We have had an enormous amount of tips from experienced entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial visionaries these two weeks. People like Steve Blank, Andrew Isaacs, Ken Morse, Michael Bruce, Leon Sandler and Joe Lassiter have shared their ideas about entrepreneurship, Clean-tech and the opportunities in the United States.
So here we go:
- We have talked about Self-awareness, network – network – network, High-speed before.
- And in reminder: Cleantech business is business. If you have a great idea, brilliant technology but not deliverd any market value or market proof and a suitable business case, you have to wonder whether you are a company et all. Create a business perspective and there is a world of opportunities for Clean-tech companies.
- Know your market. Really know your market. Laws, policies, customers, partners, what is happening and upcoming. Customers, customers, customers…
- Another insight… When a market needs your solution, does not mean that they will buy it…. A need is not enough. And by far not yet a sales.
- Realize that often your goals outrun your supply chain.
- About teaming up. ‘Every true entrepreneur should spent at least 50% of its time on finding new people’ – Veysel Berk. ‘ Every employee you hire affects the intelligence of your company. Make sure you hire people that are smarter than you are in their position’ – Ken Morse.
- Know who you are up against. The giants in the market? Government? Who’s market share are you really gaining? A new market does mean another markets reduction..
- It’s all about being sufficient efficient. Capital efficiency. Innovation efficiency. Commerciali efficiency. Relational efficiency.
- This might not shock you, so act upon it: Investors are not that eager to take risks. So know your risks. Reduce the risks: spread investments throughout the value chain. How about grants? Realize Seedfunding, convertible notes, and make sure you limit the technology risk. And by all means present it as riskless as possible.
During these weeks many insights on Clean-Tech and innovation have been given. Mostly alarming and quite shocking: ‘Clean-tech is dead’, ‘the Clean-tech era is over’. Thoughtfully awakening the entrepreneurs from the (European) clean-tech bubble.Welcoming them to the business world of the United States. Arriving in Boston opened-up a whole new technology driven but business oriented world. Sincere and thoughtfull and realistic about the actual clean-tech opportunities.
Yes, there is a certain investor resistance. But on the other hand also much seedfund and research support. And actually many funds and opportunities in the European Union.
Yes, clean-tech development takes time, but by partnering and cooperation between startups this time frame can be limited.
Be honest and realistic, know where you stand, your market, your business and your position in this framework.
Speaking for my own situation, coming from YES!Delft – one of the leading high-tech incubators in Europe – you realize it’s true and time for action. The importance of understaning the world behind your technology. Gain concrete market knowledge. Understand your value-chain. Build your network and find partners that can actually lift you up. But to realize this, often a certain trigger is required. This might be enforced due to your financial situation, by partners and advisors of your organization or by a tour like this and organizations like an incubator or Climate-KIC.
So get out there!
- Rediscover yourself, your market, your valuechain.
- Build that business case and reduce risks with partners, your value chain, knowledge and funding.
- Reconsider your value proposition and perceive from every chain around you
- Build that network! Gain all the knowledge you can get, and more
Wouter de Bruijne
Porgram today (tuesday 11th of September)
9.00 – 10.00 Welcome by Mark Hartley
10.00 – 11.00 Leon Sandler, Executive Director of MIT Deshpande Center
11.00 – 12.00 Bill Aulet, Managing Director, Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship
12.00 – 14.00 Networking lunch with CEO’s of local Cleantech startups
15.00 – 16.30 Harvard I-lab and US energy discussion with Prof. Joe Lassiter
17.15 – 18.00 Tod Hynes CEO XL Hybrids and MIT Energy Ventures course
19.00 Networking Dinner
At the introduction of the discussion at the Dutch embassy today, Both Stephan Raes (Head of Economic Department of Dutch Washington Embassy) and Frans Nauta (ClimateKIC) stress the importance of European broad cooperation.
All major European embassies of the ClimateKIC group are present, here to talk about their role in supporting startups, and apprehend the opportunities of their network.
