CleanTech Meetup Returns to in Person

CleanTech Meetup Returns to in Person

After 757 days with 100 virtual events CleanStart returned to in person networking with the CleanTech Meetup at the Hacker Lab on March 24th. It was exciting to see new faces and old ones.  We were joined by Kriztina Palone, Workforce Development Manager at City of Sacramento’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, who helped in bringing together an exciting new tool in our efforts to connect the community to the Clean Tech Transition, the Cleantech Connect trailer.  

CleanTech Connect Trailer

CleanStarts out reach trailer, Cleantech Connect

 

 

 

We started this trailer back in 2020 before, well, everything. Now, with help from the CMC, BlueTech Valley, and the City of Sacramento, we have a trailer to help connect the larger community to the energy transition and inspire new entrepreneurs building the region as a clean tech hub. The trailer is a mobile event station, with Solar, Batteries, PAs, and TVs to help educate people on clean tech and entrepreneurship. Attendees loved the trailer we describe as our own little Nano Grid.

After networking, Kriztina Palone joined CleanStart’s Executive Director Thomas Hall for a bar stool discussion about how the city is leveraging funds and community groups to prepare Sacramentens for future careers. Palone is leading a second round of “Clean + Green Workforce Pathways Discussions” with industry leaders, local companies, and stakeholders to get input on what priorities the city should support. Palone shared how they are bringing together businesses and communities in a shared goal in taking advantage of the energy transition to create jobs and support equitable economic development. It is not just a policy goal for Palone but a personal one, wanting to see the region she grew up in thrive and grow.

A big opportunity discussed was bringing groups together to create a community energy project. Palone highlighted being from Del Paso she would love to see local communities benefit and grow. A community Energy Project could coordinate resources to get larger community and economic returns.  We encourage companies to engage with Palone and the City so we can build these projects. 

If you want to hear more check out the video below, and make sure you subscribe to attend future meetups.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, Moss Adams GreenbergTraurig

BlueTech Valley, PowerSoft.biz, Revrnt, Synbyo, Califronia Mobility Center

More Companies Turning to Crowdfunding

More Companies Turning to Crowdfunding

Last year we highlighted Wind Harvest Energy launching an equity crowdfunding campaign. They were successful. This year we have another regional company launching Area 13 eBikes, from the Bolton E Bikes team. Now we are getting more inquiries about this option. We are seeing more growth in the amounts raised year on year. I want to highlight some of the benefits of equity crowdfunding and what has changed.

The biggest change in Equity Crowdfunding is how the rest of the investment community and law firms see it. When we first asked people about it, we were warned it was complicated and would reduce future opportunities. This turned out to be true, but like all new innovations, people got better at it. SEC rules have gotten better, and the limit has been raised on the amount of money that can be gathered through crowdfunding. The downside of having a thousand small investors as a barrier to later stage investments has been mitigated by legal structures putting all the small investors into one vehicle which owns the shares in the funded company. The idea is to deal with the small investors as a group rather than individually. This makes later stage investors more understanding. 

Equity crowdfunding has enabled companies to break into public capital sources typically only available to those with the right networks. Historically, 80% of VC money was invested in just 5 metro areas. Compare this with numbers from Startup Engine, 42% went to the same 5 metros.There still are things you need to consider when choosing how to raise funds, but more and more early-stage companies are fundraising through crowd equity to reduce the geographic disadvantages of traditional fundraising. 

What can Equity Crowdfunding bring you?

With crowdfunding you can approach a wider audience who may better connect with your solution because they are the end user. Like Bolton E Bikes with thousands of YouTube followers and a large following online they can leverage that belief in their product into investment. Equity crowdfunding gives companies control to use exposure, create brand ambassadors, and build sales channels in parallel with continual fundraising.

How tough is it? 

For a technical founder, this fundraising involves more social media and marketing. That probably isn’t any closer to their skill set than public speaking and pitching for investment. Companies need to have a good plan and team to execute If your equity crowdfunding campaign is successful, you still have investors to be held accountable to and you need a team (Including quality legal and accounting support) to guide you. If a company cannot build a balanced team they are still going to struggle. 

