Reigniting Cleantech: Top 5 Reasons for a Post Bubble Party

(if you don’t make it to the end of this article and just want to know where the party is, it’s March 18th-20th in San Francisco, you can register here)

It is quite fashionable these days, especially amongst those in and around Silicon Valley, to talk about the demise of cleantech.  This discussion has always seemed silly to me.

There are only two groups fascinated by this dialogue: (a) US investors who were burned in deals that they likely should not have touched in the first place and (b) industry pundits & consultants with too much time on their hands.  Both of these groups are frustrated and vocal, so they create substantial noise, but far less signal.

As Khosla Venture’s Andrew Chung recently said, in a thoughtful piece by Katie Fehrenbacher covering the “cleantech is dead” meme, “venture is a highly cyclical business”.  You could say that again.  Andrew continued, “we expect sustainability investments to experience a renaissance as today’s breakthrough companies successfully commercialize and have massive impact on society’s infrastructure.”

Call it sustainability investments, energy tech, resource tech, cleantech, or greentech.  Call it whatever else you want to call it, just don’t call it dead.  When you do, you look like an amateur regurgitating the cliché headlines. It’s not becoming.  You may decide that there are better venture returns in other innovation sectors – nothing wrong with that.  But leave the door open as you depart as I am sure that you’ll return when the crowd stampedes this way again.

In the meantime, those of us who continue to know that there are great opportunities to make money in modernizing the world’s energy, water, waste, transportation, and agricultural sectors (seems like a no brainer eh?) are throwing a big party on March 18th-20th.  It is a party otherwise known as our annual Cleantech Forum San Francisco.  This year, we’ll consider it a send-off to what Po Bronson called “the Boom Wranglers” (those Silicon Valley execs and investors who merely chase one bubble to another).

Here are the top 5 reasons that I think a full-fledged cleantech party is in order:

  1. Conventional & Cleantech Are Getting Cozy:  Environmental innovation in the energy business is no longer limited to just renewables.  Conventional oil, gas, and extractive companies are sourcing some of the world’s most cutting edge water & wastewater treatment technologies, implementing advanced production monitoring and logistics systems, and automating fleets and machinery – all of which will contribute to reducing the impact of conventional processes.  Executives from BP, Cenovus, Aramco, Shell, and others will be joining our innovation party this year.
  2. Cleantech is Going Social: We’ve partnered with Facebook to launch a $25K contest for applications leveraging the Social Network to drive energy efficiency, increase resource sharing, and reduce waste.  The winner will be announced at the Cleantech Forum by Facebook’s Sustainability Guru Bill Weihl.  What better way to make cleantech social then to throw a post-bubble bash.
  3. The World is Flying In: Sand Hill Road may think it is the center of the universe, but in the cleantech world, it’s just another zip code.  We will have representation from Italy, Korea, Hong Kong, Israel, Ecuador, France, Canada, and elsewhere.  Don’t be stuck in traffic driving down the 101 when you could be in the city taking a world tour through the the halls of the Hyatt.
  4. More Fortune 500 Representation Than Ever:  If cleantech is dead, someone forget to tell the world’s most important corporate players.  GE, Ford, Google, Dow, HP, EMC, and WalMart headline a long list of companies that will be toasting with us in search of cleantech’s year ahead.
  5. We are a community and we should celebrate: If you have yet to run for the exit from this industry in search of the next next thing (what are those boom wranglers doing now anyhow?) you should be at the Forum.  You really will make friends and share genuine stories while celebrating that we as an industry might get some challenging press in the Valley, but we are tackling some of the world’s most important problems.  We will be in this together for awhile, so it’s time we celebrate our community.

I look forward to seeing you all there!