What organization has raised 280 million dollars in the last five years for clean technology companies? A few hints: It’s an organization with nary three paid full-time staff members. The group currently runs five regular business competitions covering 22 states in the U.S. Oh, yes in another month they plan to award $200,000 to a national prize winner.
Give up? Cleantech Open is a five-year old organization that “finds, funds, and fosters entrepreneurs with big ideas,” according to Executive Director, Rex Northen who spoke at the October 8 California Regional Cleantech Open hosted by Chevron in San Ramon, California. At the end of the day, six new companies each walked away with awards of $18,000.
Many fledging companies have been assigned mentors and are given business plan assistance. Cleantech wants to help commercialize clean technologies. Corporate sponsors also are part of the backbone with expertise and support from companies such as Autodesk, Chevron, Kauffman Foundation, Google, PG&E, Reed Smith. San Diego Gas and Electric, and Wells Fargo, and others.
Andrew Hargadon, Professor and Soderquist Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Davis gave the keynote. Hargadon focused on assembling a network around an idea. Citing Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, neither of whom actually invented anything, Soderquist advised to “Find the path to deliver to as many people as you can as fast as you can. And if it takes several centuries that’s not scale—it’s change.”
In the judging panels and during the “innovation exchange,” many venture capital firms were on hand, Both Nancy Floyd, Nth Power, and Nancy Pfund, DBL Investors, acknowledged that environmental companies are at the “tipping point.” Don Riley of Chevron Technology Ventures extended an open invitation for entrepreneurs “to contact me.”
I served as a scribe on the Energy Efficiency Judging Panel and heard about a slew of technologies, everything from a specialized pump and software algorithm to collect the natural gas spill-off from oil rigs, a new resin insulation for the high-speed transmission of electricity, and a social networking utility to allow people to track their carbon footprint.
Congratulations to the six regional California winners and semifinalists. Here’s how they stacked up:
The six finalists participate in the national judging on November 15th and 16th. National awards are held on November 17th at the 2010 National Awards and Expo, at Parkside Hall A, 271 South Market Street, San Jose.