stimulus funds to 37 clean energy projects, and, most importantly, the federal government approved the long-debated Cape Wind project. April quickly became a positive and historic month for the clean energy industry. Let’s quickly breakdown the PR and GR impact of each announcement:
Cape Wind - This announcements is important in scope and, perhaps more importantly, precedent. Despite 9 years of protests from a wide-range of opponents, the federal government has acknowledged that our nation’s energy needs are more important than ideological or NIMBY opposition, no matter how heavy-handed. This is an important case for the PR and GR efforts for the entire clean energy industry. Hopefully this is the first of a number DOI-supported wind farms off the Atlantic Coast and in the Great Lakes.
DOE funding – This funding was for research focusing on electrofuels, batteries and carbon capture. From a PR point of view, this is a much-deserved acknowledgment of the importance and potential of these technologies, which often play second-fiddle to solar, wind and smart grid technology. And though the second fiddle status makes sense from a market maturity standpoint, these technologies still address important problems that require solving.
Amonix – Like most clean energy PR, “scalable” and “cost-reduction” are more important phrases these days than “break-through” or “cutting-edge”. Amonix, which emphasizes “scale” and “low energy production costs”, is an example in the shift in how companies position and market their clean energy technologies. Clean energy financing will likely continue this trend, as VCs demand quicker payback and more manageable reliable products. Schwartz is fortunate to work with several interesting companies in solar that are solving the scale and cost issues around traditional solar technologies.
What does this all mean? In a month where a cleantech bellwether fell on hard times, we saw a number of good developments that are fueling cleantech adoption and acceptance. This good PR for cleantech concerns across the board is more than welcome. Let’s hope it continues and reduces the squabbling over the long-awaited climate bill.
Posted by Dan O'Mahony on May 3, 2010 at 3:33 PM
| TrackBack (0)
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
| TrackBack (0)
I need to preface this post with the fact that SharesPost is a Schwartz PR client, but what they're doing is very interesting and extremely applicable to the Cleantech industry and its investors. So while I am being and will always be transparent, I am not claiming to be free of bias.
It has been well covered that VCs have poured billions into cleantech and green the last few years with markets like solar, wind, biofuels, smart grid and batteries receiving a good chunk of those investments. In fact, thin-film solar alone received several hundred millions of dollars in 2008, creating the potential for several big winners or losers among cleantech investments. Very respected firms like Draper Fisher Jurvetson, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Khosla, Kleiner Perkins and Good Energies led the way, and many VC firms followed.
And while cleantech and green PR firms, the media and venture capitalists all did a great job publicizing the investments, there was an undertone of concern with regards to how the companies would deliver a return to their shareholders (VCs, entpreneurs and employees) and how well served the limited partner (LP) community would be by such investments.
With the credit crunch and struggles of the broader economy, many predicted a cleantech M&A shakeout that would last into 2010 before the market started a recovery. While there has been some M&A, the stimulus package, government adoption, follow-on rounds from existing investors and other measures have helped many cleantech companies weather the storm. So while private companies are not selling themsleves for dimes on the dollar (good news for investors), the market is still not strong enough to support a rash of cleantech IPOs. Or IPOs in Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
So what is the best exit for some private cleantech company shareholders? Enter SharesPost and the hassle-free secondary market exit. The company brings together buyers (private equity firms, VC firms, high net-worth investors and the companies themselves) and sellers (angel investors, VC firms, entrepreneurs and employees) of shares in private companies to provide a third exit for private company sharesholders. SharesPost already has had one Tesla Motors transaction go to contract and escrow, and just released a third-party report on SolarCity which may help facilitate more trades. Multiple buy and sell posts exist for both companies.
Private company data has been a major missing component in facilitating secondary market trades in the past and SharesPost is looking to solve that. This will be a good thing for the market, as it will help keep executive talent working at emerging growth companies, versus seeing everyone head to larger cleantech companies like First Solar, GE and Applied Materials.
Expect to see more Cleantech companies on SharesPost in the near future as some of the market darlings realize they are in it for the long haul and founders, employees and early-stage investors decide they need liquidity.
Posted by Jason Morris on July 22, 2009 at 7:22 PM
| TrackBack (0)
A recent report from CleanTech Brief highlighted an increase in cleantech venture funding and investing to $1.2 billion. This was a quarter-over-quarter increase of 12 percent and illustrates that the green portion of the Stimulus package and other cleantech regulatory measures are helping to renew interest in cleantech start ups.
Companies in batteries, biofuels, smart grid and others were the main beneficiaries, including a $17.3 million investment in Control4. Solar investment is way down from past years, but it also saw an unprecedented run with nine-figure rounds. If the Intersolar 2009 conference is any indication, solar is surviving the recession fairly well with Uncle Sam poised to become the world's largest solar consumer.
Speaking of government green spending, more good news for the cleantech industry came from the G8 Summit, where leaders of some of the world's largest economies recognized the potential of the cleantech industry to help boost the global economy. The summit discussed cleantech policy measures, investment and adoption.
As we look at 2010, it is clear that world governments will spend unprecedented dollars on cleantech, energy efficiency, etc. It is also likely that other technologies will start to come to the forefront that have to date, gone under publicized, such as water desalination technologies and advances in tidal energy. All of this is pointing toward a much better second half of 2009 for cleantech companies.
Posted by Jason Morris on July 13, 2009 at 12:15 PM
| TrackBack (0)
Word today that Tesla ($465 million), Ford ($440 million) and Nissan ($1.4 billion) are beneficiaries of government loans to turn out next-generation, fuel-efficient cars. The loans were awarded as part of the government's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.
The next 12 months will be extremely interesting in terms of seeing how the Green auto supply chain shapes up with regards to batteries, charging infrastructure and other types of technologies. The battery manufacturers themselves have also been the beneficiary of some recent government funding, which means more and more companies will bring technologies to market which will in turn make the PR world a bit more noisy. There is already a feeding frenzy among state governments to attract green car and battery manufacturers to abandoned automotive plants.
With new fuel economy standards, the Daimler investment in Tesla and the ATVM program, the electric car market is slowly being resuscitated.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 23, 2009 at 2:33 PM
| TrackBack (0)