The three pillars of success: how to grow your cleantech company

If you are reading this, chances are you are involved with a cleantech company;  so we won’t got into detail regarding how high the stakes are, or the challenges lying ahead when scaling the business.

As your startup-up grows and commercial demand accelerates, it will be important to find a way to juggle communicating the grown-up version of your company, while still running successful investment rounds and expanding your team.

Drawing on our work with cleantech start-ups from across Europe, plus the expertise of our cleantech partners and friends Inven Capital and Hyperion Search Executive, we’ve produced an extensive new whitepaper which shares how to juggle these challenges.

Split into three sections covering communications, investment and hiring, the comprehensive guide includes actionable tips to give you a solid foundation for growth. We also had the pleasure of receiving outsider’s perspective and insights from the teams of cleantech leaders Danfoss Editron, Climeworks, Sympower and Zolar.

You can download the whitepaper here. Not sure if it’s for you? You’ll find a preview of the first chapter below.

The three pillars of success: A guide to growing your cleantech company
The three pillars of success: A guide to growing your cleantech company

What makes cleantech companies succeed

We’re regularly reminded of just how difficult it is for start-ups to succeed. In fact, the vast majority – an estimated 90% – fail. How does this statistic fare in the world of cleantech? Well, it turns out that cleantech start-ups can face even more significant challenges than their software and IT counterparts in Silicon Valley. 

However, investment in the cleantech sector is consistently increasing year-on-year. Net zero companies in Europe — those who add no incremental greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — raised £2.1bn from venture capital funds in 2019, a 129% increase on the previous year, according to a report from Tech Nation. Additionally, in early 2020 the EU revealed its first dedicated fund for Green Deal start-ups via the European Innovation Council (EIC). With €300m available to invest, this is the largest ever funding round from the EIC, with 64 companies selected for funding.  Since receiving sufficient capital to run business operations is one of the key reason’s start-ups succeed, this is good news for the cleantech sector.

Cleantech start-ups are tackling the most pressing issues of our time. We are committed to helping cleantech companies defy the odds and succeed in their mission to not only become a successful company but change the world in the process.  We only have to look to the climate tech unicorns such as Tesla, Nest, Oatly and Impossible Foods for evidence of the viability of disruptive approaches to innovation that also deliver a positive environmental impact. 

Ok, so what makes start-ups succeed?

In April of 2020, in an attempt to support cleantech start-ups that were facing uncertainty due to the global pandemic, we launched Cleantech Heroes. This initiative which provides free individual consultations to enable cleantech companies to realise their full potential. By helping an array of cleantech start-ups over the second half of 2020, we gained insight into what problems they typically face, how founders deal with these problems and most importantly, what aids them in their ability to succeed.

So, what does make start-ups succeed? This is the crucial question we will tackle in this whitepaper. We’ve analysed our work with cleantech start-ups across Europe, talked to our Cleantech Heroes initiative partners Hyperion Executive Search and Inven Capital, plus looked at industry statistics to find out what’s key to building a successful cleantech company. Some of the top reasons we believe a start-up will succeed include:

  • Passionate founder(s)
  • A clear and compelling value proposition
  • A well-defined business strategy, including a monetisation plan, from inception
  • A resilient and dedicated team and support network

Of course, these are only a few of many factors which determine the success of a cleantech business. As we progress through this whitepaper, we’ll examine those other factors including; how to hire and retain a resilient and dedicated team, how to raise investment effectively and how to leverage communications to achieve your commercial goals. By combining our expertise with that of Inven Capital and Hyperion Executive Search, we are enabling cleantech start-ups to achieve their business objectives and beyond.

Why do cleantech startups fail? 

  • Time: Cleantech development is lengthy. Typically, clean technology takes between 3-5 years to develop, which is much longer than startups in other industries
  • Cost: Cleantech is capital intensive and expensive to scale. Cleantech startups often need large factories or infrastructure to test the viability of their technology 
  • Barriers: Traditional industries such as energy tend to be highly regulated, making market entry difficult  
  • Risk: The longer it takes to deploy and prove a technology, the more risk there is for a startup
  • Market need: Like all startups, early-stage cleantech companies often fail due to a lack of understanding of the market need
  • Lack of investment: While the statistics on cleantech investment in recent years are encouraging, the amount invested is still significantly lower than that invested in other areas, such as software and e-commerce

Download the full whitepaper here. If you would like to receive tailored advice for your company, get in touch with us to book a free consultation or explore our membership options.

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