Cleantech startups: early exit strategies and beyond

What does cleantech look like from a strictly ‘risks and returns’ perspective? What new investment approaches will make the most promising government funded emerging technologies a realistic prospect for scalability and growth?

A panel of cleantech investment specialists including David H. Wells of Kleiner Perkins recently tackled some tough questions about markets, costs, opportunities and uncertainties at length in front of a live and well-informed audience in New York

The event was called:

Cleantech: Scaling to Growth

It was held on Tuesday, January the 25th, 2011

It was run by the MIT Enterprise Forum of New York City, hosted by the New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business

Here are the questions that Mary Howard asks the other panellists at the start:

(1) where are the early exits in cleantech?

(2) what are the targeted technologies?

(3) what are the business models?

(4) who are the customers?

(5) what do the exit vehicles look like?

(6) what kind of timing?

(7) what kind of deal sizes?

The panellists were:

Mary Howard, Principal, Design Technologies, Board Member MIT Enterprise Forum, NYC

Mary Howard is a start up mechanic. Her specialty is early stage organizations. She has participated in the launch of 15 organizations following graduation from Harvard and consulting at Bain and Co.

The high tech start up businesses she participated in founding include 3 Kodak imaging businesses: Atex Magazine Publishing Systems, Atex Legal Publishing Systems and Eikonix Textile Systems; the vc backed CAD/CAM system business Athena Design Systems, where she received two patents for CAD and imaging and ran design service bureaus in Boston and New York; AlleyEvents, a NY based privately held web publishing and event promotion business.

David Yeh, Venture Capitalist, Private Investor

David Yeh is a private cleantech investor who has been investing in the sector for the last 10 years in the EU, China, and USA. Most recently, he was the first hire for Generation IM`s private equity effort where he helped launch the $683mm Climate Solutions fund. David has also help create a $200mm a year energy efficiency (CHUEE) program for IFC and Ministry of Finance in China.

Michael Adams, Vice President-Corporate Strategy and Development, Constellation Energy

Mike leads Constellation`s assessment of new energy technology and innovation across the company`s business units. In his current capacity, Mike is responsible for seeking energy technology investments for Constellation which represent long-term industry growth opportunities and complement current business lines.

Zach Schulman, Managing Partner, Cayuga Venture Fund

Zachary Shulman has been since 2004 a Managing Partner at Cayuga Venture Fund, a venture capital fund based in Ithaca, NY. He currently serves on the boards of Primet Precision Materials, Advion BioSciences, e2e Materials, Instinctiv and CherryPharm.

Zach has also been since 2002 a Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at The Johnson School at Cornell University where he teaches courses on startups and venture capital financing. Zach also heads up programmatic activities at the newly created Entrepreneursship and Innovation Institute at the The Johnson School.

From January 1999 through March 2002, Shulman served as General Counsel and Chief Investor Relations Officer of Spike Broadband Systems. While at Spike, Shulman negotiated and closed over $80 million in venture capital financing.

David H Wells, Greentech Investing Team, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers since May 2006.

Responsibilities include knowledge mapping and opportunity sourcing across the entire landscape of Green technologies. Building relationships with scientists and entrepreneurs throughout the US and Europe, David has helped bring many ventures through the KP investment process including due diligence, investment structuring, goal setting, and team building.

Beginning with a collaboration with KP partner Bill Joy in 2004, David has built a detailed and diverse base of Greentech knowledge across multiple energy technologies and scientific disciplines, together with a matching knowledge base of resources, markets and incumbents.

Larry Thomas, President & CEO, Primet Precision Materials, Inc.

Larry has 25 years of experience in the specialty chemical industry. He has held commercial and general management roles for global businesses at Air Products & Chemicals and Dow Chemical. He has been responsible for commercialization of new technologies in areas as diverse as engineering plastics, polymer emulsions, nanotechnology, organic electronics, and lithium ion batteries.