Thursday, 26 November 2009

VCs: Where has the “venture” gone from Venture Capital?

Well here is a question that no one seems able or willing to answer, I’ll throw it open to the investment Universe -VCs, private equity, corporate finance, angel funders, high net worth individuals – be you early stage, late stage (or indeed ANY stage which would be good right now)

Who is REALLY investing over here in the UK – have we closed for Christmas early this year?

From where I am sitting (having watched a colleague bash the phones for the last 4 weeks across a myriad of investor networks on what is – to me – a “no brainer” cleantech medical device manufacturing process) it strikes me that there is an inordinate amount of tyre kicking going on out there, people sitting on piles of cash with no home and not a lot of action.

Today we hear of an investor pulling the plug on a £7m investment because they were feeling “over exposed”.

And at the other end of the spectrum on my desk I can’t find £150K for something that has mass market developing country and remote energy application potential.

Come on people, shame on you! Do I really have to create something totally radical to bypass you lot?

If the anti risk and tyre kicking stance most of you are taking presently continues, how do we progress the low carbon technology agenda? The Carbon Trust and those delightful public sector competition rounds are not going to get us anywhere fast.

My sweeping generalisation about investment land presently is that you are all lacking in creativity, sophistication, knowledge and your models and ideals means you will miss some technology waves. Some spaces are moving so fast by the time you’ve even “gated” the first investment proposal the opportunity has been snapped up into corporate land, is mothballed never to see the light of day, or worse – goes bust before it's started.

The lack of funding supply also means that there is a world of collaboration starting to open up out there that will completely bypass you in future. All those lovely technologies that are scalable and interesting may well find themselves swept up into the arms of a cash rich Corporate doing a nice line in acquiring patents and technologies and sand-bagging for the future. Again, some of those may never see the light of day because we all know corporate cultures aren’t great at “incubating”.

Anyone notice a bit of sweeping up of patents going on of late?

Push back by all means …

By Debby Lloyd
Managing Director, EcoSearch

Friday, 13 November 2009

Commercial Realism and Wind Energy

Off-shore Wind Farm Turbine
Two articles published today (Friday 13th November) have caught my attention. The first is a discussion piece by Petra Barnby in the FT EnergySource blog. The second is the press release accompanying the Institution of Mechanical Engineers latest paper Climate Change: Have we lost the Battle?

Both these articles try to depict a true and realistic story, a story which is still being written and may or may not have a happy ending. They also address different topics; the FT piece is about offshore wind and how it can contribute to energy security, and the IMechE report is about Climate Change (i.e. reducing CO2) targets. They have different goals, although possibly with common causes and shared solutions.

However, I have a few observations. The FT article is outwardly a “pro-Wind” stance. It talks about the turbines’ “serenity and peacefulness about their understated orbital business that fits in with the drab North Sea scape” and contribution that wind could make to energy generation in the UK, with offshore wind farms “powering 18.5m homes in 10 years’ time.” The author also chooses to quote members of the BWEA. Yet there is something mildly frustrating about the opening line to the piece…

They’re beautiful,’ breathed a bearded wind farm enthusiast as he spotted the shape of a turbine appear from the mist on the horizon.

I think it is the use of the word “bearded” that concerns me. Are enthusiasts of wind power still associated with bearded, sandal-wearing hippies? Can we not be black shoe wearing, clean shaven (or female!) enthusiasts who see that energy security is a commercial, economical and political necessity? Maybe the analogy is only there in my mind? Maybe the guy stood next to the journalist was bearded AND suit-wearing, and it is my own sensitivities? Or is it a sub-conscious association that the journalist still makes with renewable energy enthusiasts.

I found the IMechE’s report refreshing. Whilst it may be pessimistic about actually achieving the 2050 CO2 reduction goals that have been currently set, it is real and it addresses action. It calls for a mixture of “geo-engineering” solutions. Whilst I disagree with the need to change DECC to DECS (is an initial actually going to make the difference?), I agree with the positioning.

Let’s move away from the association with bearded, sandal wearing climate change activists with pie-in-the-sky goals, and be realistic, commercial and proactive about securitising and changing our energy sources.

