“60 Minutes” and Cleantech: The Untold Startup Successes

February 11, 2014

To view the video, visit CBS 60 Minutes.

Last month, CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a segment on what it called the “Cleantech Crash.” The firestorm of comments debunking many of the claims Lesley Stahl made during the segment only added to recent backlash "60 Minutes" has suffered. A quick Google search for “60 Minutes” and cleantech will show you just how many cleantech executives, reporters, investors and even the Department of Energy have reason not to believe claims of a crash. Both Robert Rapier’s and Vinod Khosla’s responses to the aired segment detail their thoughts on the process, from their interview experiences through to the final broadcast, and they share a long list of evidence supporting the fact that cleantech is thriving, not dead, and many others have written in support.

Since so many have already thoroughly detailed discrepancies, let’s instead focus on some positive success stories. In his response letter to “60 Minutes,” Khosla highlights a few of the success stories he shared that didn’t get airtime, and we point out a few more that the show could have highlighted to show the promise of the market.

Here are a few worthwhile reads:

Beyond the clients with whom we work in the cleantech space, here are some startups that are changing our energy landscape for the better:

  • Also named as a success example by Khosla (he’s an investor), LightSail Energy developed a compressed air energy storage solution that’s as efficient as batteries, but significantly cheaper. It achieves the energy-storage trifecta: cost-effective, simple, build-it-anywhere technology. The Berkeley, Calif. startup was founded by media darling Danielle Fong at age 20, and she has since been named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list and MIT Technology Review’s 35 innovators under 35, along with many other personal and company recognitions.
  • Solum applies big data to farming by developing software and measurement technology to give farmers better insight into their soil and maximize their crop production. Solum, founded by three Stanford grads, raised a Series A led by Khosla Ventures, and later a $17 million Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz. The world’s population continues to grow, and we need a large enough food supply to support such growth. As Mark Andreessen notes in his well-read Wall Street Journal essay, “Why Software Is Eating The World,” agriculture has a big market potential for software.
  • Energy Harvesters’ Walking Charger is a small device embedded in footwear that charges mobile devices such as your smartphone, just by walking. Many people are plagued by finding themselves with a dead smartphone battery, and the Walking Charger offers an off-grid solution that also eliminates any battery disposal or recycling issues. Energy Harvesters identified the military, outdoor recreationalists, outdoor workers and first responders as initial target markets, but as the wearable device trend grows, so will the potential customer base.

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