Cleantech Open: the commitment to make a difference

By Ashley Grosh
April 14th, 2011

Please let me introduce Rex Northen, the Executive Director for the Cleantech Open—the largest business competition in the world that is sweeping our country. I have gotten to know Rex over the last few years, and his passion for innovation and supporting entrepreneurs in clean technology has truly been captivating and contagious. A true entrepreneur at heart, he has had a long history of building and managing startup companies in both Europe and the U.S.

For the second year, Wells Fargo is a proud national supporter of the Cleantech Open. It’s an initiative very much in line with our own goals to support environmental initiatives that create jobs, support small business and entrepreneurs, encourage innovation and bring solutions to communities across the country and even around the world. I encourage everyone to learn more about Cleantech Open and get involved. Rex, take it away! (—Ashley)

Cleantech Open's Rex NorthenThank you, Ashley! I begin with a statistic: The United States sends over $1 billion dollars (PDF) overseas every day of every week to pay for oil imports.

Now there are plenty of ideas about how we can cut that cost to our economy. Consider just one: electric vehicles, a quieter, cleaner way of getting from A to B. Because electric motors run at an equivalent of 100 mpg or better, the cost of electricity needed to get you to work each day in tomorrow’s electric car will be a fraction of what it costs you now in gasoline.

But there’s a problem. Today’s batteries are too heavy and too expensive. Electric cars costing under $30,000 typically have a range of 100 miles or less. And of course, if we manage to solve that problem, there’s another one right on its heels: In order to charge the batteries of millions of shiny new electric cars each night using clean energy sources like solar or wind, we’ll need to upgrade our aging electricity grid.

There are plenty of similar challenges, and they are all big. But with the right brains on the case, we can solve them all, and the dividends for solving them are enormous.

There have been calls from Bill Gates, former Microsoft CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, and others, to triple the federal government’s investment in energy R&D. Depending on how you count it, your taxpayer dollars help fund about $5 billion every year in basic energy research—a trifling sum in comparison to the nearly $400 billion we spend on annual oil imports, or, for that matter, the $30 billion we spend each year on healthcare research, or the $80 billion dished out each year on military research.

But basic research is, literally, just the first step. What’s comes next? What happens to the promising progeny of our most brilliant researchers?

It’s a sad fact that, left to their own devices, most startups will fail, sooner or later—sooner, because a brilliant scientist doesn’t have the wherewithal to raise money to develop a prototype; later, because an exciting product from a tiny startup company has to compete in a market bristling with the sharp marketing departments and deep pockets of bigger competitors. Millions of hours slaving away in garages throughout our nation and billions of dollars spent on research in our national labs are wasted without a proven mechanism to take the resulting products to market. Products that don’t succeed commercially don’t succeed at all.


Supporting Cleantech Startups

Over the past five years, we here at the Cleantech Open have awarded nearly $5 million in cash and services to support growing cleantech startups. Our ten-month professional development process includes business mentoring, training, access to investors, and opportunities to showcase to the media and the public.

In addition, our alumni have raised nearly $300 million in funding and continue to generate extensive press attention, build revenue, create high-quality jobs, and develop partnerships with major companies that will collaborate rather than compete. For more information, or to volunteer for Cleantech Open events and programs, please visit our website!


That’s where we come in. The Cleantech Open runs the world’s largest cleantech business competition. It’s our job to improve the odds that promising new clean technologies, developed anywhere in the country, will make it in the market. We’re the world’s leading not-for-profit organization that provides entrepreneurs and inventors the resources needed to turn a great idea or product into a successful, commercially-viable company.

Wells Fargo’s involvement in the Cleantech Open started in 2010 as a supporter in the five regions that then made up our network. We are now delighted to announce Wells Fargo’s increased support in 2011 as a national sponsor. Wells Fargo’s participation helps deliver the financial and practical resources we need to continue and to expand our regional programs based in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Boston, and this year also in Washington, DC and Texas.

Supported by corporations, foundations, venture capital firms, universities, state and federal agencies and public utilities, the Cleantech Open has become the global leader in early-stage cleantech mentorship and training.

This is no passive relationship. Wells Fargo will participate actively in mentoring, at events, in hosting training and other activities throughout the nation.

From all of us at the Cleantech Open, a huge thanks to Wells Fargo and your employees for the vision and the commitment to make a difference. With your assistance, we will continue to find ways to help turn basic research in to viable products, and to support our best entrepreneurs as they work to answer the most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges of our age.

Tags:   battery   Cleantech Open   electric vehicles   electricity   entrepreneur   gasoline   grid   import   jobs   oil   R&D   Rex Northen   small business   solar   sponsor   wind   
Ashley Grosh

Ashley Grosh

As a Project Manager for Environmental Affairs, Ashley Grosh helps further the connection between banking and environmental initiatives with customers, communities, non-profits, universities, and Wells Fargo business groups. She earned a BA in Economics with a minor in Finance from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is currently seeking an energy certificate program from the LEEDS School of Business.

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