By Clare Buxton
Wind Energy Sector Lead

Picture courtesy of phault

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

10 Tips for Writing Your Cover Letter

I have recently been asked by several people about writing cover letters. They can sometimes be overlooked but are often an important tool for securing an interview. Here are my top ten suggestions to make yours stand out from the crowd:

giant stack of resumes

  1. If you are responding to a specific role, state your intention to apply for this job. Talk briefly about your motivations for pursuing a career with this company.
  2. Make it specific to the company to whom you are writing; demonstrate that you understand a bit about their business. If you can make it personal to an individual (Dear Mr Smith) then do so.
  3. Think of the cover letter as an extension of your “elevator pitch”. Why should the person opening your email/letter invite you for an interview?
  4. Talk about your aptitude to do the job in question; this may be by giving example achievements from your recent experience.
  5. Answer the question “What differentiates me from my peers?”
  6. Use the cover-letter as a way to demonstrate your prose writing skills (i.e. don’t make it a list of bullet points).
  7. Close the letter, i.e. suggest a next step, such as “Please take a look at my CV for further information”, “I look forward to hearing back from you”, “Please do not hesitate to get in contact with me if you have any questions”.
  8. Keep it to one side of A4, type font 10 or 11 (if it is via email, keep it to 3 paragraphs).
  9. Do not talk about salary in the cover letter.
  10. Make sure your contact details are clear and correct; and also make sure that the company’s address and contact details are correct.
By Clare Buxton
Wind Energy Sector Lead, EcoSearch

Photo Courtesy of woodleywonderworks.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Carbon Management Software – State of the Nation

I am using the phrase “carbon” management software deliberately. Using words such as sustainability & environmental do not necessarily attract the right talent, create the right feel and, frankly, make some people run a mile.

A quick check if I say “environmental” to you - what picture is in your head right now? What are you thinking? I bet its not cool, teccie, exciting software and programme deployment the like of which we haven’t seen before, is it?

Does GHG sound attractive to you? What about carbon accounting? Does “environmental management system” turn you on? Nah, didn’t think so.

None of these phrases grab me either, so that’s why I prefer not to use them. I prefer words normal people understand, are familiar with reading in their everyday newspapers and can apply a broad brush too. One thing is for sure, the vocabulary used by organisations penetrating a variety of vertical markets will be increasingly important in order that you don’t pigeon-hole your product into a single sector – and you may have to change it depending on which circles you are moving in.

So things are definitely hotting up in the carbon management sofware sector but we don’t have any decent traction… yet. What we do have is a lot of talk. There are some good looking solutions sloooowly coming to market… lots of RFIs/Bids, case studies building etc. but who is really selling and who is really buying?

Across the board incoming enquiries are reported to be up… but don’t hold your breath. I hear this week that the Environment Agency are sending mass mail shots out without so much as a job title in information packs.

Here are some of the things I see adding to the confusion and noise out there:
  • Lots of products and services window shopping by all manner of functional areas on the client side and none that necessarily hold the keys to an open cheque book.
  • Complex sales entry points – sure you may get in with the FM manager – but who do you need to mark off next?
  • Who has got responsibility for delivery of these solutions across the business – come to that are people thinking “cross business solution” or are they thinking “solve just my problem”?
  • Solutions that fall across a number of areas take some digging to find where overall responsibility lie.
  • Long, laborious scoping out of solutions that have to go through a myriad of sign offs.
  • Prospects are underestimating the complexity and reality of the legislation coming down the pipe – there could be some expensive mis-selling and retrofitting going on.
  • Interfaces with existing data systems – other environmental management software, HR software, facilities management software – what about communication with outsourced functions and partners?
  • Vertical markets – everyone’s going for the big ones first and boy are they making the most of shopping around because they don’t want to make a purchasing error. Seriously – hands up who is working with Tesco?
  • Channel and reseller markets. Who is getting into bed with who and are you competing against them in the market now – how will that relationship play out?
  • Carbon consultancies WAKE UP - this as a huge cross-sell/up-sell opportunity. But you need a different skillset to sell these software solution babies… do you just want to sell “consultancy” – well you have a 24 month shelf life if that is the case. Call me if you need the right talent to help you open this revenue channel – you have the easy part you UNDERSTAND the client pain, a couple of extra heads with the right knowledge of these products and you have yourself a brand new revenue channel that will extend your company’s shelf life.
  • Reseller models - make a wrong move now and you could find yourself in an exclusive reseller partnership with a non-market leader – could be very damaging.
  • Software players –are you underestimating the amount of handholding needed to put these products into play? This is not something for the white socked sales person. Consulting credibility client side is the key. There is no getting away from the fact that your front facing sales people will need a modicum of holistic carbon management programme understanding, backed up by some subject matter experts who can navigate their way around the legislative framework. Cue merger and acquisition activity in the boutique consultancy arena.
  • Lack of product information – things are moving so fast its difficult to benchmark the different offerings and who really does have credible case history on deployment – half the products I see are still being developed off the shelf as things go along – which is fine – providing you have the right person holding the client’s hand and you understand the vertical markets you are operating in.
  • Product Evolution – so you have a wonderful shiny new product - but can you spot the challenges coming through the rest of the market that will impact it and can you keep pace? (think PESTLE, I’m sure you know what I mean).
  • Patience – there’s going to be a mixing of a whole host of cultures on this moving forward… that will be an interesting play out – FM, CSR, CTO, FD, HR, IT Sales, outsourcing companies, infrastructure providers and Green Consultants...
  • Panic – From what I can see I am predicting that come February some organisations are not going to have the bandwidth to service the enquiries coming through the channels. Don’t leave it until next year – get your teams assembled now!
There will shortly be a feeding frenzy. We know who’s having the conversations and marking off the best talent in the marketplace but not actually hiring yet. Well prepare for a bidding war soon. Those organisations that move early to acquire the brightest talent will have the greatest chance of success.

