It should come as no surprise that sentiment is important in the investment world. Just ask any entrepreneur trying to raise money for their daily deals company or a hyperlocal news startup.
But perhaps no industry has been maligned as much as clean tech. The nadir seems to have come recently when 60 Minutes dove into the industry in their “The Cleantech Crash” feature. Vinod Khosla who featured prominently in the segment actually lashed back with a lengthy defense after his appearance.
And then Google made its largest private company acquisition ever of smart thermostat maker Nest last week. Clearly a clean tech company, right?
Yes – there have been some spectacular failed investments in the cleantech sector. But the reality is that the cleantech investment landscape has changed significantly in the past couple years, placing a greater emphasis on powerful software and sensor platforms and tools built for use in the home, car, smart grid and other sustainable use cases. Many of the new “cleantech” firms have coincided with the emergence of new industry trends like big data, home automation, transportation tech and the Internet of Things.
As a result, the new “clean tech” companies have been able to attract investors (both traditional tech VCs who were allergic to “traditional clean tech” and industrial giants like GE and Siemens). Others like Lyft have managed to escape the cleantech tag completely although their ride-sharing concept would have been clearly “clean tech” a few years ago when the sector was more en vogue.
So we took a look at a sampling of 20 venture-backed companies that probably should be deemed “clean tech” as they each provide products or services optimizing productivity and efficiency while helping to reduce the costs of energy consumption, and/or pollution.
In many ways, this cross-section of firms represents that VCs are still very much interested in investing in “cleantech”, just not in the manner we have come to think of it.
On-demand ride sharing app and service.
Select Investors: Mayfield Fund, Founders Fund, K9 Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz
Machine learning household energy consumption monitor and web platform.
Select Investors: Khosla Ventures
Sensor technology and app to help drivers find empty parking spaces in real-time
Select Investors: True Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures
Smart home sensors and app
Select Investors: First Round Capital, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, Highland Capital Partners
Hub allowing users to connect mobile devices to connected-home products – such as Nest thermostats and Philips Hue bulbs.
Select Investors: Foundry Group, American Family Insurance, SK Ventures
Shared commuter bus shuttles
Select Investors: Claremont Creek Ventures, 500 Startups, Volvo Group Venture Capital
Connected car service provider aggregating car diagnostics, driving behavior and travel coordination data.
Select Investors: October Capital, OpenAir Equity Partners, Castrol innoVentures
Online environmental risk database
Select Investors: Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures
Energy efficiency SaaS platform utilizing social game mechanics
Select Investors: Jove Equity Partners, Vision Ridge Partners, Green Tree Equity
SaaS platform for commercial building energy management using real time data and machine learning.
Select Investors: Siemens Venture Capital, Paladin Capital Group, Aster Capital
Home automation platform-as-a-service software
Select Investors: Valhalla Partners, Grotech Ventures
Electricity and natural gas eCommerce and data platform
Select Investors: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, NGEN Partners
Personal weather station and air quality sensor devices and mobile apps.
Select Investors: Iris Capital
Software tools for personalized temperature in the workplace.
Select Investors: Google Ventures, Formation 8, Red Swan Ventures, Claremont Creek Ventures
Web-based utility analytics platform for the building-performance industry.
Select Investors: Boston Community Capital
Software-as-a-service platform for farmers to plan, manage and analyze agricultural operations to maximize crop yield.
Select Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Drive Capital, Huron River Ventures
Web-based platform and tools for energy management and savings analysis, benchmarking and ongoing monitoring
Select Investors: Austin Ventures
Big data weather forecasting analysis provider aiming to improve planning, performance and profitability for renewable energy companies.
Select Investors: Horizons Ventures
Platform and service allowing vehicle owners to rent cars out at airports instead of paying for airport parking, fully insured.
Select Investors: Andreessen Horowitz, SoftBank Capital, General Catalyst Partners, First Round Capital
Online crowdfunding marketplace for users to finance and create solar projects in communities.
Select Investors: Spring Capital, Serious Change Fund