Promising cleantech companies, 2009; top 100 firms

TheGuardian and Cleantech Group have recently released a list of the top100 most promising clean technology firms.  The list of companiesincludes firms in energy generation, energy efficiency, energy storage,water and wastewater, recycling and waste, transportation,manufacturing, and agriculture.  The 100 companies chosen for the listall had to be unlisted, private, and independent companies.

In order to create the list, hundreds of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry insiders were asked the following question: "Whichprivate cleantech companies show the most commercial promise? Whichhave the most potential and highest likelihood of achieving high growthand high market impact?"  A list of 3500 companies was created based upon the responses.

TheCleantech Group then whittled down the list to the top 100.  Expertssaid that the process of choosing companies for the the top 100 wasdifficult because "some fields were far more developed than others.Many energy efficiency and water treatment products were alreadyavailable, while a large proportion of the solar and biofuel companieswere, and still are, very much in the development stage."  (read about the judges and methodology here)

Thelist of the top 100 cleantech firms was separated by country and bytechnology.  55 of the top 100 cleantech firms were headquartered inthe United States; 13 came from the U.K.; 10 from Germany; 5 fromIsrael; and rounding out the top 5, four came from Sweden.

Whenseparated by sector, 37 of the top 100 were in energy generation; 18 inenergy efficiency, 11 in water and wastewater; 10 in energy storage;and 9 in energy infrastructure.  (see the full lists by sector here and by country here)

Manyfamiliar names were on the list including Solyndra, Tesla, Solazyme,Better Place, Fisker, ZeaChem, Brightsource, ReVolt, Coskata, A123,Gridpoint, Tendril, Mascoma, AltaRock, Enphase, Xunlight, and Sapphire. 

Thereason that the list ended up being skewed in favor of the U.S. wasbecause companies had to have already received a certain level oftraditional venture capital funding.  Countries that were more open totraditional venture capital funding showed up more prominantly on thelist.  "The U.S. is a much more developed venture capital marketthan Europe or Asia, so it doesn’t surprise me that the majority ofcompanies are coming from the U.S. because that’s where the funding hasbeen in the last year.  In the next couple years, you’ll see more oftheir European counterparts on the list because the funding side isalso increasing in Europe."

China did not show up on thelist at all, but researchers were sure to acknowledge the importance ofChinese companies in the development of the cleantech space.  "WhileChina has no companies on the 2009 list, China’s importance andleadership in this area should not be understated, nor the evident risein entrepreneurism and company-building in that region."

Thelist essentially gives an indication of which sectors and regionsventure capital is flowing into; it also provides a guide for youngstartups to study in order to determine what makes some cleantechcompanies more successful than others by looking into the businessstrategies of these firms.  While the cleantech space can be extremelycomplicated to look into from a technology perspective, this collectionof companies lists the firms that are receiving money from privateinvestors.

There is still a lot of private money sitting on thesidelines, but the flow has begun to pick up a bit.  After reboundingin 2Q’09 from the credit crisis, liquidity issues, and a lack of exits,the cleantech space looks to build upon global stimulus packages,emission regulations, and institutional policies.  While the cleantechspace has rebounded from dismal 4Q’08 and 1Q’09 figures, 2Q’09 numbersare still far below the levels of private investment a year ago. (readabout details of the rebound here)

Reuters reports: "The first ever Global Cleantech 100 shines a spotlight on which companies and
which technology areas the global innovation community is currently most
excited about, from a commercial standpoint.  Although none of these firms are exactly
household names, their innovations and the business acumen of their leaders
and investors mean that they are likely to have high impact on our future. The
Global Cleantech 100 companies, and many other worthy peer companies, stand to
enable environmental sustainability and generate economic growth
".

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