In down economy, cleantech startups turn from ideas to execution

Facing dim prospects for funding, the clean technology industry is shifting its focus from developing new inventions to commercializing existing ones.

The early days of clean energy technology, full of novel new ideas and unorthodox approaches, are quickly coming to an end.

Replacing them: a time when it's better to execute an idea, rather than come up with a new one.

My CNET colleague Martin LaMonica writes this morning about how the green technology industry is shifting to a second phase, which he dubs "Green Tech 2.0," in which restricted funding from venture capital firms and other sources is forcing entrepreneurs to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

He writes:

Welcome to green tech 2.0. In the first wave, venture capitalists threw billions of dollars at technologies with potential to disrupt the energy industry and stall climate change. Now, entrepreneurs need to be far more savvy about raising money and smarter about how to build a business. In short, people who want to do good by the planet and do well financially need a new playbook.

What's at stake isn't just whether the next Google will come out of the green-tech sector. It's not a cure-all, but innovation in clean-energy technologies can help perk up the U.S. economy while addressing environmental problems and cutting the country's fossil fuel use. If businesses--the engines of green-technology development--are starved of investment and public interest, the pace of innovation could slow down.

Though funding prospects for new research remain dim, interest in clean technology remains high. In a way, the tighter restraints force entrepreneurs to produce sound business plans for commercialization -- demonstrating that while a down economy seems like a hindrance to the industry, it's actually helping drive new energy technologies toward solving real-world problems.

Impossibly, the economy is forcing the risk out of the cleantech sector.

Still, closed wallets mean those startups who haven't fully developed their breakthrough technology may be facing a chasm with no bridge -- unless they've sufficiently demonstrated that they're worth investment. With a timeline like that, the market may shift from a venture capital-focused environment to a corporate-focused one, in which conglomerates buy in with the guarantee of being a first or exclusive client.

How to save green tech from crashing [CNET]

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