Top 20 Women Cleantech Investors
In 2011, the National Venture Capital Association and Dow Jones VentureSource released their study of the diversity makeup of the venture capital industry. Not surprisingly, the majority of people working in the VC industry were white and … wait for it … male.
While women represented 21 percent of employment in the VC industry, only 11 percent listed themselves as actual investors. In cleantech, the number of female investors was 4 percent higher, at 15 percent.
Meanwhile, as Founder of the organization Women in Cleantech & Sustainability, I know there are many female investors out there, if you know where to look. To make it simpler for everyone to applaud these women in their efforts to bring diversity to this traditionally male-dominated field, we’ve listed our top 20 here.
1. Nancy Floyd
Founder and Managing Director, Nth Power
Back in 1993, when Nancy Floyd started Nth Power, there were understandably fewer women in the sector than there are today. Floyd speculated to Gigaom in 2007 as to why the field lacks large numbers of start ups founded by women. “You just don’t have many women with backgrounds that investors would back,” she said. “You’re looking at energy industries that have been male-dominated for years and years. It’s not easy for anybody, but for investors to write a check, they’re going to want to see relevant background.”
Before founding Nth Power, Floyd was a serial entrepreneur, having founded companies like NFC Energy Corp, one of the country’s first wind development firms, which, when it was sold three years later, generated a 25-fold return. Who says there’s not money to be made?
“As a woman in venture capital, I am part of a small club, and it’s part of my job to try to change that. As a woman in cleantech venture capital, the club is smaller still, but somehow it fits like a glove,” Nancy Pfund said in Forbes in 2012.
Considering her groundbreaking role as a female cleantech venture capitalist, Pfund tapped into the press by writing articles featured in outlets such as Huffington Post Green and Forbes with titles like “Subsidies for Renewable Energy: American as Apple Pie” and “Women and Clean Energy: Overcoming The Double Standard.” In these articles, Pfund emphasizes her prominent position as a woman in cleantech and uses an honest and forthright tone that conveys the messages she wants to deliver as a green venture capitalist.
“First, every great expansion of the American economy can be linked to the discovery of a new energy source. Second, each of these new energy industries received substantial government support at a pivotal time in its early growth.”
Yet, Pfund’s enthusiasm for government investment does not define her personal career, which lies heavily in the private sector. Pfund is a partner at DBL Investors, a venture capital firm that strives to invest successfully and meaningfully in terms of social, economic and environmental change. She also sits on the boards of directors of several private companies including Primus Power, Solar City, Solaria, Ecologic, BrightSource and PowerGenix.
3. Andrée-Lise Méthot
Founder, Cycle Capital Management
At Cycle Capital Management, Méthot assists projects in everything from water management and biofuels to community development. Cycle Capital Management strives to help potentially successful companies in cleantech and renewable energy gain the financial assistance they need.
Méthot received her Master’s degree in Science from Université de Montréal. Her BA was in Geological Engineering from Université Laval. In her career she has spent 15 years working in company financing, financial program management, and engineering.
4. Joyce Ferris
Founder and Managing Partner, Blue Hill Partners
An entrepreneur in the green technology industry for over 25 years, Ferris currently acts as the Founder and Managing Partner of Blue Hill, an investment firm with a focus in green technology that provides capital, management assistance and strategic goals for companies. Before founding Blue Hill, Ferris worked as a senior funding executive at Reading energy, an independent power company, where she managed energy projects and financial transactions totaling over $500 million.
Ferris’s expertise is in helping entrepreneurial companies build high-performance culture. Recently for a project in Pennsylvania, Blue Hill built its headquarters with the hope that the facility would be home to a community of green-tech companies.
As Ferris asserted to the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2010, “If you can create an environment where people are helpful and supportive and somebody learns something new about a particular piece of legislation, for instance, there’s some sharing of it, that really strengthens everybody.”
