Cleantech Open: Turning Possibility into Reality

The Cleantech Open helps identify these unconventional thinkers and their innovations by hosting the world’s largest business competition for cleantech entrepreneurs. Since its 2006 inception, nearly 400 promising teams have taken advantage of the Cleantech Open’s workforce development, nurturing and funding programs. As a result, Cleantech Open alumni startup companies have raised over $300 million in external capital and have created thousands of jobs.

By Desmond King and Rex Northen

Oil companies and cleantech startups have more in common than you may think.  Both are constantly looking for ways to turn what’s thought to be impossible, into possible; and make the possible profitable.

That’s why our organizations – a 130 year-old oil company and a five year-old clean–technology nonprofit organization – are partnering to fuel innovative solutions to our energy future.

The Cleantech Open helps identify these unconventional thinkers and their innovations by hosting the world’s largest business competition for cleantech entrepreneurs.  Since its 2006 inception, nearly 400 promising teams have taken advantage of the Cleantech Open’s workforce development, nurturing and funding programs.  As a result, Cleantech Open alumni startup companies have raised over $300 million in external capital and have created thousands of jobs.

Like the Cleantech Open, Chevron is also in the business of finding, funding and fostering innovative ideas. Chevron invests in entrepreneurs working on breakthrough technologies and emerging energy through its venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV).  Since 2000, Chevron has invested more than $200 million in early-stage companies worldwide and integrated numerous new technologies into Chevron’s operations.  Through CTV investments, Chevron works to create commercial opportunities, reduce costs, and improve the company’s performance.

The partnership between our organizations is successful because each organization receives mutual benefits.  Participants in the Cleantech Open benefit from mentoring by Chevron’s engineers and scientists, who have experience in scaling and commercializing technology.  Chevron also helps the participants write business plans and increase their organizational capabilities to give them the tools they need to turn their great ideas into real businesses.  Meanwhile, Chevron gets a firsthand look at innovative companies and cutting-edge technologies that may have the potential to improve the company’s base business.

Collaborations like ours are an important part of finding new solutions to age-old problems. With worldwide energy consumption projected to increase 36 percent by 2035, the world will need to tap all forms of reliable and affordable energy resources. While still a small portion of the world’s energy mix, renewable energy and emerging technologies are helping to meet the demand — and their role in the energy equation is ever increasing.

New, innovative ideas for a clean energy future will keep coming down the pipeline.  However, there are many promising ideas that never make it off the launch pad – in some cases because the technology won’t stand up to the rigorous demands of real customers, in others because their inventors didn’t get the right business advice, access to investors, or the crucial but much underestimated oxygen of publicity.  The Cleantech Open and Chevron have partnered to change that, to find fund and foster the most promising clean technologies across the country and throughout the world. Together we are working to help innovators turn their big ideas into tomorrow’s big solutions.

Rex Northen is the executive director of the Cleantech Open.

Desmond King is president of Chevron Technology Ventures.  

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