In Episode 39 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on November 5, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with Cynthia Ringo, Managing Partner of DBL Investors.  Cynthia was also on a panel at the California Cleantech Innovation Conference held in Oakland on November 2-3, which the firm sponsored. And on the heels of his recent trip to Korea, Dick presented at the conference discussing issues cleantech companies should consider when looking to expand in global markets.

DBL Investors is a San Francisco-based venture capital firm with a double bottom line investment strategy. They focus on companies that value their communities and the environment, in addition to favorable profits.  What kind of companies are in their portfolio?  A pretty wide range, many with names you’ve heard, representing a variety of aspects of the cleantech economy, including alternative energy, solar, green vehicles, bio materials and fuels, and lighting.

Cynthia and Dick discuss the types of companies that appeal to DBL.  They find themselves working with companies in almost a proprietary manner to develop social, environmental, and economic benefit in communities in which the companies operate.  Portfolio companies are generally looking to transform neighborhoods and communities. 

Of course, DBL is an investment firm, so financials and returns are measured as one might expect.  But beyond that, twice a year DBL also issues a report to their investors on a number of qualitative and quantitative metrics that they employ to analyze the portfolio on factors such as the number of jobs created in low- to moderate-income areas, employee diversity and opportunity, and green initiatives.

The conversation explores the topic of international growth for cleantech companies.  Dick and Cynthia discuss issues related to when companies should start to consider the foreign market opportunities, as well as hurdles, including foreign certifications and entity ownership and partnership requirements imposed in some jurisdictions.  Many countries (such as China and Korea) require the company to form a joint venture with a party in that country, raising possible complications to protecting intellectual property, among other challenges. 

Cynthia mentions some of the cutting edge technology coming out of a few of the companies she works with, wich include Solar City, BrightSource Energy, Solaria, Tesla, OPX Bio, and Primus Power.

Take a listen and then drop us a line with your thoughts on impact investing and the market for cleantech innovation in the current economy.

 

SHOW NOTE:
Tune in at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 12, 2011, to hear Dick’s conversation with the Chairman and Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com, Joel Makower.

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Cynthia Ringo: Episode 39 of The Wendel Forum (27:43 min, mp3)

DBL Investors: http://www.dblinvestors.com/

California Cleantech Innovation Conference: http://www.grow-california.com/conferences/clean-tech-innovation/

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

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In Episode 37 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on October 22, 2011), show host Donald Simon talks with Randy Hawks of Claremont Creek Ventures to discuss current trends in the cleantech investment landscape. 

Claremont Creek Ventures is a venture capital firm investing in early stage information technology companies.  Their East Bay location allows them to work closely alongside many excellent research-driven “incubating institutions,” such as UC Berkeley, UC Davis and the Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley Laboratories.

According to Randy, the investment climate is actually seeing some positive moves, despite what you read in the papers.  He claims that there is a 12% uptick in 3rd quarter investing over 2nd quarter in the cleantech space this year.  And Northern California is a great place to be in this sector.  We still get 35 – 40% of the deals being done in the United States and about half of the total dollars.  While the early part of the year saw increased IPO activity, the overall venture capital investment climate is stronger now than it has been in the past couple of years.

Donald and Randy discuss the impact of the research and development funded by U.C. Berkeley and local labs.  Historically, these types of institutions have not been as nimble as some of the private schools and institutions when it comes to licensing the technology they develop.  Even so, the fundamental “game changing” research that they can inspire sets a great stage for technology to evolve into the marketplace.

Further, Randy shares his view on the market shift in the types of deals being done.  Previously bigger amounts of money went to fewer projects. More recently the trend has move toward smaller deals that look like early stage software technology deals.  The models of lean investing that have been previously used in the technology industry are becoming more popular in cleantech.  Deisgn, develop and deploy runs parallel to programs for customer engagement to speed the time to market and ensure a strong company launch.  While these tactics have been used for consumer internet companies for a number of years, other industries including cleantech and healthcare are adopting the tactics.

The two wrap up with a brief discussion of the common pitfalls that Randy has seen with early stage companies when they neglect some fundamental legal issues in their early development.  So often, young companies start out with a couple of friends and a handshake. That may be a fine way to start out, but ignoring issues regarding how the company will be structured and who owns what rights to innovation can lead to problems down the line.  As he says, “It matters if you’re successful.”  So what are the three key areas that deserve attention?  Randy suggests:

  1. Corporate Formation 
  2. Intellectual Property and Licensing
  3. Employment

If you’re interested in hearing more perspectives on the investment climate and meeting some of California’s “Game Changing” clean tech companies, check out the California Clean Tech Innovation Conference happening in Oakland on November 2-3.  Randy will be a panelist at the Energy Efficiency session.  Go to the conference website for more information or to register. 

