Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spark to Market - Cleantech in NYC

Yesterday, the Pratt Center for Community Development hosted "Spark to Market". The event was part of the Pratt Center's Energy Matter's campaign and was designed to connect New York area enertech and cleantech entrepreneurs with resources to help them bring their products and ideas to market.

The morning started out with speakers from the Ashoka discussing social innovation. Ashoka is a global association of social entrepreneurs — men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Their global community develops models for collaboration and design infrastructure needed to advance the field of social entrepreneurship and the citizen sector.

Stuart Yasgur introduced Ashoka's fellowship programs and some examples of social entrepreneurship that Ashoka has sponsored in the past including sustainable forest exploration in Indonesia and Cows to Kilowatts in Nigeria.

The keynote of the morning was Rich Lechner, VP of Energy and Environment at IBM. Rich discusses IBM's focus on optimizing all aspects of an organization and discussing sustainability in terms of economic sustainability, operational sustainability, and environmental sustainability. He gave examples of smart grid, smart water, and smart traffic systems that IBM has helped instigate. An interesting statistic that he put forth was that 85% of CEOs believe sustainability will optimize business and lower costs; however, only 35% of companies actively measure sustainability. Although Rich's understanding of sustainability was questionable at times - I felt he was replacing optimization with sustainability - he did provide some interesting examples of optimization around the globe.  Rich's powerpoint is available on the Pratt Center's website -

The morning finished with the "Making Sparks" panel. Micah Kotch, Director of Operations at NYC ACRE moderated the panel made up of

The panel was asked what they thought was needed for cleantech and enertech to pick up in New York. The key themes they came up with were more talent, more finance, greater demand, more resources, and community mentorship.

Arrun Kapoor recommended the book Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Customers for any new start up.

He also recommended Shawn Lesser's article, "Top 10 Cleantech Cluster Organizations in 2010".  Cleantech cluster organization are economic development organization aimed at growing jobs in a specific geographic region. Among a cleantech cluster’s main goals are to promote innovation and investment. For a cluster to exist,  the right circumstances must be present: A thriving technology base, abundant entrepreneurial and management talent, access to capital, and a proactive environmental public policy.

Overall, Spark to Market was an interesting introduction to the cleantech market in NYC. 

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