cleantech fundingThe global recession has caused setbacks for companies from a variety of industries, including the clean technology industry, which suffered many funding pitfalls as a result. In spite of this, they should not stop looking for funding.  Find out how to avoid these setbacks.

by Michele Ashby, CEO of MiNE LLC

As I travel the country meeting with investors and cleantech companies, I hear frustration from both sides. Companies – some of them very good ones – complain to me that they are dying on the vine, unable to get funding. Investors are frustrated too. With less money to play with than they had a few years ago, many are worried about investing in even the brightest cleantech stars, largely due to uncertainty in federal climate change legislation and how it will affect the energy industry.

While there isn’t as much money out there in 2010 as there was in 2007, it doesn’t mean your company can’t get funded. A good first step would be to avoid these pitfalls, which investors consistently tell me hold good companies back:

1. Letting the technology overpower the balance sheet

Of course, a breakthrough technology is top-of-the-list of priorities for many companies. But unfortunately, too many convince themselves they can neglect their balance sheet because their technology is so valuable.

A few years ago, a great idea was sometimes nearly enough to get investor attention. But the scarcity of today’s investor dollars means that your company needs to demonstrate more than this – a more mature business model that proves profitability, for instance. To do this, of course, requires more sophisticated resources in finance and marketing than many companies have, which brings us to the second pitfall:

2. Having engineers run the business

This is a sensitive issue. Many cleantech start-ups were founded by brilliant scientific or engineering minds that created breakthrough technologies. But pressure on today’s investor means that they want to see a CEO with business experience and a CFO with strong relevant experience – often with the SEC. They want to see not just a great technological idea, but also a company with revenues, and a team with the business acumen to make it profitable.

3. Isolation leading to obsolescence

Today’s fast-changing environment means you’ll need to be flexible. You may have to cede some control and join forces with another firm to survive. You need to be obsessed with learning the needs – both present and future – of the marketplace, so you can position yourself to meet them. Go to industry conferences. Read everything you can. Make connections even if they won’t pay off today, because they may down the road. Keep yourself from being isolated in this rapidly shifting marketplace.

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© 2010, Michele Ashby. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Michele Ashby (4 Articles)

Michele Ashby, CEO of MiNE LLC, started her career as a mining analyst and stock broker in 1983. She graduated from Regis University in Denver, Colorado with a magna cum laude degree in Finance. From 1988 to 2005 Michele was CEO and founder of the Denver Gold Group, a trade association for the gold mining industry. In 2005, Ms. Ashby left Denver Gold Group and started her own company, MiNE LLC, which organizes investor meetings for the natural resources, mining, and modern energy. Michele Ashby is a member of the Board of Directors of US Gold, American Stock Exchange listed (UXG).

  • @IBScipio

    Hi Michelle,
    Nice article, thank you for taking the time. The article does however, beg a very important question. If I had been able to go to the considerable expense of of having 3rd party testing of our algaculture system completed, that would have removed virtually all risk from our venture and would probably invert the funding dynamic we are now working within. In our case, the 3rd party testing of a scaled prototype of a given systen hadn’t been created yet. But, the the time our prototype was completed, this 3rd party idea had already been very widely adopted. We’ve been unable to obtain funding for this testing for 14 months. What can we do? I have 8 years and every dime in this I’ve earned in the past 10 years in this as well. What do we do?

    Thanks for your time and efforts, they count!