As the curtain closes on 2010, we conclude another year of growth for the clean-tech industry. Much has changed since Technology Partners' first foray into clean tech in the early 1990s when the sector was branded "alternative energy," considered by most to be nothing more than pet projects for environmentalists. Over the past decade and a half, clean tech has emerged as a key driver of global economic growth and has become one of venture capital's fastest growing investment categories.
Interest from the investment community is one barometer of clean tech's growth and potential, but perhaps a more telling barometer is the more recent entry and formation of high-quality management teams made up of the brightest minds in technology, entrepreneurship, and industry. The early days of clean tech were often driven by ambitious, visionary scientists and technologists drawn to the sector by the prospect of developing eco-friendly alternatives to traditional forms of energy.
The current era of clean tech welcomes to the mix individuals who are at least as likely drawn by the sector's long-term profit potential as its impact on the environment. Indeed, what stands out most as I consider the sector's recent progress is the steady influx of experienced entrepreneurs and executives transitioning their bottom-line focus to the sector. Management teams today are increasingly characterized by three key "personalities" – the technological visionary, the determined entrepreneur, and the experienced industry executive – each bringing a unique set of skills and experience vital to tomorrow's clean-tech success stories. Management teams that meld the broad range of expertise represented by these "personalities" stand the greatest chance of success in overcoming the demanding financial and regulatory challenges startups face at every stage of growth.