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


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

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College of Engineering & Computer Science at Sacramento State