The cleantech growth journey: CEO Retreat

New realities, new opportunities

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Close to 40 participating cleantech executives traded opinions and advice on the challenges of raising capital, the potential of partnering, the ins and outs of preparing for a major transaction, finding and succeeding in new markets, and selling to the government.

These are the highlights from those discussions.

Raising capital

Where venture capitalists (VCs) were once a cleantech company’s first stop, innovators must now look to less familiar sources. Corporations are emerging as an important financing source. A successful strategic partnership can help a cleantech company accelerate commercial development. In addition to providing funding, a good strategic partner can stress-test new technologies, iron-out manufacturing processes, and open the door to ready-made distribution and sales channels.

Potential of partnering

Partnerships and alliances are emerging to fill the vacuum left by the contraction of conventional funding sources. A well-chosen pairing can deliver broad strategic benefits. These include rapid access to global distribution and sales networks, capital for expansion, technical validation and an immediate boost to legitimacy. For both sides of the arrangement, a partnership can work as a prelude to an acquisition.

Preparing for a major transaction

Regardless of the transaction type, fundamental business processes must be in order. Young companies can get a head start on transactions by documenting business practices and key performance indicators, as well as by appointing board members as frontline scouts for opportunities. These steps can simplify the process of executing — and maximizing returns — once a deal emerges.

Finding and succeeding in new markets

Emerging markets are promising sources of innovation, where products and processes can be adapted at lower costs. A company’s first goal is typically to optimize offerings for local needs, but often the cost-lowering improvements developed overseas can be exported back home.

Selling to the government

While governments’ capacities for directly subsidizing cleantech are diminishing in the US and Europe, their demand for cleantech goods and services remains resilient. To turn these requirements into sales, cleantech companies must become proficient in the language and process of government procurement.

Because government purchasing usually involves many more decision-makers than in the private sector, business development executives must take the time to understand which officials oversee requests, which handle bidding, and who issues payments.