In Episode 61 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May 5, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Rachel Barge, a partner at Greenstart, which is a San Francisco start-up accelerator. Greenstart helps new companies that use software to solve clean tech problems.
Rachel Barge of Greenstart
Twice a year, Greenstart, which launched last year, sifts through hundreds of applications and offers a handful of clean-tech start ups seed-stage venture capital as well as training in the company’s 12-week boot camp. Specifically, Greenstart invests $15,000 in exchange for a 15% equity stake, it makes a $100,000 convertible loan and it provides concentrated training. The three-month academy “crams two years of development into three months,” according to Barge. Entrepreneurs learn to validate their technology (proving customers exist for the product), develop a 12-month execution plan (including building the team and honing the financial model), and communicate (to investors, team members, channel partners and customers). Entrepreneurs are paired with mentors, including executives from cutting-edge companies like Tesla and Pandora. The program’s culmination is “Demo Day,” during which the start ups pitch hundreds of potential investors.
Software, Barge explains, is key to what she calls “clean tech 2.0.” For example, the collaborative consumption trend, which replaces ownership with use and access, requires new software platforms. That’s why Greenstart selected for its program Scoot Networks, which provides shared electric scooters that customers can unlock with an iPhone.
Barge explains Greenstart’s unique application for companies that want to apply to the Greenstart program. The entrepreneurs must state the dirty energy problem they’re solving and explain their technology in just 250 written characters and a two-minute video. The accelerator is particularly interested in working with fast-to-market products. The company’s first class included SmarterShade, a self-tinting windows company; Sylvatex, which cheaply mixes biofuels with diesel; Wa.tt, a consumer web app company that “gamifies” energy use on Facebook; and Tenrehte, a wireless system for managing energy flowing through electrical plugs.