By Alison van Diggelen, host of FreshDialogues
If we need any more evidence that clean tech is hot in Silicon Valley, this is it. Last Wednesday, I attended a lecture on Clean Tech Entrepreneurship by Andres Wydler at Stanford University. Originally planned for 20 to 30 students, the class was heavily oversubscribed and extended to 80 students. As of this writing, there are still 30 on the waiting list.
The class was packed with energetic people and ideas: a woman from National Geographic, just back from the Antarctic who’d witnessed the scale of the ice melting; a “green” executive from WallMart; entrepreneurs working in the solar, wind, and batteries sectors, and at least one VC. According to Andres’s questionnaire, two key factors are motivating attendees: making a living and making a difference. Several attendees are “between jobs” so the down economy is providing opportunities for some efficient reallocation of capital and labor.
Andres, founder of smartgrid company, BPL Global, wants to equip cleantech entrepreneurs with the tools they need to leverage their skills and ideas; and is bullish about Silicon Valley’s role in the world of clean tech. Admitting that the U.S. currently lags the rest of the world, he anticipates that we will be in the forefront of clean tech in certain sectors within the next 3-5 years.
“When Silicon Valley puts its mind to something, it’s a fantastic environment to pursue a cause,” he says.
His reasons for optimism:
President Obama’s “New Energy for America” plan
End markets are real and huge
The regulatory enviroment is moving in the right direction
Encumbant energy companies are motivated to change
FDR’s motivation: “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” (heard again by President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel most recently )
VC funding for clean tech is at record levels. Although 2008 Q4 showed a marked reduction in VC funding, Andres points out that it’s still attractive and alternative clean tech funding sources are available
Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded” (described as inspirational)
“Perfect Power”by Robert Galvin and Kurt Yaeger
Coming Soon: After his last class in February, I will interview Andres at length to find out what hot clean tech entrepreneurs he discovered, and get an overview of his conclusions and predictions for clean tech in Silicon Valley.