CTO Day 3
As we watch San Jose fade in the rearview mirror and close the book on the 2011 Cleantech Open Academy for semi-finalists, a few final thoughts:
- $ilicon Valley: If California is the world’s 8th leading economy, Silicon Valley is the hub that finances the whole operation. This was my first trip to San Jose, and I was blown away by the access to investment firms aspiring tech (and cleantech) entrepreneurs have. My jaw literally dropped to see double the VC firms in one block than likely exist in the Portland Metro area. It was amazing.
- Raves: Congratulations to Christina Ellwood and company for pulling off an amazing Cleantech Open Academy. Ellwood and a mostly volunteer crew slogged away at a daunting Academy schedule with discipline and flair … not an easy balance, for sure. Yes, there were snags along the way, but most of these were balanced out with Ellwood’s command of the stage and improvisational skills and a never-say-die team that worked like the dickens in the background. The speaker set was fantastic. Leading local professionals and educators in finance, patent law, and marketing offered semi-finalists great (and FREE) advice. But as an MBA grad, it was the headliners that blew me away: Steve Blank and Randy Komisar, in particular, were superb.
- Rants: To some extent, the Academy is held hostage by its own objective to get every participant ready to compete in the next round. The conference schedule was brutal—8 a.m. to 7 p.m. with an hour-and-change in breaks. Even though I generally got something out of every session, some flexibility for our group to pick and choose what we felt we needed would have been nice. Let’s face it: The vast majority of these sessions (speaker & PPT format) could have been done virtually (Think: A green alternative!). Instead, more focus on facilitating valuable mentor meetings and connections between attendees would have been nice. Finally, I know the world of the entrepreneur is fluid, but that sort of hour-to-hour uncertainty shouldn’t carry over to the conference. Even a basic timeline of the schedule was hard to get in advance and technical miscues made it challenging to follow workshop activities. I realize speakers may cancel last minute, but the general backbone of the show should always be in place.
- What Now? Paul, Ihab, and I will be trying our darnedest to make it to the regional finals where only three lucky teams will move on to nationals in the fall. The challenge will be enormous. (Did I mention that we need to find a customer?), but we have a plan we think will help see us through: Talk to lots and lots of people—there has to be a buyer in there somewhere.
- Doug Anderson, MBA ’11
You can follow Doug, Paul, and Innovative Invironments team in their Cleantech Open experience on Twitter @douglassander.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final installment in the series of blog posts that followed two Oregon MBA graduates from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices as they participated in the semi-final round of the Cleantech Open 2011 to commercialize the SolarStream™ Awning System.