So take that, Gordon Gekko--er, Ivan Boesky. I poked around the Cleantech Forum a bit this week. Lots of gray and navy blue suits there, with few of the jeans-and-polos found at dot-com dealmaking events, but it was relatively laid back nevertheless when you consider all the money-matchmaking involved. The $3.6 billion poured into the emerging clean tech sector in 2006 is twice the 2004 amount for North America and Europe. There are billions and billions of dollars just waiting to anoint the next clean, green, money-making machine. Startup CEOs and scientists were snapping wishbones, crossing fingers, trading cards.
Want to gobble up clean stocks? Be on the lookout for the IPO of some yet-unpopular, cleantech cousin of Google! But which company will it be? One that can print thin-film solar panels? A large-scale maker of biofuel blends? A startup that's making LED bulbs cheaper?
I wandered around some booths and learned about Group IV Semiconductor, backed by $10 million and working to make silicon-based,
energy-efficient LED lightbulbs that might sell for a mere $3 a pop by
2010. Cheaper, white LED bulbs could be the holy grail of bright, low-energy lighting. SpringStar is working to get rid of things that bug you without pesticides with gizmos that mimic insects' mating calls and perfumes. However, there's no bedbug treatment yet because mimicking their stinky pheromones would make your boudoir smell pretty skanky. Engineers at Lawrence Berkeley Labs are building air quality sensors that they hope they can shrink to fit in or on cell phones. Here's more show-and-tell.
In the adjoining rooms, each panel seemed to be running nearly an hour late. At a talk about corporate market drivers, Ali Iz of G.E. said his company has been snapping up great money-making green businesses, but it needs to figure out how to support innovation that's not yet profitable without spending hundreds of millions of dollars.
PG&E, the villain of Erin Brokovich, has greened nearly every bus station in San Francisco with ads for its eco-friendly efforts in recent months. During the Cleantech Forum, PG&E let loose that it's donating a year of office space to hot startups Adura Technologies (makes wireless lighting sensors)
and GreenVolts (working on cheaper, more concentrated solar panels). I planned to make it to the mayor's announcement about launching a cleantech S.F. business campus near the former PG&E plant, but I was interrupted by friends who were wine tasting a block away. Cabbing it home two champagne flutes later, there was no hybrid to flag down. But that could change soon too.
What's next? If you're dying to get rich off of companies built to keep the planet from dying, then scroll down and look in the left column for my updated "Green Money" links of lots of cleantech-related blogs. The tickers at Sustainable Business can be useful too.