This week marked the kickoff of the CleantechExecs program at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU (NYU-Poly). The program will last 10 days spread over several months and will include appearances by an array of speakers from industry, finance and government.
The program is intended to prepare mid-career executives for a transition to the cleantech industry. I am among the first cohort of 30 participants, who come from varied backgrounds including banking, media, IT, law and the non-profit sector.
Our tuition is paid by NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is seeking to foster the development of the cleantech industry in New York and sees this program a means of building the ranks of experienced executives in the industry.
Yesterday we reviewed a case study of Verdant Power, a developer of marine power generation projects and technology. The company achieved an important milestone when it fielded a pilot project in the East River of New York City involving 6 underwater turbines that are providing power to the grid using the renewable power of the tides, generating no emissions and without harming acquatic life. Ron Smith, CEO of Verdant Power, listened in on a freewheeling analysis of his business and then took the floor to tells us about his company and to field our questions.
For many of us, the inspiring story about the company and its mission were overshadowed by the realization of just how difficult the regulatory environment is for startups such as Verdant Power. The company has spent a significant share of its limited resources seeking regulatory approvals and has had modest results to show so far. The company also illustrated just how nascent its industry is. Although the company has a staff of only twenty, it must perform technology design and development, resource assessment (identifying appropriate sites), and project development because suitable partners are few and far between.
There is a lot of enthusiasm on day two of the program. Some 2/3 of my class are interested in starting their own businesses, and I am hearing some pretty interesting ideas in the halls. I’ll post more on the program and what I learn in the coming weeks.
If you are familiar with similar programs in other locations, please leave a comment–I’d love to hear about them.