Clean Technology: The Style and the Substance

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Fast, no, very fast. That’s the second thing that came to mind when I was cradled in the cockpit of the Tesla Roadster for my recent 24-hour test ride. The first thing was, geez, I hope I don’t wreck this thing. The Tesla is a pleasure to drive, the acceleration is amazing and as an electric car, you hear two things: the quiet whir of the engine and the wind whipping past you. And as good as the acceleration is, the HTQ (head turning quotient) is even better. People stop and stare everywhere you go and ask what you’re driving. How great to explain it’s an electric car with zero emissions.

The Tesla Roadster is really cool and Tesla’s definitely got style. Working with cleantech companies every day, I’m fortunate to learn about really amazing technologies on a daily basis. But, over 99% of these technologies and their emerging companies will never have the brand recognition that Tesla does. And, that’s all right.

Most of these emerging cleantech companies serve the business-to-business market. While you may never hear about SunTrac Solar, you may learn that the hot water at your rec center in Golden, CO, is being produced with solar energy. Or, you may never learn that New Sky Energy’s technology is removing CO2 from a nearby plant, but you may learn that the tables at your local library were produced using a safe, stable material derived from that process. So, what’s my point?

For the SunTrac Solars and the New Sky Energys of the emerging cleantech world, don’t get caught up in the style, don’t try to be a Tesla Roadster. Focus on the substance of your brand. You’ve spent years, maybe decades, developing your technology, so when you go to tell your story, whether at an investor pitch, on your website or for a business competition, focus on what it is that you do, how your technology solves a problem, not how flashy you can make your website or how cool you can make your company appear. Start at the beginning, and focus on the substance of your work. The coolness is in what your business does as a result of your technology, not the head turning quotient of your website, presentation or collateral.

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