Traditional fundraising through partnerships and VC brings new networks, validation, potential for additional funding and experience. They become a valuable part of your team. If you are struggling, they may be more understanding and willing to provide additional resources and capital. 

What makes a company successful?

I don’t know. Honestly, I would never have expected companies with B2B solutions, who will never make a consumer product, to have success with Crowdfunding. It might be more about companies taking advantage of market conditions. Crowdfunding is still pretty new, and in that time the market has been hot and, until this year, hasn’t faced a sustained downturn. Crowdfunding will never be a panacea, but it appears to be a viable option if a company can bring together the right team.

One important thing to remember is there are many legal and accounting parts of fundraising, so don’t go it alone. CleanStart is supported by GreenbergTraurig Law, Weintraub Tobin Law, and Moss Adams Accounting. Reach out to them for help. Also, connect with us. We have developed a network of people we can connect you to. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, Moss Adams GreenbergTraurig

BlueTech Valley, PowerSoft.biz, Revrnt, Synbyo, Califronia Mobility Center

The Clean Tech Open Can Open Doors For You

The Clean Tech Open Can Open Doors For You

Ken Hayes, Executive Director for the Clean Tech Open nationwide, and Ryan Hoover, Operations Director for CTO West, joined us March 22 for a discussion on the opportunity the CTO provides early-stage entrepreneurs.  Applications for this year’s cohort are due by April 17, so move quickly if you want to take advantage of it.  You can find the application here.

The Clean Tech Open was founded in the same year as CleanStart (2005), originally as a business plan competition in California and Massachusetts.  It has grown into much more now.  It now provides mentoring, training (through a 12-week academy), exposure to sources of capital, and a platform to showcase new companies.  It sees its mission now to help all participants to succeed, to become viable, thriving businesses, and not just to win a prize.  

To participate in the CTO, applicants need to survive a screening process where the team, the technology, and the potential market are examined by volunteer experts.  About 120 teams nationwide are selected each year to go through the process in six regions.  CleanStart provides teams coaching and classes to improve their chances of being selected.  Eight teams from our region have been accepted previously and gone on to greater success.  

The CTO program has become more structured since its inception and its offerings refined to deliver substantial value to those who participate.  One of the most important focal points is to help participants create eight important business deliverables:

  1. Business Model Canvas / Strategy
  2. Impact Statement (including Sustainability)
  3. Customer Segmentation
  4. Competitive Landscape
  5. Financial Model
  6. Executive Summary One-Pager
  7. Intro Video (1-2 min)
  8. Pitch Deck

Possibly even more important than the formal training, the coaching and the feedback teams receive is the opportunity to get connected to a global network of more than 1,000 industry experts, customers, alumni, channel partners, labs, and investors.  This is such a time-saver for entrepreneurs.  Its importance can’t be overstated.  

Selection of the participants for this year will be announced May 6.  The 12-week training is conducted over the summer in June through August.  The big roll-out Showcase for teams is the Global Forum held in mid-October.  There is a $75 fee to make an application and selected teams must pay a $1350 fee per company to proceed ($975 for student-led teams).  Most of the program will be delivered online, so there is no need to do much travel or to relocate.  

We would encourage you to give this opportunity a good look if you are an early-stage team.  And do it soon.  The application is pretty simple. 

Check out Ken Hayes’s talk from the recent CleanStart Perspective

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

California Mobility Center Puts on a Show

California Mobility Center Puts on a Show

On March 17, the CMC celebrated its first year with an impressive showcase of about 20 mobility and cleantech companies to which it is connected.  The hit of the show was the unveiling of the big 4WD work truck built by Zeus Electric Chassis, Inc., for SMUD, the first of five it will deliver.  This was a 10,000-pound staked-bed truck with front and back axles powered by separate electric motors and 2,000 pounds of batteries.  It is part of Zeus’ effort to create a family of configurable designs for Class 4-6 work trucks.  In the design, there is no connection between the front and back axles, so the trucks can be stretched or squeezed as much as needed.  It is built on a ladder frame that can be fit to purpose and is very utilitarian.  

