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State of the Clean Green Industry

February 3, 2009

Today I joined some 350 people for the SD Forum’s State of the Clean Green Industry at the Sun Microsystems campus in Santa Clara. The website promoting the event described it as a gathering of “policy-makers, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors, updating the larger Silicon Valley community on the opportunities and challenges in the clean green space.” The event delivered largely as promised. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed kicked off the day demonstrating his knowledge of the industry and the efforts the City is doihng to support business. He talked for nearly 30 minutes and was quite convincing. The first of the panels included four VCs from GE Capital, Intel Capital, GrowthPoint Technology Partners and CalCEF who discussed issues around IPOs and merger & acquisitions for cleantech companies. M&As dominated last year especially in solar. Also last year $8.4B of VC funding went to cleantech companies, representing 15 percent (?) of total VC funding, a percentage they feel could top 33% in the coming years. They discussed what they feel are the most attractive cleantech sectors to get funded. 

The second panel featured green czars from big tech companies including Sun, SAP, Intel, IBM and HP who discussed their green efforts, best practices and lesson learned. They also discussed how they got employees engaged in the effort.  Intel tied a bonus directly to green efforts across the company. The final panel featured four entrepreneurs who have early stage cleantech companies. They described their situation and opinions on the current funding climate and regulations. Some strong opinions here as they struggle to get cash and grow their businesses.

The day included ample discussion of the appropriate role of government policy to promote cleantech, the Obama administration’s support of the the industry and the potetienal of the stimulus bailout money. Overall the tone was upbeat with an eye on the long term.

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