If you are a candidate, open to the idea of a new opportunity, make sure you back a thoroughbred with a well thought out plan that is showing the ability to flex and actively learn how to approach different markets. Don’t back a donkey that’s just thinking we sell “IT solutions” this way! There will not be enough space in the future.

The talent is out there but will not be for long. I welcome serious clients – no tyre kickers please!

Call or email me for the latest talent hotsheet of individuals available in this space – or if you want to go on it, for that matter!

By Debby Lloyd
Managing Direcor, EcoSearch

Some upcoming events you might also find interesting:
Green IT Expo - London 10th & 11th November 2009
Smart Energy 09 - London - 1st & 2nd December 2009
Green Monday - London - 7th December 2009

Monday, 2 November 2009

Green and Renewable Energy Events - December 2009

Here is our regular monthly events update for you.

Events are starting to slow down in the run up to the holidays but there is still a lot going on in December in the run up to the UN Climate talks in Copenhagen. You can also view November’s events list if you missed it.

If you can think of an event we have missed, please let us know and we will add it to the list. You can drop us an email or leave us a comment here on the blog. You can also view and download our full list of events for the next twelve months.

If there is anything else we can add to this service to make it more useful to you, just let us know.


Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit
30th November - 2nd December 2009 – Vancouver, Canada

IWEA - Wind Monitoring Training Course
1st December 2009 – Osberstown, Ireland
Follow @IWEA on Twitter

Smart Energy 09
1st & 2nd December 2009 – London, UK

Small Hydro USA
1st & 2nd December 2009 – Washington DC, USA

1st & 2nd December 2009 - Hamburg, Germany

EnviroAsia 2009 - the 4th International Environmental technologies Exhibition & conference
1st – 4th December 2009 - Singapore

2nd December - London, UK
You can follow @BusinessGreen on Twitter

IET - Green and energy efficient buildings: preparing for the challenges of Copenhagen
2nd December 2009 – London, UK
Follow @IETevents on Twitter

Enhancing your Business with Green Chemistry
2nd December 2009 – York, UK

Cleantech Forum Beijing
2nd & 3rd December 2009 – Beijing, China
You can follow @cleantechgroup on Twitter

AWEA Offshore Wind Project Workshop
2nd & 3rd December 2009 – Boston MA, USA
You can follow @AWEA on twitter

The Scottish Green Energy Awards
3rd December 2009 – Edinburgh, Scotland

IWEA - Effective Asset Management
3rd December 2009 – Dundalk, Ireland
Follow @IWEA on Twitter

3rd December 2009 - London

GeoPower Europe
3rd & 4th December – Munich, Germany

Copenhagen Key to Climate Investment
3rd & 4th December 2009 – Copenhagen, Denmark

Think Green - 2nd Annual Eco Expo
5th December 2009 – Riviera Maya, Mexico

IWEA - Vestas V52 Turbine Training
7th December 2009 – Dundalk, Ireland

7th December 2009 - London, UK

Wind Power Turkey
7th – 9th December 2009 – Istanbul, Turkey

COP15 Copenhagen 2009 - United Nations Climate Change Conference
7th – 18th December 2009 – Copenhagen, Denmark
You can follow @COP15 on Twitter

Green Drinks – London
8th December 2009 – London, UK
(Green Drinks events happen globally, more can be found via their website)

Sustainability Now
8th & 9th December 2009 – Online, UK
Follow @sustainnow on Twitter

Power-gen International
8th – 10th December 2009 – Las Vegas, USA

Bioenergy Australia
8th – 10th December 2009 – Queensland, Australia

9th – 12th December 2009 – Montpellier, France

Solar Turkey
10th & 11th December 2009 – Istanbul, Turkey

12th December 2009 - Coventry, UK

Bright Green - in parallel with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15)
12th – 13th December 2009 – Copenhagen, Denmark

Electricx Power 2009
12th – 15th December 2009 – Cairo, Egypt

IWEA - Vestas V52 Maintenance Training
15th December 2009 – Dundalk, Ireland
Follow @IWEA on Twitter

European Fuel Cell Technology & Applications - "Piero Lunghi Conference"
15th – 18th December 2009 – Rome, Italy

BWEA Connect - a networking evening exclusively for existing and potential members of BWEA
17th December 2009 – London, UK

We will be publishing January 2010’s list soon, so watch this space...

Our Advisory service also provides help to organisations putting on industry events. Don't hesitate to get in touch if we can be of assistance.