With the Dow moving into bear market, every manager with an investment responsibility is placing it in the energy/cleantech space -- it does look like the safest investment in this market. A friend was recently hired by a hedge fund to invest a dedicated $150 million in venture-backed cleantech companies. I trust there are other investment institutions doing similar things. Given this, there seems to be plenty of financial capital available -- but what about trained and talented human capital. The energy industry went through a hiring freeze in the 90's (the booming tech industry was another factor). This has left a void of talented individuals, both on the technical and management side, in their late 30's or early 40's with enough prior expertise and sufficient remaining work years to build a company. I am spending my summer in venture capital at Flagship Ventures focusing on energy investments and have seen only 3 entrepreneur backgrounds in this space -
1. Entrepreneurs with 30+ years of energy expertise. Cons -- long-term entrepreneur health
2. Entrepreneurs with Hi-Tech experience switching to the energy space. Cons -- lack of industry expertise
3. Smart student entrepreneurs. Cons -- lack of technical and management experience
The New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) has stepped up to address the lack of management talent through a Fellowship Program that provides training to established entrepreneurs, with a proven track record, transitioning from a different industry into the energy space. But, how do you address the lack of technical industry skill? This in my opinion is a big factor in the slow progress made by an industry that is resistant to change. To me, this is the a cause of the energy industry being termed as a "financial capital intensive" industry.
This has been one of the highlights of my brief VC experience. More to follow.....