5. Diana Propper de Callejon
General Partner, Expansion Capital Partners
Diana Propper de Callejon boasts more than 20 years of experience in clean technology. Her work has spanned diverse sectors including energy, forestry water, agriculture, and advanced materials. de Callejon believes that many private companies are now created with a commitment to values of “continuous improvement in environmental performance and social impact…as a primary driver of innovation and value creation over the long term,” as she wrote in the essay Integrated Value – A New Private Model for Driving Value Creation.
Prior to becoming a partner at Expansion Capital, de Callejon was a founder and Managing Director of EA Capital, a firm she co-ran for more than ten years. At EA Capital, Ms. de Callejon worked with Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, and private equity firms to identify new business and investment opportunities related to resource efficiency and sustainability.
Ms. de Callejon’s efforts to mobilize investment capital to address environmental and social problems are rooted in her sustainable development work in the 1980s and early 1990s. For six years, de Callejon worked in Africa and South America. In particular, de Callejon worked in Brazil with a trading company that extended loans to small businesses in the Amazon that harvested, processed, and exported non-timber forest products such as fruits, nuts, and essences. de Callejon has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Duke University and speaks French and Spanish.
6. Marianne Wu
Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures
Marianne Wu is a Partner at MDV where she focuses on cleantech investments. With more than 15 years of technology development and business experience, Wu helps build meaningful, successful businesses via investments and assisting entrepreneurs.
As Wu noted in Fast Company, “We look for teams of people with varied skills. As always, you need to have great entrepreneurs, people who have the energy and passion and commitment to start something. We’re also looking for great technical skill and some kind of technical advantage in terms of the platform that gets the product to market at a cost point that’s really exciting. You also need to know the people you’ll work within the larger system. So, over time, companies need to add significant industry operating experience. The key in these biofuel and biochemical companies is marrying the entrepreneur, the technical genius, and the industry domain experience, and making that into a strong, cohesive team.”
Cathy Zoi has over 25 years of experience in both the public and private sector working with energy and resource development and deployment. Currently, Zoi works at Silver Lake Kraftwerk, an enormous equity firm that invests in energy and technology related projects.
Zoi believes our society has the willpower to fight global warming. As she wrote in The Huffington Post, “The good news is that the solutions to this crisis exist. Unlocking innovative technologies to change how we power our lives will grow new and exciting sectors of our economy, helping ensure not just a healthier plant, but a healthier economy as well.”
Notably, Zoi was the founding CEO of the New South Wales Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA). SEDA was a $50 million fund devoted to commercializing technologies that produced fewer greenhouse gases. Moreover, SEDA launched the first nationwide green power program that boasts the world’s largest solar-powered suburb.
8. Jill Watz
Venture Partner, Vulcan Capital
Jill Watz is a Venture Partner at Vulcan Capital, a private investment group, where she is responsible for strategy and portfolio management in the cleantech sector, with specific emphasis on solar, geothermal, nuclear, advanced materials, and water technologies. Prior to Vulcan, Watz held senior management and technical research positions at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in applied energy technology directing multidisciplinary research projects in oil and gas exploration and production, geothermal energy, energy storage and conversion technologies, alternative fuels, and energy and climate policy. While at LLNL, Watz also led industrial partnership development for energy technologies.
In advising the Millennium Village Project’s Energy group on new technology development and business strategies, Watz is able to fulfill her passion for developing distributed energy technologies to combat poverty. She is also a participating scientist at LLNL and is a member of the Corporate Advisory Committee to Washington State University’s Foundation. Watz has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from University of California at San Diego and SM degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Technology and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kiki Tidwell is a cleantech angel investor in Seattle and President of the Tidwell Idaho Foundation, a small family foundation she started after considerable thought about inherited wealth when her daughter was born. Individually, Tidwell is a Limited Partner in several venture funds: Nth Power Fund IV, CalCEF Angel Fund, Good Capital’s Social Enterprise Expansion Fund, TrueBridge Capital Fund II, and Aligned Partners. Since 2007, she has been a member of Northwest Energy Angels, a cleantech-focused angel group, and served two years on its board. She was also an advisor to the Fall 2012 Astia Global Entrepreneur Program.
