Cleantech VC Etiquette

Being a venture capitalist is not easy.  Being a cleantech venture capitalist is especially not easy.

I remember Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners, one of the deans of the cleantech VC community, commenting archly several years ago at one of the too-many cleantech investment conferences:  “We need a poster child for cleantech venture capital success.”  Well, generally speaking, we’re still waiting.

There aren’t that many cleantech venture capitalists.  You know who you are.  I know, or know of, most of you.  We need to work together, to help each other, achieve some good successes in cleantech venture financing, so as to improve the well-being of our sector.  This will be to our collective benefit.

So, I write a simple plea to my fellow cleantech VC practicioners:  can you at least respond to emails?

I’ve worked on both sides of the cleantech venture finance table — both in trying to raise capital for ventures, and in making investments in ventures — for nearly 15 years.  And, I submit that the courtesy of most investors in the cleantech space is pretty appalling.

Too frequently, when I send an email to an investor claiming to be interested in cleantech deals, inquiring if they potentially would consider looking seriously at one of the deals with which I’m involved, I encounter deafening radio silence.  Nothing.  Not a peep.  As if my message went into a black hole.

Of course, most of these investors probably want to say “No, thank you,” and don’t want to take the time to respond or the effort to come up with a gentle gracious turn-down.  But, really, how hard is it to reply?  I would appreciate some kind of an indication to my emails, to at least ensure that you received the email (i.e., I’ve got the right address), and maybe get some useful feedback.

Not to pat myself on the back inordinately, but I try damn hard to be responsive and make useful suggestions to anyone who sends an email to me seeking financing, in the aim of building goodwill and helping the sector as a whole.  You might even call it trying to foster good karma.

Look, I’ll make it easy for you:  here’s a generic email response that you may feel free to use.


Dear Richard,

Thanks for your email regarding [venture name].  I appreciate you thinking of us.  Unfortunately, we are not in a position to consider an investment, because [choose one or more of the following]:

a)  It’s too small

b)  It’s too big

c)  It’s too early

d)  It’s too late

e)  It’s geographically inconvenient for us

f)  We have a competing investment in this space

g)  We’ve had a similar investment before that didn’t work out well and thus are not attracted to this space

h)  We’re in-between funds and don’t have capital to deploy at present (bonus points for candor!)

You might consider contacting [insert cleantech VC name/firm here], as he/she/they might find this opportunity to fit nicely into their sweet-spot.  Good luck!


See, that wasn’t that hard, was it?

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