CEO's Share Lessons Learned from Their Green Companies

I am writing from the Cleantech CEO panel at the SJF Summit on the New Green Economy.  Bruce Usher opened the panel, with a message that good intentions do not replace good economics.  In today's climate, this could not ring truer.

Ron Seftick spoke about how his company, Trulite spoke about something that is on every entrepreneur's mind; How to get funding in this economic climate.  Trulite is an innovative clean tech product company which sells indoor/outdoor portable fuel cells.  In order to raise funds, Trulite created their own fund.  They had first talked to a number of VC's, and with the baggage of the fuel cell industry, they ultimately decided they had to start their own fund.

Aaron Zahn spoke about water treatment and its relationship to energy.  It is estimated that approximately 1 trillion USD would be required to repair the entire American water treatment systems.  Water treatment is incredibly energy intensive:  30% of water treatment O&M costs are energy costs.  Interestingly, venture backed water companies represent less than 20% of deals, and the reason is a lack of innovative ideas. Zahn stressed that we are in a de-leveraging economy that is competing with lower wages abroad.  With this in mind, we should focus on high value add production.  There has been a lot of talk about increasing mobility through railroad projects; however, Zahn believes that the era of consumption for America is over and that increasing mobility will not work for America as it did in the 1930's.  Instead, Zahn suggests that we make fuel efficiency our solution for the 20th century.  I've heard talks from Amory Lovins of RMI, Exxon-Mobil execs, and now Aaron Zahn all mention that fuel efficiency is where we should focus our time.  I couldn't agree more.  Since fuel efficiency makes so much economic sense, it is a great place to start for anyone with good intentions. -- Joel Thomas