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Clean Tech’s ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ Ends

Since the greenback was invented, business has been about green, making money. However, today’s smart entrepreneurs know being green environmentally equals green financially.

“Now is a great time to be a clean-energy entrepreneur,” said Rob Day, a partner at Boston-based Black Coral Capital, at the first Illinois Clean Energy Fund Awards. “We are on the cusp of the next wave of entrepreneurship.”

Clean Energy Trust, a Chicago-based promoter of clean-energy startups, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), sponsored the awards program in October. Four Illinois clean-tech companies won a combined total of $1 million in funding at the program, where Day was the keynote speaker.

The companies that won for being green-tech innovators were:

  • Intellihot, a maker of tankless water heaters based in Galesburg, Ill.;

  • SiNode Systems, a Chicago-based battery materials maker;

  • AllCell Technologies, a Chicago-based battery pack manufacturer, and;

  • Agentis Energy, a Chicago-based maker of power-consumption software.

The common connection that these four companies have is they each base their business models off of the concept that energy efficiency equals good business. Each offers an innovative solution to their customers to reduce energy consumption.

With the economic downturn of the last few years, being green has given clean-tech companies the blues. Day said that the last few years have been a “trough of disillusionment,” with a lack of funding for clean tech and clean energy.

Day said he sees that changing, and he said entrepreneurs should focus on real-world solutions to problems that will catch the attention of investors.

According to Plunkett Research, green tech is projected to be a $5.7 trillion market in annual revenues by 2025. That's up from approximately $3.4 trillion in 2014. Currently that represents about 5 percent of global GDP.

Day offered advice to the entrepreneurs gathered at the awards ceremony: “Go out and force change to happen. The more you can offer a complete solution to the marketplace, the more acceptable you are.”

About the author: Joe Koenig is president of Make Ideas Reality, a public relations firm based near Chicago in Oak Park, Illinois.

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