Clean tech is hot.
Record breaking venture capital dollars, IPOs, investor conferences and even business plan competitions mark the arrival of the clean technology boom in Silicon Valley.
However, an additional ingredient is needed: management talent.
Just like in the early days of the Internet, when we saw executives from Tandem and Oracle join Netscape, we are starting to see traditional technology execs make the leap into clean technology.
“A year ago when I told friends and colleagues that I was joining a solar energy company I got a lot of puzzled looks,” said Brian Stone, a former Siebel Systems executive. “Today, most of the people I meet ask me how they can get into the solar industry.
Stone joined PowerLight, a $100M revenue installer of commercial solar energy systems, as the vice president of marketing. Brian spent the year between Siebel and Power Light as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Mohr Davidow Ventures working with several companies in the software and wireless sectors.
It wasn’t easy. His background had been in the wireless and in customer relationship management software. But as he worked with MDV’s traditional companies in these areas, most seemed mature, either consolidating or just not growing that fast. The growth industries were biotech and clean-tech, he told me.
Since he joined PowerLight, that company has already been acquired by solar industry juggernaut, SunPower, the Cypress Semiconductor spin-off. “We are in the midst of a cultural wave,” said Stone.
Another exec, Dan Middleton, the former SVP and GM of the Americas for networking company Riverstone Networks (acquired by Lucent in April of 2006) joined Silver Spring Networks, a clean-tech company based in San Mateo.
That company offers technology that lets utilities more efficiently manage their electrical grids. It is a digitized version of the archaic system of storage, transmission and distribution of energy currently employed by the world’s utilities.
Dan had spent the previous decade with Nortel selling telecom and cable equipment into developing countries and Australia.
The pace of change in the utility sector is more rapid than the once-frenetic communications and cable industry, he told me. The average consumer is caring more, too. Until now, they’ve been in the dark. But with new technology, they can see in an instance how the grid impacts their bill and their carbon footprint.
New clean tech companies continue to get formed. There are so many, in fact, they need more help than ever to manage their growth. Whether you’ve spent your career peddling customer relationship management software, switches, routers or set top boxes — there’s probably room for you in clean tech.