Searching for Borders in the Cleanweb

It seems that everyone is talking about Cleanweb these days. Nest, which manufactures thermostats and smoke detectors but is at its core a bet on Cleanweb “Internet-of-Things” connectivity, was acquired by Google for $3.2B this month, and investors are likely all the more keen on Cleanweb models that could catch the eye of large tech giants. In 2013 alone, hundreds of Cleanweb companies including Uber and LiquidSpace raised millions of dollars.

Amidst all the excitement surrounding Cleanweb, one question remains – What exactly defines Cleanweb?

Cleantech Group recently had an internal discussion on how we define “Cleanweb”. In the report, Sparking the Cleanweb, led by Cleantech Group and Pure Energy Partners, the term Cleanweb is loosely defined as “web or IT-based solutions that optimize resource use and accelerate the clean economy”. The paper identifies four main Cleanweb segments: Catalyzing Cleantech, Resource Cloud, Big Data, and New Frontiers.

Catalyzing Cleantech includes companies like Mosaic and Clean Power Finance which create and facilitate distribution channels for clean technologies and solutions. Resource Cloud includes companies such as Sidecar that offer a shared pool of resources to the user. Many Energy Efficiency companies including Opower and Honest Buildings are leading Big Data as they collect and analyze a massive amount of data to optimize the use of resources. Finally, New Frontiers could include incentive-based recycling or something drastically new and different. This is where we struggle to draw a clear line, however.

Twice, an operator of an online platform enabling the resale and purchase of second-hand women’s clothing, recently raised $18.5M from Andressen Horowitz, IA Ventures, Lerer Ventures, Felicis Ventures, and Western Technology Investment. Other companies, like Chegg and, similarly enable the resale of used text books. Would we consider them “Cleantech”? The discussion could be a heated one. However, regardless of the “Cleantech” label, their business models lead to improved resource efficiency by reducing waste and increasing the utilization of otherwise idle physical assets. In that sense, they are accelerating the clean economy and creating a more sustainable society. As we see more market traction in the Cleanweb, we will continue to track and define the ever-evolving Cleantech market.