In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore came out of obscurity to share a message: the world is heating up. “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Academy Award and made climate change a household term.
But what happened next may have done more harm than good for the clean energy startup space.
In the months after the movie came out, a wave of concerned millionaires and billionaires responded to Vice President Gore’s challenge by pouring venture capital into clean energy startups. Their goal was to save the world—fast. But many of them were new to investing, and not familiar with or ready for the long, patient process of developing a clean energy company.
The cleantech fad turned into a bubble, and the bubble popped. The once-hot sector turned into a graveyard. From 2011 to 2016, US venture capital investment in cleantech declined from 650 deals a year to 450 deals a year and from 17% of total venture capital dollars to 7%.