Veteran investor Dan Goldman tells climate tech founders to watch the money and the carbon
In the climate tech world, Dan Goldman has seen just about everything from the cleantech boom that led to the cleantech bust, the dark years that followed, and the current bull market that has transformed climate technology into one of the hottest sectors in the venture world .
londonbusinessblog.com spoke to Goldman this week to hear what he thinks about today’s market and what he tells his portfolio companies about how to prepare for next year.
“We want them to be extremely careful with cash all the time, but especially now,” he said. Although the reasons why that is the case today are not necessarily the same as they were a decade or so ago when the last cycle went bust.
Goldman has been investing for over 20 years. He comes from a more traditional energy background and advises on energy projects in Asia and finances large-scale energy and power generation projects. In the early 2000s, he transitioned to clean energy and in 2006 co-founded the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Clean Energy Venture group, a collection of angel investors focused on energy-related climate technology. Later, in 2017, he was a co-founder Clean energy companies to make investments at an early stage. More than 100 have been made since the company was founded.
Clean Energy Ventures invests in start-up companies that have already received some grant money or angel investments, but have yet to attract a venture round. The firm is happy to lead the initial institutional investment round and help guide investments in things like team development, intellectual property strategy and marketing strategy. She also gets to know partners for follow-up financing, in which she often participates.
According to investors in climate technology, the company is relatively focused. While it invests in everything from material recycling to hydrogen production and software, there is usually an energy component involved. Goldman said Clean Energy Ventures performs extensive lifecycle assessments on each of its investments to ensure they fit the company’s “mandate”: potential portfolio companies must reduce greenhouse gases by a total of 2.5 gigatons from the time the company invests until 2050.
“If they can do that, we think that aligns with the financial goals of returns because we see the potential for them to grow into really big companies.” His optimism is based, at least in part, on recent data. “If you look at the overall venture market stats, they’re down more than 20% in the first nine months. And climate technology is up 50%,” Goldman said.
Advice to founders
Of course, getting there isn’t easy, and Goldman has some cautionary advice to share with the founders. It’s not based on concerns about whether climate technology is moving in the right direction, but rather how much money has been flowing into companies from investors who traditionally weren’t involved in earlier stages.