Why the rumors of cleantech's death were greatly exaggerated

Over the past decade we witnessed a wave of private investments into the cleantech industry. These investments were poured primarily into hardware and infrastructure-focused technologies, like fuel cells, solar inverters and panels, wind turbines, biofuels, etc. The goal was to create entirely new sources of energy, and to automate energy efficiency at a grand scale.

But a lack of returns across the board, as well as highly visible failures like Solyndra and other public bankruptcies, have left many in the venture capital community re-evaluating and even walking away this investment sector. The question remains, as we look forward to the next decade: “Where is the money in cleantech?”

The opening panel of VERGE:Accelerate set out to explore some answers. In an hour-long conversation led by Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOm, Josh Green, partner with Mohr Davidow, Rodrigo Prudencio, with Nth Power, and Mitch Lowe, founding partner of digital cleantech accelerator Greenstart, discussed the opportunities, risks and trends in the industry. They provided a glimpse into what fellow-investors can expect in the coming years.

Perhaps the stickiest quote of the conversation came from Mitch Lowe: “Cleantech’s dead in the same way the Internet was dead in 2000.” While cleantech may be in a low point in terms of its public perception, it’s by no means irrelevant or dead. Just as Internet and computing companies of the mid and late 1990’s laid the foundation for the booming web industry today, cleantech of the mid-2000’s laid the infrastructural groundwork for the emerging digital cleantech industry to expand. We are right on the cusp of an incredibly exciting time.

Next page: Why "clean" is a dirty word