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Where has the vast majority of cleantech venture capital funding flowed over the last decade? The answer is "trillion dollar markets" such as electricity, fuels, chemicals and building materials. Several prominent cleantech VCs have proclaimed that the immense size of these opportunities offset the investment realities of time, significant CAPEX and entry barriers. Indeed these are massive markets that dwarf the size of cloud computing, SaaS, mobile and social media. But unlike these traditional VC segments, these are commodity markets where the public markets and corporate M&A departments are not used to paying the high margin and rapid growth multiples that have become the foundation of venture capital funding success.

Early stage advanced materials companies are most often born with a healthy dose of science in their DNA. However, as these companies evolve from the lab to the commercial world, the art of business must be genetically engineered in. In our experience working with early stage advanced materials companies, focus is one of the most delicate genes to effectively insert. Focus is a true art: On the one hand, there is a temptation to meddle in every possible application. On on the other, there is the repeated message to do one thing and do it well. The reality is that the key to building an important and valuable company usually lies somewhere in between.

The State of Nanotechnology

Posted by on in Advanced Materials

Nanotechnology has always been around but got a big boost with Richard Feynman’s lecture titled “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” in 1959. The introduction of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 and bucky balls (60 carbon atoms) in 1985 further ramped up the interest level. Then came the ambitious predictions and amazing forecasts. Everyone, including me, wanted to get some action. The rush generated lots of activities in terms of startup companies and investments and naturally, there was the inevitable disappointment. These days, the decibel level is lower but make no mistake, nanotechnology is now integrated into conventional technologies and making a difference. Both startups and large corporations are introducing nano-enabled products in the marketplace across industries that include energy, chemicals, environmental, electronics/semiconductor, personal care, textiles, agriculture, transportation, biomedical/biotechnology, and packaging. Already, over 800 everyday products (Nano.gov) rely on nanoscale materials and processes and this will surely continue to expand.