This past weekend, the Clean Tech Open held it’s 2009 semi-finalists crash course business accelerator weekend. Over 75 competing teams gathered at the San Jose Doubletree Hotel for 2 1/2 days, to meet with the CTO staff, a host of guest speakers and volunteer mentors/experts. From my perspective, the intent of the weekend was to help get the teams introduced to all the tough parts of turning a good idea into a sustainable, viable business; to get them connected with tools, approaches and people to tackle the challenges they will face.
Just to ground things, here is a quick summation of the Clean Tech Open. The organization was launched at San Francisco City Hall on March 21, 2006. This year is their fourth competition. The Clean Tech Open was founded in 2005 by a group of individuals looking to “make a difference by creating a competition to accelerate the creation and growth of clean tech start-ups and to help foster the clean tech movement.”
The mission of the Clean Tech Open is to:
“encourage the development of clean technology companies that foster a healthy natural environment — companies that provide environmental benefits in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, pollution reduction and resource protection, and conservation. The competition will also serve as a platform to educate the public, as well as the participants, about the environmental challenges we face and new technologies that can provide solutions to those challenges.”
In my interaction with CTO over the last six months, I have observed that overall, they walk the walk. Given the mostly volunteer support, there are hiccups to be sure, but there is no doubt of the presence of real desire in this community to give good ideas, really disruptive ideas, a fighting chance to make a significant impact on bending the curve of the track this planet is on. So many times, a good idea can’t get out of the lab because the basics of a viable business are not in place. The Clean Tech Open is an organization that can and has shifted the success rate of burgeoning start-ups, specifically in the clean tech arena to the benefit of all.
That’s what the weekend was all about. Rex Northern, the Clean Tech Open Executive Director, kicked things off with a presentation on what it takes to win the competition, but finished his talk with the message that it’s not about winning the competition, it’s about gaining the valuable business edge that can help Entrepreneur’s successfully make a difference in the marketplace.
For me, the walk away from this event, the thing I enjoyed most, was witnessing the energy of more than 250 people in that room who are filled with the determination and passion of a bright future, not only for their potential companies, but for the future of this planet. I wish all the teams good luck in the adventure of the competition, and in the even more exciting future beyond.