2010 Global Cleantech 100 List Dominated By American And Energy Efficiency Businesses

The Cleantech Group LLC in conjunction with the UK’s Guardian News and Media, released their second annual Global Cleantech 100 list on Wednesday. The rankings recognize private, for-profit, independent cleantech companies that are most likely to make a significant, global market impact over the next five to ten years.

The top ranked, North American cleantech business on the list was Amyris Biotechnologies, which makes chemicals and biofuels from renewable sources. Amyris was initially backed by Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Khosla Ventures and TPG Biotech. The company went public in late September; its stock is now trading on NASDAQ under the symbol AMRS for around $18.00.

This year, 3,138 qualifying companies were nominated for the Cleantech Group’s list. A panel of 60 judges appointed by the San Francisco, Calif. and London-based researchers made the final determinations. Fifty-five percent of the companies who made the list were headquartered in the United States. Energy efficiency represented the list’s dominant industry subcategory with 15 entries, though solar and biofuel companies followed closely behind, each with 14 entries on the list.

Backers of the Cleantech Global 100 companies this year hailed from 20 countries. Of the 226 funding organizations that invested in these cleantech leaders, VantagePoint Venture Partners funded more than any other. Their 13 portfolio businesses to grace the list were: Adura Technologies, AlertMe, Better Place, BrightSource Energy, Bridgelux, Chemrec, MiaSole, Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, Serious Materials, Solarcentury, Solazyme, Tendril and Trilliant. Kleiner Perkins backed twelve Global Cleantech 100 companies that made this year’s list.

Last year, American businesses also dominated the list. Only 43 of the companies that ranked last year appeared again in 2010. Some, like Tesla Motors and A123, went public. Others were acquired. One went out of business.

Government funding agencies, and corporations that fund, acquire or partner with cleantech startups are having a bigger influence on cleantech businesses this year than last, the list researchers noted. Access to government funding can make or break a cleantech company, they cautioned.

One example from the 2009 Global Cleantech 100 list negatively impacted by this reality was Imara, a Silicon Valley lithium-ion battery developer that closed shop before 2010. The U.S. Department of Energy passed Imara over for grants and stimulus money, at which point its private investors decided not to add to their earlier rounds.

Imara faced tremendous capital requirements and an exit for its investors looked further and further away. The company would have had to pay for manufacturing overhead for months before generating revenue, and stood in competition against massive battery makers like Panasonic-Sanyo, Johnson Controls-Saft and a host of Asian battery manufacturing concerns that offer price competitiveness not yet seen by U.S. domestic players.

Cleantech businesses on the list that were bolstered by U.S. government grants, contracts and guaranteed loans or other financing included: BrightSource and Sustain X in solar, Amyris, Enerkem and Zeachem in biofuels, the electric vehicle makers Fisker Automotive, and sustainable plastics and materials startup Novomer.

The Cleantech Group LLC makes their global 100 report available for free, as a PDF download with registration.