SL #21: Cleantech Venture Capital

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Welcome to SL #21! Clean energy technologies (Cleantech) is one of the hottest trends in venture capital, and has been for a while. Joining us for a deep dive into this space is David Kirkpatrick from SJF Ventures.

The bus takes a break this time, and instead we throw some props to some Atlanta angels for being part of the solution. Of course, a nice batch of your emails rounds out a great show!

Sponsors for this episode:
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Shownotes and Interview Questions:

As usual, we had lots of related followup questions, but here is a good sampling of the discussion:

  1. Give us your 30-second elevator pitch in SJF Ventures
  2. Can you summarize your investment criteria?
  3. What is the (your) definition of CleanTech/GreenTech? (Is there a difference between the two?)
  4. CleanTech is generally most widely understood to mean renewable, clean energy sources. But doesn’t the term encompass other economic sectors?
  5. Is nuclear energy CleanTech?
  6. When did you personally gain an interest in CleanTech?
  7. Talk about some of the most powerful trends you’re seeing in CleanTech?
  8. Where do you see most of your investment opportunities coming from?
  9. How many opportunities are you personally and as a company considering at any one time and what % get funded?
  10. How long does it take you to evaluate an opportunity?
  11. What are your key due diligence areas?
  12. How do you exit from CleanTech deals?
  13. What is the best way to contact you about an investment opportunity?
  14. There seems to be a green gold rush now for CleanTech. Do you agree and are you worried about a bubble?
  15. What sectors of CleanTech seem to you to be oversaturated or overworked?
  16. Are there CleanTech sectors that you feel hold great promise but seem to be underdeveloped?
  17. Can you name some other funds that have an emphasis on CleanTech?
  18. What is the most exciting advance in CleanTech you’ve seen in the last 2 years?
  19. What do you think will be the most exciting CleanTech breakthrough in the next 5 years?
  20. What are some common mistakes you see in emerging CleanTech ventures?
  21. How is Georgia as a source of CleanTech opportunities relative to other areas of the country?
  22. The Bush Administration has been banking heavily (at least publicly) on the role of technology to solve issues relating to environmental damage and climate change. How is that affecting the sector?
  23. Do you anticipate there might be a change in technology focus with a new President? Who is the Cleantech venture community’s candidate of choice?
  24. How will the prospects of some sort of global environment agreement affect the Cleantech sector? Kyoto?
  25. Where do you fall on the corn ethanol debate (as a realistic alternative fuel that can make a significant impact on greenhouse gasses)?
  26. In 2020, most new automobiles in the United States will run on what fuel?
  27. In 2020, most electricity in the United States will be produced with what fuel?

Tune in to find out!

Guest Bio:

David Kirkpatrick is Managing Director and co-founder of SJF Ventures, a venture capital fund with $45 million under management and offices in Durham, NC and New York. SJF focuses on rapidly expanding cleantech, tech-enhanced services and premium consumer products firms, has 20 portfolio companies, and is investing from its second fund. SJF assists and invests in enterprises with innovations that have a positive impact in the world and create strong competitive advantages in large markets.

David was named the national 2005 CDVC Practitioner of the Year by the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance. Previous to SJF, he founded and managed two other successful enterprises – KirkWorks, an environmental investment research firm, and SunShares, a solar energy and recycling company. David was named Recycler of the Year in 1996, the National Recycling Coalition’s award for leadership in the recycling industry.

David earned a BA in Physics and History from Duke University in 1982 and an MBA from UNC Business School in 1991. He is a graduate of the Venture Capital Institute’s VCI 1999 and VCI-Grad 2000 programs. He serves on the Boards of groSolar, B.B. Hobbs, Edmap, the NC Sustainable Energy Association, and the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. He is an avid gardener, fisherman and Dad.


Enjoy! To play it, use the tools at the top of this post – you can play it via the embedded Flash player by pressing the big play button at the top, or download it to play on your computer or MP3 player.

Links referenced within this episode:

Podsafe music used within this episode:

  • Sundial by Bill Derome
  • Changes by Robert Lund
  • All the Money in the World by Hutch

Our format is a little out of the norm as far as podcasts go. We treat our efforts as a true “show” rather than a super-concise (limited) vehicle for delivery of information. Therefore, the podcasts can run a bit long (actually, it is largely driven by the guests and their responses.) While we try to have very substantive discussions, we also try to have a lot of fun along the way (and that tends to elongate the programming a wee bit.) :) Our theory is that if we are having fun during the show, hopefully, you will be having a little fun listening as well.

Here is the breakdown for the show, in case you want to hop around.

Intro 00:00 to 02:00
Smalltalk and introductions: 02:00 to 07:53
Look Who Gets It! 07:53 to 12:44
Mailbag: 12:44 to 19:00
Capital Connections Update: 19:00 to 23:42
Commercial/Comedy Break: 23:42 to 25:40
Main Discussion Topic 25:40 to 1:22:09
Break: 1:22:10 to 1:23:16
Analysis/Wrap-up: 1:23:16 to 1:30:16

A special thanks to Dave Kirkpatrick for coming in and hanging out with us!

We welcome your continued feedback as well! If you have an interest in appearing on the show, becoming a show sponsor (hint, hint), have some suggestions for topics, have feedback, or would just like to email us and tell us to “shove off”, we invite you to contact us.

And don’t forget – the message forums are a great resource for fast-growth entrepreneurs. If you need help with any aspect of your venture, we welcome you to jump in and get the help you need!



3 Comments so far »

  1. mblake said

    on March 10 2008 @ 8:52 am

    Before anyone points it out, I misspoke when I said flourescent bulbs will be phased out. I know it’s luminescent bulbs that are being phased out in favor of compact flourescent bulbs. These things happen when you put amateurs in front of the mike.

    Stupid Patriots

    – mike

  2. Cordelia Blake said

    on June 1 2008 @ 8:17 am

    I would like to set the record straight-I am a very good driver!

  3. Cordelia Blake said

    on June 1 2008 @ 8:26 am

    I would like to set the record straight-I am a very good driver! I hope you enjoyed your little snide comment about my driving-you can listen to it over and over again-from the sofa!

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