Energy high at SV Clean Energy Conference

Energy high at SV Clean Energy Conference

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

A capacity crowd packed Sun Microsystem’s historic Santa Clara campus auditorium last Friday.

 After introductions by hosts Susan Lucas Conwell of SDForum and Linda Holroyd of FountainBlue, a rousing challenge to the green tech crowd came from Mayor Chuck Reed : “We want YOU to make us energy independent and pull us out of this recession!” Tall order, no pressure guys.

The Green Mayor emphasized the trillion dollar opportunity in the energy market and anticipates clean tech will receive between $40-$60 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package, most of which will benefit Silicon Valley. He underlined Silicon Valley’s reputation as the best place in the world to start and grow a business; and urged entrepreneurs to call him if they need land or buildings. The guy is serious and announced his number several times: (408) 535-4800.

The first panel “Where’s the Green in Clean?”assembled a group of top VCs: Laurie Yoler of Growth Point Technologies, Nancy Pfund – DBL Investors, Kjerstin Barley – GE Capital, and Stephen Eichenlaub -Intel Capital. Nancy Pfund addressed the issue of the price premium for clean tech products. She says some consumers are willing to pay a premium for efficiency improvements, but for a global thriving business, we need to get to parity with existing energy sources. Looking at the total cost of ownership (TCO) is key. ie a Tesla Roadster may cost a fortune to buy, but a “fill up” only costs $4.

Consumer sentiment is strongly in support of clean tech, says Laurie Yoler and cited Palo Alto where consumers were offered “green” electricity for a 15% premium. So far, the sign up rate is 60%. Of course, Palo Alto is hardly representative of the rest of the world, but what starts in Silicon Valley seldom stays in Silicon Valley.

The credit crunch is impacting investment activity especially for capital intensive solar comanies. Startups with smaller capital demands will do better, says Yoler and points out there’s a vibrant market for companies focused on energy efficiency: especially virtualization software and clean tech construction companies looking for $10 million/ round.

Someone had the audacity to ask what we can learn from the Europeans who invested heavily in clean tech, especially solar, over a decade ago. I look forward to discussing this issue further with Nancy Pfund at a later date.

Steve Eichenlaub emphasized the importance of keeping the green buzz going and credits the Obama administration for talking about the environment, global warming, energy independence and green tech almost every day since he took office. What a difference a Bush-less fortnight makes!

Check back soon for more on the conference from the Green Czars from Sun, HP, SAP, Intel and IBM

How Tesla Motors has changed history

How Tesla Motors has changed history

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

In part two of my interview with Laurie Yoler of Growth Point Technologies we explore the historic role Tesla Motors has played in changing the way consumers and car manufacturers view alternative energy vehicles. Tesla founder, Elon Musk says he wants to make Tesla the Apple of electric cars, but for now, he’s had to downshift on his new model plans.

How did Tesla wake up large car makers to the fact that consumers were demanding more choices?

What was Laurie’s role in the early days of Tesla Motors? Why was she so passionate about the company’s mission?

Why did Tesla choose San Jose for its new manufacturing plant and headquarters?

What is Laurie’s motivation for backing clean technology? Does she want to save the planet or make a buck? Or both?

Listen to Part Two of this Fresh Dialogue

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Download Laurie Yoler’s Fresh Dialogue Part 2

Clean Tech investor, Laurie Yoler’s bailout aftermath predictions

Clean Tech investor, Laurie Yoler’s bailout aftermath predictions

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

I met with Growth Point Technology Partners Managing Director, Laurie Yoler just 12 days after the historic bailout of the US financial system was signed into law. She’s a seasoned investor in emerging technology, a specialist in clean tech and serves on the board of Tesla Motors, where she was an angel investor. Laurie gives a fascinating insight into the psyche of venture capitalists at this historic time and explains why she remains optimistic. We also explore these questions:

How long will it take before the market stabilizes?

How will the IPO, Merger & Aquisition and private placement markets be affected by the financial turmoil? What about those frothy valuations?

What clean tech trends have emerged this year?

What’s hot in clean tech and why is clean tech in Europe ahead of the US?

Listen to part I of this Fresh Dialogue

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Download Laurie Yoler’s Fresh Dialogue Part I

Check back soon for Part II when Laurie discusses her early involvement in Tesla Motors and the company’s role in clean tech history.

Women & Tech Summit: Girl Power

Women & Tech Summit: Girl Power

Just back from WITI‘S 14th annual Women and Tech Summit in Silicon Valley (Oct 12-15th) and the potent energy is still with me. There is something incredibly empowering and energizing about gathering hundreds of go-getting women in a conference hall. Wish you could bottle that energy.

WITI’S motto is “no woman stands alone” and just how apt this is,  given the current financial meltdown and shaky economic climate. We had senior executives announcing their personal emails from the podium, others inviting young entrepreneurs to get in touch after their talks, a real feeling of “let me help you get where you want to get sista.”

From the impressive keynotes of Cathleen Benko, Vice Chairman at Deloitte LLP and Sandy Carter, VP at IBM; the success strategies of Life Coach Kathleen Hill to the Clean Tech investment experts like Laurie Yoler and Marianne Wu, each one inspired and energized a packed auditorium.

I had the opportunity to interview several outstanding panel members for Fresh Dialogues, including LinkedIn’s April Kelly, GrowthPoint Technology Partner’s Laurie Yoler (who’s been involved with Tesla Motors from the early days) and Mary Vincent of Green Solutions. Check back soon to hear their take on the current financial crisis, how to leverage Web 2.0 to help your business, and one woman’s leap from Sun Microsystems to entrepreneurship and how global warming helped inspire that leap.