Before giving an abstract of the lessons learned so far, a small outline of the first few days.
A warm welcome by the Dutch Consulate assured the first introduction to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. Moreover the first round of pitches also introduced the group to the Silicon Valley community. At Haas Business School Professor Andrew Isaacs – Executive Director and professor at Berkeley University –made the introduction to the valley complete. He deliberately explained the Valley’s climate, culture, ethics and system and most importantly Isaacs’s empowered the entrepreneurs to get out there. And that’s what they did. Discovering their business opportunities, meeting with investors, possible business partners, the whole value chain has been explored.
Besides that, many more opportunities to get to know the valley’s way of doing business and building a network followed. The Eccosummit Lounge, first ever Silicon Valley edition. Steve Blank welcomed us at his ranche up in the Silicon Valley hills, and examined the business opportunities for every start-up. What did all this deliver? Beside the foundation of an enormous network. Some very valuable insights in the Silicon Valley way of business. Here a first glimpse of the lessons learned.
Know what you are where you stand and what you need. Are you a research project? A Startup A company? Develop a clear and direct message upon that. Listen to your customers. Understand that cleantech business is all about business. And that is the only possibility here in the valley. If you want to get funded or build your network, don’t build upon your long term return nor focus on the climate impact. Rely on your business case.
Veysel Berk an entrepreneur we got introduced to by Prof. Isaacs stated his clearly: “Every entrepreneur should spent 50% of its time on finding people and building a network”.That’s what Silicon Valley is all about. It is a very open community everybody is connecting and following up on introductions. And that is where this tour is for.
ClimateKIC introduced us to a very high value network and it all happened from there. So many introductions have been made, meetings with key directors, decision makers, investors, business partners. And all these different executives are more than willing to welcome startups, cooperate with them or to explore the possibilities to invest or become a launching customer. Startups are accepted, taken serious and seen as a great opportunity. It is understood that that is the way to innovate and speed and openness are required to realize this today.
A high speed environment
What’s among the most important things to understand and the key to success is the speed of the network. You get introduced – give or sent a slim and clear presentation or message – and you are able to meet with the right person that same week. This happened over and over again this week. Direct contact and immediate meetups, no long writings or presentations but direct and to the point.
Some insights in the investor climate
Over the week the investor opportunities and supposed resistance of investing in Clean-tech solutions has been a frequent matter of discussion. Clean-tech investments haven’t paid of yet and in the VC-world there are less-risk full projects to invest in.
Among others Mark Perutz, Partner at DBL Investors, has addressed this issue. But more importantly he also gave more insights in the decision making of Clean-tech VC’s. His advice. Make sure that you reduce the risks of to one form of shared risk, investors by technological or capital risk. Many cleantech companies present cases that contain both technological or … risks. This makes cleantech investments hard to get through. Show how you are able to cope technological difficulties or have a first line of investors, grants or reduce capital risk with partners throughout the value chain.
In his keynote speech addressed to the ClimateKIC group in Washington DC Michael Bruce addressed the resistance on cleantech investments. But he also ensured that many opportunities remain. The previously described factors of self-awareness apply. Know your market! And make sure you find the right market and form of innovation combined with the right partners, to make it work.
Tips by Frans Nauta:
Blog Steve Blank:
A treasure trove full of great stories, and the writing evolved into his theory of Customer Development.
Essays by Paul Graham:
Paul Graham became famous as the founder of Y-combinator, but as you can see if you read his essays, there is much more to him than that.
Stanford Technology Ventures Program
Every week on Wednesday, an entrepreneur takes the stage in the Engineering building at Stanford and shares lessons learned for about 30 min, followed by 20 min Q&A. They had Mark Zuckerberg and all those other big names before they became famous.
Marc Andreessens blog
Marc Andreessens was the founder of Mosaic and Netscape http://blog.pmarca.com
Make sure you watch his talk at STVP: