Wanted: Cleantech Industry CEOs, will train

The Colorado Cleantech Industry Association is looking for a few good CEOs.

The association has launched a Cleantech Fellows Institute in an effort to jump start advanced technology startups in Colorado by training CEOs to lead the firms.

CFI is an intensive program that aims to train 12 to 15 business executives this fall to lead clean energy companies. As a fellow in the 17-week program, business executives will learn the ins and outs of the emerging clean energy industry, said Wayne Greenberg, CFI director.

The biggest issue surrounding clean technology has not been the lack new ideas or startups, he said. The issue is that there are not enough seasoned executives to the take the helm of the companies.

“We think we can attract aerospace or bioscience CEOs and they are at a point where they can turn their attention to renewable energy,” he said.

CFI is created by the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association and is based on findings from the New England Clean Energy Council that said venture capitalists were reluctant to invest in startups that lacked veteran CEOs. The program is expected to attract CEOs from across the country, thereby having a national scope of influence.

“This will be the first year of the program and I’m confident that it will prove to be one of the nation’s most practical and motivating programs to advance the cleantech industry,” said Christine Shapard, executive director of Colorado Cleantech Industry Association.

CFI is looking for executives who have built successful companies in different sectors such as aerospace, biotechnology and enterprise technology. In most cases they want executives with more than 20 years of experience, who have an advanced degree and experience leading a venture-backed startups and are interested in making a move to the clean energy sector.

“One of the challenges in the advanced energy sector is finding the right talent to turn cutting-edge technologies into successful companies,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy. “The Cleantech Fellows Institute is a perfect example of identifying special individuals outside of the clean energy industry – whether that is technology or other sectors – and helping them acquire the expertise they need to succeed in the dynamic, competitive advanced energy marketplace.”

The key to the CFI program’s success will be the executives’ exposure to commercial-ready technologies from Colorado sources.

“Colorado is a hub for cleantech,” Greenberg said. “There is an abundance of market-ready research and technology here to drive the success of this program.”

At CFI, the executives selected to participate will be immersed in learning all facets of managing a clean energy company. When they complete the program, they will be positioned to network with investors, know the latest details of clean energy research and be versed in industry regulations.

CEOs will know how to seek and land venture capital to get the startups off the ground, he said.

There are about 10 venture capitalists that have signed onto the project and about 40 faculty members, practitioners in the field of clean energy, are lined up to teach the fellows. In the program, the fellows will review as many as 250 ideas for startups and chose one to delve into with a business plan and market assessment and be ready to present a working startup by January.

“The ecosystem, is what we are teaching and giving them the rolodex to the venture capitalists,” he said.

Fellows will pay tuition of $8,000 and the rest of the program is funded by two grants, including one from Advanced Energy Economy and one from National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Fellows will take some lessons in Golden, some at Colorado University and some and Colorado State University. They also are expected to travel to Fort Carson Army Installation, where they will learn more about its pilot net zero conservation and recycling programs.

The deadline for fellows to apply to the clean tech fellows program is July 6.