Lindsay Riddell covers Cleantech, Sustainability, Startups and Venture Capital for the San Francisco Business Times
Biofules and Biochemicals
Bill and Riddell start of the conversation with a discussion of what’s happening in the Bay Area biofuel and biochemical industries. Companies in this space are looking for a variety of approaches to break down or convert renewable materials into fuels, soaps, chemicals, oils, food products, fragrances and others that typically rely on petroleum-based production.
With the economic downturn, capital became increasingly scarce and companies had to scale back or retool their plans for expansion. Now, as these companies mature, they are undertaking new approaches for attracting venture investment. The more established companies have created a roadmap for some of the emerging companies.
Organizations such as the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences
(QB3), which is a joint venture between the University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, are helping to accelerate innovation and bring discoveries to market more quickly. Riddell discusses some of the strategies these companies are taking to survive the short term and thrive in the long term.
Not surprising, with the economic downfall of the past few years, Riddell acknowledges that investor enthusiasm has waned. She observes that there is still money available for good ideas, but the investment community has been behaving more conservatively. Meanwhile, there are still resources in places like Greenstart
, a startup accelerator that works with companies focused on solutions that combine cleantech and IT. Software applications that address issues such as energy efficiency are still finding some success in the marketplace.
Riddell recently wrote an article on Facebook’s voluntary reporting on their carbon footprint. She and Bill discuss the pros and cons of releasing this data and the market pressures at play for companies to become more transparent in their operations. This move is likened to Wal-Mart coming out several years ago with a commitment to dedicate shelf space to products that have higher levels of sustainability. It’s clear that these big companies can have incredible influence in the marketplace and change expectations for both consumers and investors.
The Bay Area is home to a thriving network related to the electric vehicle industry – car manufacturers, battery manufacturers, chargers and application developers for locating electric car chargers, crowd-sourcing for charging – the list goes on. Some of the more interesting new developments include apps for available parking spaces with charging stations, car sharing apps, and there’s even an app that essentially takes the act of hitchhiking to the internet. Most of these are mobile technologies that employ various aspects of GPS tracking.
What do you consider to be the most important clean tech trends in the Bay Area? What’s just over the horizon?