As she noted to Sramana Mitra for her One Million by One Million Blog, Tidwell’s interest in cleantech developed around 2003 when she was working at an industry in Idaho for rural economic development. “I was very proactive and started learning about the opportunities available in cleantech, and I realized what a huge change this was going to be and what a huge market opportunity it presented. My background is in real estate investing. Why I was interested in cleantech were the tax credits. I understood those from affordable housing–type tax credits I’d looked into. I’m also a philanthropist. . . trying to make Idaho a better place. I saw what a state could do with new industry could far eclipse what we would could do in grant making. Communities could build industries and fund their own schools and their own social needs through these new industries.”
In 2009, Tidwell won the first ever successful carbon reduction shareholder initiative with a utility for her initiative with IdaCorp, Inc. It was one of only 15 successful shareholder initiatives in any category in the last 10 years.
10. Yvette Go
Partner, Chrysalix SET BV
Board Director, MicroShade A/S
Yvette Go is a Partner at Chrysalix SET where she focuses on companies in the areas of biofuels, biomass, waste-to-energy, energy efficiency, hydrogen, and fuel cells. She also serves as the Board Director of MicroShade A/S, a Danish technology and knowledge-based company that develops and markets advanced, transparent solar shading and photovoltaic solutions for new and refurbished buildings.
An experienced investment professional for the past 15 years, Go works to build and develop businesses through maximizing value. Prior to becoming a partner at Chrysalix SET, she acted as the global Product Portfolio Manager of DSM Powder Coating Resins, a global science-based company active in health, nutrition, and materials.
While at DSM, Go was selected to represent the company on the 2004 Young Managers Team (Future Leaders Team) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development where she led a sub-team focused on China’s capacity building and Sustainable Business promotion. Feeling that the work she had accomplished at YMT gave her a wider outlook on sustainable development, both within the YMT and beyond, Go noted in an interview, “I consciously look for opportunities to work sustainable development into the marketing and sales area at DSM. That means challenging myself and others to be more aware about the environmental and social impact of business and asking more questions about how we do things.”
Go holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from IESE Business School (Global Executive MBA 2008) and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering.
11. Susan Preston
General Partner, CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund (CALCEF)
Susan Preston has spent most of her career in senior management positions, from general counsel to CEO, in public and private companies. She has also been a partner in two national law-firms and is a patent attorney. Preston is a world-recognized expert in angel financing and is the author of numerous articles, white papers, and books on the subject.
Before her work at the California Clean Energy Fund, Preston founded Seraph Capital Forum in 1999. In 2012 she told Opportunist Magazine, “the forum came out of the frustration I saw with women not getting into deals as investors. Even though they were very experienced professionals capable of making intelligent investment decisions, women were being excluded from the club. So we decided to start our own club. The forum is still around today.”
On the topic of her clean energy investment work, Susan continued on to say the sector has received undue attention and an unfair magnifying glass, “because of Solyndra and other large, public clean tech failures, but this is an amazing opportunity at this time. We must be counter-intuitive in our investing and think differently about it and look at the specifics and realize that when everybody else takes their eye off the ball, this is the best time to invest.”
Susan received her JD, cum laude, from Seattle University and her BS, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in Microbiology and Public Health from Washington State University.
Rohini Chakravarthy focuses on information and energy technology investments at her position at NEA. She is on the boards of cleantech firms of EnVerv and Pinnacle Engines, and works closely with other NEA portfolio companies.
Interviewed by Bloomberg Business Week on the question of success of a new engine with better fuel efficiency, Chakravarthy dodged some of the political rhetoric of the interviewer by emphasizing that going greener often is just the better financial option. “We go to countries where markets are demanding better fuel efficiency. People in Indonesia and India who are buying their first cars, fuel efficiency is more of a pocket book issue. Just like people went from no phones to cell phones. People will go from little energy consumption to clean energy consumption.”
Chakravarthy received her MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, an MSEE from Case Western Reserve University and a BTech. from the Indian Institute of Technology–Madras, also in electrical engineering.