Also at the show were displays of remote-controlled electric tractors for vegetable farms, Neptune e- scooters, Arcimotor 3-wheeled, 2-passenger freeway-ready EVs with a $17,900 price tag, Terzo Power’s latest hydraulic innovations, GridMatrix with its software for optimizing use of roadways, engineering company PEM Motion (one of the CMC founders), a Rivian truck (first one I actually have seen) and a selection of well-known EVs to ogle.  

We chatted with Mike Terzo about the progress of his company, and it is a great story.  They are well into contract manufacturing their efficient hydraulic devices for customers in the trucking industry—a bit of a surprise since they though ag harvesting machines would be the first customers.  But with shipments of over a thousand of his products he has clearly found his market.  

We were there with our new expo trailer—one you can also see up close at our MeetUp on March 24 .  This is intended to be used at events to stimulate interest in taking cleantech ideas to market and learning how to do that, but can be used for a number of purposes.  It is a “display booth in a box”.

You can also learn more about what PEM Motion is doing in Sacramento at our Perspectives event with them at 9 am also on March 24 .

The CMC is emerging as a good connection point for many things—workforce development, new vehicle prototyping, vehicle testing, and company development—all centered on mobility.  It is a great addition to the cleantech ecosystem growing in our region.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

Growth Factory Filling Gaps in Regional Ecosystem

Growth Factory Filling Gaps in Regional Ecosystem

Based on the idea that the Sacramento region is “primed for success” in launching new businesses, but that entrepreneurs needed help in getting started, Mark Haney and Monique Brown founded a new business accelerator based in Rocklin—the Growth Factory.  On March 10, Monique told a big crowd online at our Perspectives event what she is doing and how that might help cleantech entrepreneurs.

There were two parts to her story.  First the Growth Factory puts on a serious 12-month long training and coaching program intended to take pre-seed companies from “Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to fundable traction” in a structured program.  Their first cohort in October 2021 included 15 companies that first got 4 months of coaching and then began 16 weeks of classes.  These 15 got over $500,000 in investment to propel them forward.  Seventy-five companies applied, validating the notion that there are plenty of entrepreneurs here with good ideas that can become viable businesses with a little help.  Applications for the next cohort are open now, with space available for 8-10 companies.  The deadline to apply is April 15.  The focus is on high-growth, tech-related, scalable companies and cleantech companies are welcomed.  If you aren’t ready for this cycle, applications for Cohort 3 will open in September.  If you are not accepted, apply again in a future round.  Monique says there will be two application periods each year.  

The second part of her story, and a big one, is the creation of a venture fund alongside the training program to invest in the most promising companies that complete the accelerator program.  Growth Factory Ventures has raised $10 million from 99 accredited investors as limited partners.  This is a huge step in the region because it is the kind of money that is hardest for entrepreneurs to get and it has come from a pool of small investors that had not previously been tapped.  The idea is to use the fund to put $25-50K each into accelerator companies, giving them that crucial first funding that can get them to having a viable product and a solid business plan.  Monique and her partner Rick Spencer in this venture fund have been careful to set realistic expectations for investors.  They have been saying that this will be a long journey for these fledgling companies and it could be 7-10 years before returns are realized.  Even with this note of caution, investor enthusiasm has been good.  Founders of existing small companies have stepped up to participate and fund investors have been willing to make direct investments outside of the fund to companies in which they have a particular interest.

These initiatives go a long way to filling some gaps in our local startup ecosystem, creating the most intense training and coaching programs to date and coupling that program to a source of early-stage investment that brings in money from an untapped source.  Previously, these kinds of opportunities were only available outside the region and resulted in young companies moving away to take advantage of them.  Thanks to the Growth Factory, the region can more easily retain these rising stars and create a “virtual circle” that can stimulate the success of even more.

You can learn more about the Growth Factory and access an application to join the next cohort here.  Monique’s complete talk is available on below.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center


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