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When Will Cleantech Exits Return?

Attendees of the fifth annual Clean-Tech Investor Summit, which starts Tuesday in Indian Wells, Calif., might notice a change in the agenda from previous years. The annual panel on cleantech investment exits –IPOs or acquisitions of venture-backed startups – has disappeared.

It’s a reflection of the economic environment, said Ron Pernick, a principal at research firm Clean Edge and a co-producer of the conference. “There haven’t been any exits to speak of, which tells you something,” he said.

The exit panel has been replaced, aptly, by “Strategies for Clean-Tech Financing in a Credit-Constrained World.”

Perhaps the last cleantech IPOs of note were those of solar-equipment manufacturer GT Solar and Energy Recovery, which makes energy-saving devices for water-desalination systems, way back in July. Several companies, including Schott Solar, Sovello (previously EverQ) and Codexis, canceled or postponed planned offerings.

Of course, greentech isn’t alone. A report released this month from Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association found no venture-backed IPOs in the fourth quarter and only six in the year.

Pernick reassures readers that he expects the investment climate to improve.“This doesn’t mean we won’t have an exit panel in the future, but right now it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Cleantech companies continue to attract investment and expand capacity, he said, pointing to biofuel startup Ze-Gen, which raised $20 million last week, as an example.

“It’s not all bad stories – there also has been good news – and the good and bad news are probably in balance right now in this sector,” he said. “We’ve had more good news [in the last few years] than in most sectors, and so I think that seeing the bad news now makes you pause because you’re not used to it. There’s going to be both. We’re not immune.”

The economy and the transition to a new U.S. president are likely to be hot topics of discussion at the summit, which kicks off the evening of Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Image courtesy of konstriktion, under a Flickr Creative Commons license.

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Written By

-- With more than nine years of reporting experience, Jennifer Kho has been covering green technology since 2004, when she started the cleantech beat at Red Herring magazine. She wrote for Red Herring until 2007, when she helped launch the Greentech Media site as its founding editor. She left Greentech Media in November. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and She also regularly contributes to Earth2Tech.


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