I attended the TCN CleanTech Capital Program on Tuesday, May 5th. Several brief observations:
- There are amazing resources for entrepreneurs. TCN has several relevant events in addition to this one. One of the panelists, Dr. Linda Plano, is a member of the Mass Technology Transfer Center. She sponsors a CleanTech specific conference, among other relevant activities.
- You want to be on the demand side of the business unless you can figure out how to get a multibillion dollar credit line. All the panelists agreed that 'demand side' refers to energy conservation, demand response, and energy monitoring - both low capital AND lightly regulated. The only play on the supply side is as a small supplier. Second Wind was highlighted as a company with a relatively low capital, short sales cycle product and thus had a chance as a startup amongst the behemoths.
- The most interesting exchange of the evening occured between a panelist and a telecom alumni interested in transitioning to CleanTech. The topic was the expected lifetime of capital equipment in the energy space. The conventional wisdom is to expect a 40 year lifecycle. The telecom alumni pointed out that this was the expectation in telecom as well, back in the scratchy voice over copper days; the situation changed drastically; the same can be true in CleanTech. The panelist countered that telecom upgrades were driven by a vast array of new high-value services: voicemail, sms, mobile, etc, but that watts were watts.
So, today's question to ponder: truth or lack of vision? Is there some value added in energy that will drive the kind of short product cycles that make for a booming industry, or are we talking a one-time changeover from fossil fuel to renewables, and then we're done?