Village Capital launched its 3rd energy-focused program in 2014. Fourteen innovative clean technology ventures took part in this 4-month, 4-session program from June to September of 2014.
The participating ventures were invited to participate in the Rice University Energy Venture Forum, presenting in front of a group of over 200 energy-focused investors and entrepreneurs. In a sweeping success, 3 of the top 10 presenting ventures were from the Village Capital Energy Program.
Workshop 1 – Ft. Collins, Colorado (June 19-22)
The Rocky Mountain Innosphere hosted the first program workshop. The session focused on each company communicating their main value proposition to mentors and their fellow cohort companies. Governor Bill Ritterspoke at the outset of our four-day session about “The New Energy Economy” and the political nature of the energy business. In particular, he talked about the challenges our country faces in instituting a cap and trade program. The cohort was fortunate enough to be able to hear Kim Jordan, the CEO and co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company, speak about corporate responsibility and Employee Shared Ownership Plans (ESOPs). When referring to Kim’s talk one entrepreneur remarked, “The focus on values while speaking with Kim at New Belgium really brought back the internal discussion about the type of company we want to lead…We’d LOVE to adopt similar values should the capital opportunities be available.”
During one of our workshop sessions the entrepreneurs received specific feedback about their target markets and hypotheses from Bryan Wilson, named by the Department of Energy (DoE) as one of the top five energy experts in the United States. Paul Nelson, The President of Ward Alternative Energy and a leader in spearheading the clean technology sector’s pre-eminence in Northern Colorado, told inspirational start-up stories and gave the companies insight into what it takes to succeed in an entrepreneurial venture. Lastly, the clean technology cohort heard a presentation by entrepreneur and Colorado State Professor Paul Hudnutabout navigating entrepreneurial pitfalls and creating a road map to success.
Village Capital helped the companies develop impact metrics, their financial models, and refine their pitch and in the month between Workshop 1 and Workshop 2, received updates from the entrepreneurs about their progress to date. During these conversations, Village Capital found that over 50% of the companies had significant positive developments with potential customers or were in the process of closing companies in their target market. In addition, more than 25% were in discussion with investors and were working through the process of getting term sheets signed to meet their goals for raising capital.
Workshop 2 – Houston, Texas (August 3-6)
The second workshop was hosted by The Houston Technology Center. This session focused on building financial models based on comparable companies, how to finance an entrepreneurial clean technology venture, and further refining the go-to-market strategy of each company. The entrepreneurs were questioned about their companies’ financial assumptions, such as revenue, growth rate, and costs. A major challenge that many entrepreneurs in the energy space face is the capital-intensive nature of producing a product that solves an industry problem. As a result, the workshop focused extensively on what kind of capital they should be seeking and how they would pay it back.
Workshop 3 – Houston, Texas (September 9-11)
The third session was a special addition to our normal programming thanks to our partnership with Chilton Capital and Rice University’s Energy and Clean Technology Venture Forum.
This unique workshop put the cohort companies in front of hundreds of investors and entrepreneurs who were potential partners. The companies also had the opportunity to participate in speed dating sessions on the 10thwhere they connected 1:1 with investors and mentors. On September 11th, the companies pitched a ballroom with 400 potential investors at the Rice Energy and Clean Technology Venture’s marquee event.
Workshop 4 – Fort Collins, Colorado (September 23-26)
The fourth workshop was hosted by The Rocky Mountain Innosphere. Entrepreneurs worked in teams to practice their pitches with highly experienced mentors. Companies received feedback on their delivery and presentation content from mentors before spending the next day pitching in front of potential customers, investors, and industry experts. The finale session four was the Venture Forum on September 26th in Fort Collins, where each entrepreneur gave a two-and-a-half minute pitch to a group of over 80 investors.