California Cleantech Innovation Conferencecleantech conference icon
November 2-3, 2011
Kaiser Center Auditorium

At the Kaiser Center in Oakland CA, you will see California’s leading Clean-Tech policymakers… Hear from “Game Changing” Clean-Tech companies on Energy Efficiency, Water, Recycling & Environmental issues along with renewables such as Solar, Water, & Wind & Green transportation. Also speaking will be Clean-Tech experts from California’s leading Universities & Federal Labs, as well as numerous Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists & Private Equity Funds. Grow-California brings all the influencers together at one Clean-Tech Conference.  http://www.grow-california.com/conferences/clean-tech-innovation/

Post Links:

Interview with Randy Hawks of Claremont Creek: Episode 37 of The Wendel Forum (27:35 mins; mp3)

California Cleantech Innovation Conference website: http://www.grow-california.com/conferences/clean-tech-innovation/

Claremont Creek Ventures website: http://claremontcreek.com/view.cfm/3/Home

Green 960 AM radio website: http://www.green960.com/main.html

Donald Simon website bio: www.wendel.com/dsimon

In Episode 34 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on October 1, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with Flory Wilson, Director of International Standards at B Lab.  Flory has been instrumental in helping to develop a new rating system for impact investing in North America and around the world – GIIRS.

In their discussion, Flory and Dick discuss the origin of “impact investing,” a term that really only came into popularity about three years ago. Impact investing refers to investors placing capital in companies and funds that deliver positive financial returns while delivering positive social and environmental impacts on their communities.  The concept is relatively simple, but achieving a reliable way to measure, verify and report on a company or fund’s impact has been a challenge, leaving investors with no real way to gauge their impact investments.

Investors knew how to judge returns on their money – profits (just look at the bottom line).  But what has been lacking is a way to analyze and report the other two contributors to the triple bottom line (referring to people, planet and profits). 

The GIIRS crew has spent the last couple of years setting up a framework for reporting and verifying the results of entities that might be desirable vehicles for impact investors.  The audit process takes into account such aspects of a company as governance structure, entity ownership structure, workforce engagement, community support, and environmental footprint.  They look at how the company manages the supply chain and distribution structure and the actual environmental impact of the company’s products and services. 

When assessing a fund, the rating system takes into account the fund manager’s track record, how they screen investors and portfolio companies, how rigorous their standards are, how they manage the investment over time, and their investment exit strategies.

Flory explains some of the reporting features and the review process, as well as the types of businesses and funds that are currently participating in the program.

GIIRS recently had a “coming out” party of sorts at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York.  During this event held September 20-22, 2011, fifteen pioneer investors with $1.50 billion in impact assets, declared their preference for GIIRS-rated funds and companies. They included JP Morgan, Prudential, the Rockefeller Foundation, private equity funds, family foundations and philanthropic organizations, as well as international public sector financial institutions.

Listen in to the episode and let us know your thoughts.  Will these types of metrics have a significant impact on the future of investing?  What might be the next steps in this evolution?

SHOW NOTE:
Tune in on Saturday, October 8, 2011, to get a sneak peak preview of Sustainable Industries Economic Forum featured speakers Bonnie Nixon, executive director of  The Sustainability Consortium, and Alex Bogusky, founder of the FearLess Revolution.  The Forum will be held on October 20 in San Francisco and there is still time to get your ticket by visiting the Sustainable Industries website.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Flory Wilson: Episode 34 of The Wendel Forum(27:45 min, mp3)

GIIRS website:  www.giirs.org

Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting website info: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/ourmeetings/2011/default.asp?Section=OurMeetings&PageTitle=CGI

Sustainable Industries Economic Forum website: http://sustainableindustries.com/events/economic-forums/sustainable-industries-economic-forum

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 29 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on August 27, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons sits down to chat with Nick Flores, Director of Investment and Entrepreneur Services for Investors’ Circle.

Investors’ Circle (IC) is a network of more than 150 angel investors, professional venture capitalists, foundations and family offices that are using private capital to promote the transition to a sustainable economy. Since 1992, Investors’ Circle has facilitated the flow of $146 million into 225 companies and small funds addressing social and environmental issues.

Of note, Investors’ Circle and SJF Institute announced a merger effective July 1, 2011.

In his conversation with Dick, Nick discusses the investment network and some of the many opportunities they have for sustainable businesses to obtain exposure to investors.

Companies in the portfolio are generally not start-ups, but are operational having started with friends and family investors. The investors who participate in IC want to know that the business founder has some skin in the game. Once the company is ready to raise its Series A round of stock, it’s time to submit to IC.

