Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alfidi Capital Debut at Cleantech Open Academy 2013

I was privileged to officially begin my participation today in the Cleantech Open, one of America's most distinguished startup accelerator programs.  I have been accepted into their Mentor Program and I am available to cleantech startups as a free advisor on general business topics.  I spent this weekend attending my first-ever Cleantech Open Academy (down in Santa Clara) listening to eminent guest speakers help entrepreneurs jump-start their business plans.  I can't describe many of the details because much of the information shared was proprietary with rights reserved.  I am committed to protecting the confidentiality of the entrepreneurs' efforts.  There are some lessons to learn nonetheless from sources the general public can access.

I entertain myself by running through my own version of popular business exercises.  Here's my interpretation of Geoffrey Moore's positioning exercise, describing Alfidi Capital's position in the marketplace:

For (target customers):  Geniuses such as Yours Truly
Who (have the following problem):  Need supremely intelligent financial commentary with sarcasm
Our product is (describe the product or solution):  Investment research
That provides (cite the breakthrough capability):  Honesty and humor, free of charge
Unlike (reference competition):  Anybody else who takes finance seriously
Our product/solution (describe the key point of competitive differentiation):  Ridicules people who do stupid things with money

That was fun.  I'll bet cleantech entrepreneurs get just as much as I do out of those kinds of thought drills.  They might also get a lot out of tax equity financing, a project finance vehicle unique to the renewable energy sector.  Chevron Technology Ventures no doubt gets a lot out of its sponsorship of the Cleantech Open, and startups can check Chevron's YouTube channel for helpful videos.  Here's a free tutorial on perfecting your elevator pitch.

I'd like to see firm metrics on what drives revenue in cleantech.  Other sectors have fairly common terms.  Truck transportation has "yield" in revenue per hundredweight.  Airlines have revenue passenger miles.  Hospitality has revenue per square foot.  The energy sector in general sometimes refers to BTU use but renewable energy has to account for subsidies like feed-in tariffs.  Non-energy green tech should IMHO borrow tonnage-based metrics from construction, recycling, and related industries.  I do not agree with VCs' use of metrics like EBITDA to evaluate a startup's viability.  They made that mistake with dot-coms in the '90s and their investors are still paying the price.  I think cleantech should learn from IT.  We've all heard about cloudonomics.  We need to hear more about "greenonomics."

Cleantech entrepreneurs have long reading lists.  This includes Simon Acland's Angels, Dragons, and Vultures; Randall Bolten's Painting With Numbers; anything on customer development and lean startups; Osterwalder et al.'s Business Model Generation; and of course the incredibly insightful wisdom available here on the Alfidi Capital Blog.  Yes, people, I really do deserve to rank among thought leaders and the people who invite me to these conferences are starting to recognize me.

I'm looking forward to mentoring my entrepreneurial charges.  I expect to learn from them as well because I'll need to get spun up on details for sub-sectors I've never touched before.  This is worth doing if it saves the planet, ensures America's economic vitality, and someday makes me a buck or two.