I have been away for a while, launching a new start-up company, and this time off the prompter gave me a new perspective: Cleantech is dead; long live cleantech! Sustainability is very much present every day of our lives despite of the lack of venture capital. Solar is mainstream, organic food is available in every super market. There is not a Fortune 500 that does not have a plan to implement green values in its operational excellence
I talked to one of the top food brands in the world, Roll Global. Cleantech innovation boils down to waste management for them. No big deal. It is just common sense. Does it make business sense? A number of cleantech companies are maturing, and OPower made a strong IPO recently without a big technology breakthrough. Most VC's have left the field though, including Matthew Nordan at Venrock. In many ways, I feel that cleantech is victim of its own success. Here are my top 5 reasons.
- Solar is cheaper than coal. Many investors lost a lot of money but we achived what needed to be done, and it was not obvious ten years ago. Solar installation is as predictable as a real estate investment. When we talk about hwo cheap and wide spread magnetic storage and electronic computing is, we don't talk about failure. It is an incredible success. Yet, most of the companies who helped push those technologies in the 70's and 80's are dead now except a few like Seagate and Intel.
- Nobody argues about electric cars anymore. People drive them, or can't wait to buy a new car to get one. People don't need to brag about them. Parking at work with a Tesla is a clear social statement, a way of living as buying an Apple computer used to be. EV charging stations are becoming common place. This create new challenges though, such as ramping up battery productionthat uses rare earth materials. A lot of innovation is still needed.
- Green does not sell. Everybody is "green" in a way, and it is not a differentiator. Proximity rhymes now with sustainability. Farm to table, car sharing, you name it. We are connecting in different ways and we know our actions have an impact. Maybe green should not have ever been a business per say. But making it a business helped transform an alternative political agenda in the 1970's into the mainstream in the last ten years.WholeFoods is going to have to something different to stay apart.
- Even Ag is sexy this year. Who would have thought even a year ago? Several exciting companies have entered the field, and Ag is the number one market for drones. AgTech is one of the most interesting trends in Silicon Valley this year. Come and join us at Silicon Valey AgTech show on May 12. It won't attract the crowd of Internet like events, but it will change the world for the better.
- We don't have a choice. We will be 9 billion people by 2050 with fewer resources, especially water. And we don't fully comprehend the impact of global warning. Being succesful means keeping our lifestyle for most parts with greener solutions. The alternative is unthinkable. It is so much more interesting to write about failures and dramatic events. Even 60 Minutes fell for it in January despite their higher journalistic standards.
The White House released a new report on Climate Change today. The impact can already be felt and the first detailed report from the scientific community since 2009 breaks it down by region so communities can prepare.