Of the types of companies that IC serves, there are six primary sectors. They are identified as:

  • Cleantech, Energy & Environmental solutions
  • Sustainable Consumer Products
  • Education (focused on K-12)
  • Health, Biotech & Wellness
  • Community and Economic Development
  • Social Media and Software

IC has a number of opportunities throughout the year for companies to showcase their business to the investor community. Currently, they are promoting both an Online Venture Fair (September 14) as well as their Fall 2011 Venture Fair in Philadelphia.

Show Note:

Tune in to Green 960 AM radio on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. for an interview with Rory Bakke, President of Sustainable Concepts Studio and Director of Sustainability at GreenBiz. She’s been working with Underwriters Lab to develop the environmental health and sustainability standards for companies. While there are many forms of product certification, this comprehensive set of standards is meant for the enterprise or organizational level.  Should be an interesting discussion.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Nick Flores: Episode 29 of The Wendel Forum (mp3)

Investors’ Circle website: http://www.investorscircle.net/

Press release re Investors’ Circle and SJF Institute merger: http://investorscircle.net/accelsite/media/2796/IC%20SJF%20Merger.pdf

SJF Institute website: www.sjfinstitute.org

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 28 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on August 20, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), guest Thomas Simone, President and CEO of Simone & Associates,  shares with show host Dick Lyons  his perspective on the investment landscape for health and natural products.  He’s got a long history in the business, having work with companies including United Natural Foods (distributor for Whole Foods) and Spectrum Organics (oils and supplements), among many others.  His early involvement in this industry started around 20 years ago, after watching his daughter’s interest in natural products.

Tom Simone of Simone & Associates

Tom Simone, CEO of Simone & Associates

Over the years, he’s seen this industry as one of the highest growth areas in the economy.  What common denominators for success does he see?  The successful companies all start with a great team. Products don’t build a company, the people do.  An operating action plan is critical.  Tom is able to bring infrastructure and practical advice to start up company teams to help them turn their visions into sustainable enterprises.

He discusses the triple bottom line and its impact on investment decisions. He offers insight into how investors might go about valuing a business, how profits and prospects affect the valuation, and what kind of return investors might expect out of a business opportunity.

This is a man who knows the natural food and product landscape; in fact he’s been instrumental in shaping it.  We hope you enjoy what he has to say.  

SHOW NOTES:

Tune in to Green 960 AM radio tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. (Pacific) to hear an interview with Nick Flores of Investor’s Circle. 

 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Tom Simone:  Episode 28 of The Wendel Forum  (mp3, 27 min 48 sec)

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

 

Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors

Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors

In Episode 27 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on August 13, 2011), Jose Corona, Cheif Executive Officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA), shares with show host Dick Lyons how the organization promotes the competitive advantages of locating a business in an inner city neighborhood.

Founded in 1996 in Oakland, the nonprofit group was born out of a Harvard Business School initiative.  Its mission is to help both companies and communities by promoting the advantages of locating in inner city neighborhoods and by providing companies with the advice and resources to grow their businesses.

Currently, they use a three-pronged approach:

1) They offer portfolio companies a network of experienced advisors that can provide both strategic and tactical, real-world advice to address the company’s business problems.

2) They provide an advanced entrepreneur program, modeled after a Stanford business course, to provide company leaders with the education they need.

3) They are developing a network of capital sources, including an ICA fund, to help portfolio companies grow when they’re ready.

Among their portfolio are several familiar names in the green community.  Who have they helped?  Well, here are a few names that you may recognize:

ICA is doing some great work.  And the proof is in the numbers.  Jose shares some inspiring statistics in his interview.  The companies in their portfolio are creating jobs and infusing wages and wealth into inner city neighborhoods. 

Let us know what other innovative business growth programs you see out there!

SHOW NOTE: Tune in to The Wendel Forum on Green 960 AM radio tomorrow, August 20, at 11:30 a.m. for an interview with health and natural product investment expert Thomas Simone.

Post Links:

Listen to interview with Jose Corona: Episode 27 of The Wendel Forum (mp3, 27.47 min.)

Inner City Advisors website: http://innercityadvisors.org/

ICA Case Study about Premier Organics: http://innercityadvisors.org/companies/portfolio/premier-organics/

Dick Lyons bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

In Episode 18 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on June 4, 2011), San Francisco Business Times cleantech and green business reporter Lindsay Riddell talks with show host Bill Acevedo about what’s happening on the local cleantech scene. 
 
Photo of Lindsay Riddell

Lindsay Riddell, Cleantech & Green Business Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

She’s covered the beat since 2006 and during that time she’s witnessed some remarkable trends and growth.  So for this episode, we turned the tables on this seasoned journalist and asked her to answer some questions about what she’s observed. 

The conversation covers a lot of ground, from local companies in growth mode to technologies that have the potential for big impact on the state’s energy demands.  In addition, she’s been following the money and shares some observations regarding the flow of capital – from venture capital to government programs.  She also highlights the current cleantech IPO scene, discussing local favorites like Solazyme and BrightSource.

