Wanted in cleantech: Operations & scaling experience

Startups that are looking to disrupt the traditional energy industries — oil, coal, gas-burning cars, incandescent lighting and the electricity network — need to have more than just innovative technology. They need a team and a plan in place that can scale their technologies to actually compete on the massive scale needed for these energy sectors — that’s one of the differences between cleantech and many of the, say, web or mobile tech startups.

In a detailed interview in Forbes, venture capitalist Ravi Viswanathan, a partner with NEA, tells interviewer Yoni Cohen that in recent years NEA has focused a much stronger emphasis on bringing in execs that can lead scaling, commercialization and operations at its cleantech interests:

A few years ago, we built our team and our network to add a lot more operational horsepower and talent. Seven or eight years ago, if you asked who would be worth their weight in gold in cleantech companies, it would have been CTOs and technology folks. Now it is really COOs and operations executives.

Viswanathan says that the execs that have been in the global supply chain industries in Asia are particularly “very valuable.” Many of the cleantech startups that previously focused on the U.S. market are turning to China and India for customers, investors and partners.

Still, Viswanathan tells Cohen that NEA is still looking to remain committed to investing in cleantech:

The [cleantech] market is in a tough spot. But in the long-term – and we are long-term investors – we are very bullish. There are a lot of exciting companies that are getting created and we are very excited about our portfolio. We are still excited about the space.

Image courtesy of Martin Lopatka.

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