Global Trends in Clean Tech - Advice for Entrepreneurs

We should like to thank everyone who attended our Global Trends in Clean Tech Event on May 16. Please see below for a short summary of the panel discussion.

This past May 16, on the shoulder of Energy Disruptors Unite, ACTia convened a breakfast panel featuring the following speakers:

  • Andrée-Lise Méthot, Founder and Managing Partner of Cycle Capital Management, a top tier Clean Tech investment platform in Canada.

  • Joy Romero, VP Technology & Innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited, representing the Clean Resources Innovation Network (CRIN), an initiative to make Canada a global leader in producing clean hydrocarbon energy from source to end use.

  • Zoë Kolbuc, VP Partnerships for Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), which funds Canadian Clean Tech projects and coaches companies in commercializing technology.

  • Jeff Reading, Innovation Funding and Partnerships Team at ATCO, accelerating business transformations into low carbon services and products.

  • Jane Humberstone, Director, Technology Industry Strategic Partnerships at Alberta Economic Development and Trade, fostering emerging technologies and tech commercialization.




Canadian clean technology is a critical ingredient in how our oil and gas and power sectors will succeed in the global transition to a low-carbon, low environmental footprint future. What challenges do our energy producers and distributors face, and what solutions offer the greatest potential? Where should Alberta’s clean technology entrepreneurs and investors focus their efforts? How can large corporations and entrepreneurs work better together to make Alberta a global leader in clean tech? Our expert panel shared their insights on Alberta’s incumbent industry challenges, new models for co-operation, and emerging clean technology solutions based on local and global experience.


On Pitching Your Idea:


One of the most important steps in bringing your technology to the wider market is being able to compose and deliver a compelling pitch for your technology. Our panel of experts identified several key themes.


It’s not about the technology, it’s about what it does and why it’s better than what exists currently.


Many people will not understand the intricacies of how the technology works. If you can tell investors what the technology does from a high level view, what problem it can solve, and why it is cheaper, more efficient, or more accessible than what already exists on the market, they will be more receptive to offering investment opportunities. The time for technicalities can follow later.


The pitch should focus on the story.


People often buy and invest based on stories. If you are able to frame your technology within a narrative - such as what problem the technology solves - and set aside the fine details, your pitch will likely go farther. A pitch is just that: a big picture view of the problem you’re solving.


The point person should be versed in selling; they are not necessarily the engineer.


When delivering your pitch, it may be better to let someone else who is versed in selling take point. They will likely have insights that will interest the investor that the engineer might miss. Demonstrating a good execution record is important.


This being said, a slick pitch may not mean good execution, and good execution person may not be good at the pitch.

On Commercialization:

Following pitches, commercialization is another topic that innovators and entrepreneurs identify as being problematic.


Know when to Accelerate and Decelerate

Canada tends to be slow on acceleration; however, commercialization and taking your product to the next level is about quality: quality is what partners and investors will be investigating. Accelerating too quickly may jeopardize this: timing is key, and deceleration can even be a positive sometimes.


Some firms, like Cycle Capital, can help evaluate the quality of your IP.


Look for sources of support outside of government funding programs

There can be a tendency for clean tech businesses to rely too much on government support. Doing so may leave innovators and entrepreneurs in the valley of death, and especially so if funding for the government program decreases and commences “house cleaning,” or if red tape starts to get in the way.


Government funding can remain a very viable acceleration vehicle due to government policy and commitments, but also seek other forms of financing.


Consider partnering with large corporations

It may be helpful to seek private sources of equity. Large corporations are creating more and more opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises to partner with them, such as the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), spearheaded by panelist Joy Romero of Canadian Natural Resources Limited. This can be an opportunity for small movements to be fast tracked to market.


This is especially true if you can prove that your technology can help large companies meet their environmental goals, from emissions reduction and carbon capture to water treatment, air quality monitoring and protecting biodiversity in site.


Innovation is born out of different contexts

There exists many different innovation contexts, from the garage to industry to academia, which all have their different strengths and weaknesses.

The garage, for example, often has little overhead, but is less systematic. Academia, conversely, is highky systematic and is usually driven towards publication and investigating multi-organization collaboration. Industry projects are typically very targeted towards a specific problem.


Knowing your customer

Getting to know your customer is the best way to solve and tailor your product or service to solve their needs. This is particularly important when you are first bringing your product to market: being the first customer of a product is a large risk. Truly understanding their problems will go a long ways towards minimizing that risk, and generating not only new customers, but repeat ones as well.


Knowing your customer will help validate your business and your technology.


Your ideal customer may not be in Canada.


Be prepared to bring in additional skillsets

As the commercialization of your venture advances, additional skill sets will be needed to deal with issues as they arise. Having someone with experience in supply chain management, legal, marketing, financing etc. could prove invaluable in scaling up your business. Surround yourself with people driven towards similar goals.


On Partnering:

Bringing a partner onto your venture and looking for investors is integral to the success of your business.


Have more than one strategic investor

It is risky to have only one investor; it is better to hedge your bets in case one of them falls through.


It is also important to distinguish between investors and grants. Grants often act as gifts to de-risk and strengthen your ability to find partners and investors. Partners and investors share your risk.


Have more than one partner

Along similar lines, it is essential to have multiple partners, each bringing to the table something unique. The SDTC, for example, sees having multiple partners as having multiple customers that see potential in your business. They demonstrate access to the market, are solution focused, and can reduce your reliance on government support.


ATCO brings more insight: small to medium sized enterprises are often more agile than larger ones, and thus represent flexibility and adaptability in the face of larger corporations. Partnering together has the potential for a symbiotic relationship, with each partnering bringing strengths to counter the other’s weakness.


Creating a new venture based on clean technology in can be difficult. Accessing resources and looking to other sources of funding, creating strategic partnerships, and focusing on the story of your product can be helpful in ensuring that your technology not only makes it to market, but finds its customers there as well

We would like to thank every who was able to attend the Global Clean Tech Trends event, as well as to our expert panelists.

Prepared by S. Carlisle on behalf of ACTia – May 2018

Edited and formatted by D. Lopez

Confidentiality of Information

Please note that ACTia respects the confidentiality of competitive business information. Information collected by ACTia will be viewed by ACTia staff, the ACTia Matchmaking Event Coordinator, the matchmaking selection team and may also be shared with “matches” ahead of this event.  Contact information and sector/business categorization may be used for membership registration and shared with the Propel and Convergx® conference organizers as needed by ACTia.

ACTia is the only multi-stakeholder, province-wide and industry-focused group working to support Albertans developing clean technology.

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