She offers a sneak-peek at some of the companies to be recognized at this year’s San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards (Thursday, June 16, 2011 at the InterContinental Hotel San Francisco).  Thanks to Lindsay for taking the time to share her insights and perspective on the industry.
 
San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards 2011

Wendel Rosen is a proud sponsor of this event and congratulates all of the finalists.  We’re looking forward to seeing the following trend-setting companies and other Bay Area green business leaders on the 16th.  Hope you’ll be there too.  Registration info follows in the post links section below.

Finalists:

  • Autodesk Inc.
  • Bridgelux Inc.
  • BrightSource Energy Inc.
  • CalStar Products
  • Choicelunch
  • Cleaire Advanced Emission Controls
  • Clean Filtration Technologies Inc.
  • Driptech Inc.
  • Ecologic Brands Inc.
  • ENXSUITE
  • Genencor
  • Grid Net
  • Hara
  • Intematix Corp.
  • InterContinental San Francisco
  • Numi Organic Tea
  • Pattern Energy Group
  • Primus Power Corp.
  • Project Frog Inc.
  • Propel Fuels
  • Recurrent Energy
  • Simbol Materials
  • Solar Millennium
  • Solazyme Inc.
  • The Gladstone Institutes
  • Tioga Energy
  • Trilliant Inc.

Post Links:

Interview with Lindsay Riddell: Episode 18 of The Wendel Forum(27.32 minutes)

San Francisco Business Times website: www.sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com

Cleantech & Sustainability Awards Info & Registration Form:  http://www2.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/event/37371

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

About show host William Acevedo: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Chuck Slotkin, founder and managing director of Nature’s Equity, a boutique investment firm operating in the sustainable business space for the past 20 years, joins show host Dick Lyons to continue his conversation regarding business trends in the natural products industry in Episode 16 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on May  21, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio).

Dick Lyons in Studio

Show host Dick Lyons interviews Chuck Slotkin.

In this episode, the two take a deeper look at innovation happening in the natural food and supplements industry.  They share insights into the qualities that they see in successful start-ups.  They address the business reality check that many entrepreneurs must face in order to jump to the next level (whether by raising capital for product or geographic expansion or positioning for sale).  What are the essential early steps a young business should do to prepare for these possible futures?  A good start is to really understand the market dynamics you face and anticipate a potential suitor’s mindset regarding the perceived value and position of your company.  Is it possible to preserve the core triple-bottom-line values of a company after it’s sold to a more traditional investor?  What challenges do company founders face if they stay with the company as a division manager within the new corporate structure?   Dick and Chuck also discuss the importance of early valuations and normalizing financials to help give the founders a realistic path to their future goals.

Listen to the episode to hear this experienced industry insider share his observations regarding trends in the natural food and product industry and his advice for companies currently contemplating their growth arc.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Chuck Slotkin:Episode 16 of The Wendel Forum (27 min 46 sec)

Nature’s Equity: http://naturesequity.com/

About show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio: www.green960.com

The Wendel Forum LogoShow me the money!  Growing businesses need the help of sound business advisors, whether looking for capital or positioning for mergers or acquisitions. Many company leaders at young businesses in the sustainable marketplace are great entrepreneurs despite never having had formal business training. As their ideas take off, they need investors to scale their operations and guidance to make their company attractive in the right financial markets.  Add to that a desire to maintain their sustainable values and it can be hard to know who to trust.

Enter Chuck Slotkin, Founder and Managing Director of Nature’s Equity, a boutique investment firm operating in the sustainable business space for the past 20 years. Chuck joins show host Dick Lyons for a discussion of green business financing from the investment banker’s perspective on Episode 15 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May  14, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio).

The two discuss the movement of specialty natural food and supplement products into the mainstream during the past couple of decades and what that means for companies looking to grow their operations.  Chuck addresses the importance of seeking investment teams and advisors who understand the natural product market, as well as the underlying value of products that tend to have very little strong science behind them.  They talk about issues unique to sustainable companies, such as maintaining the integrity of a supply chain post sale and taking companies through the investment process in a way that reflects their values.
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Chuck Slotkin: Episode 15 of The Wendel Forum

Nature’s Equity: http://naturesequity.com/

Show host Dick Lyons: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio: www.green960.com

In Episode 6 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Saturday, March 12, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), Dick Lyons discusses the opportunities and consequences of issuing Series A stock, or a first round of convertible preferred stock, as a means of raising money for our fictional company GreenCo.

Usually issued at some point after the company has raised its initial capital from founders, family and friends, the Series A stock can infuse the company with much needed capital for growth. Along with Series A, come “redemption rights,” which allow investors to demand the company repurchase their shares after a set period of time.  What might this mean for our fictional company GreenCo? 

Listen to Episode 6: wendel_forum_6.