13. Whitney Rockley
Co-founder & Managing Partner, McRock Capital
Rockley brings over 15 years of investment, operating and strategic planning experience in large, established industries such as power, water and oil & gas.
Prior to co-founding McRock Capital, Rockley was a Partner with Emerald Technology Ventures and Nomura New Energy Ventures. At Nomura, Rockley focused on investments for growing expansion stage companies who want to develop energy and water solutions. Before becoming a partner at Emerald Technology, Rockley spent a decade managing cleantech capital funds for an international bank, a large Canadian power and water company (EPCOR), and Canada’s largest oil and gas company.
While working at EPCOR, Rockley took the initiative to establish an energy and water venture fund. Moreover, thanks to her efforts, the company’s greenhouse gas emission reduction portfolio was built. A graduate with an MBA from the University of Calgary, Rockley has worked for over a decade making large strides in the investment side of the cleantech field.
Guy is a Vice President at Angeleno Group and focuses on the firm’s investments in Australia and the U.S. across sectors including carbon, energy and efficiency finance, intelligent transportation, water and agriculture. Prior to joining Angeleno Group, Guy spent several years at Goldman Sachs in New York and Sydney, Australia, where she was a member of the natural resources investment banking team and was a founding member of the firm’s environmental markets and strategy group. In 2009, she served as a Recovery Act Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy. She holds an AB from Harvard College in Environmental Science and Public Policy, an MS in Environment and Resources (with a focus on nuclear and clean energy technologies) from Stanford University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was an Arjay Miller Scholar.
15. Kim Stevenson
Associate Director, Technology Innovation, Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority
Kim Stevenson has over 15 years of experience working with the senior management of Fortune 500 corporations, as well as smaller organizations to conceptualize new products and services that serve the energy, industrial, and automotive markets.
In her role as Associate Director of Technology Innovation, Stevenson is responsible for advising the development and commercialization of new clean energy technologies. The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, created in 2000 to invest in clean energy projects, capitalizes on Connecticut’s clean energy industry, which, in 2010, was “estimated to represent approximately 1 percent of total employment in the state and more than $780 million in direct revenues” according to Stevenson in The Hartford Business Journal. As she mentioned to The Hartford Courant in 2009, “Connecticut has a number of things going for it that has placed us ahead of other states in renewable energy.”
Ms. Stevenson received her MCP in Urban Planning as well as her BS in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to working at The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, Stevenson acted as the Principal of Stevenson Consulting Group where she specialized in the development and commercialization of energy conservation and cleantech products and services.
16. Alexa Leon-Prado
Managing Director, CleanTech and Electronics Supply Chain Investment Banking at Citi
Alexa Leon-Prado is Managing Director in Citi’s Global Technology Investment Banking Group and Global Head of Citi’s CleanTech practice. While she has worked in London and New York, Ms. Leon-Prado is currently based in Palo Alto, California.
At Citi, she works with different public and private companies in the area of cleantech, hardware, supply chain, test and measurement, and industrial sectors. In terms of cleantech, Ms. Leon-Prado covers solar, energy storage, electric vehicles, smart grid, and energy efficiency. Also, she has worked with the alternative energy teams of corporate clients involved in industrial energy and power.
Ms. Leon-Prado received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA in International Relations from Tufts University. Before working for Citi, her fluency in Spanish enabled her to work in Caracas, Venezuela for Markets at the Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF). Prior to CAF, Ms Leon-Prado participated in the executive program at Banco Industrial, S.A. in La Paz Bolivia.
17. Candice Eggerss
Managing Director, Firelake Capital Management
Candice Eggerss joined Firelake Capital Management in 2003 as the managing director. At Firelake Capital Management, each individual works as a separate entity doing individual research, analysis, and portfolio management to create a detail-oriented team. Firelake Capital Management invests in companies that capture opportunities and develop sustainable energy sources to help them become cost leaders in their markets. With investments in solar, carbon, and global food supply, Firelake Capital Management has emerged as a cleantech-minded investment management firm.
Eggeress is a member of the board of EOS Climate and the Berkeley Public Education Foundation and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Berkeley Startup Cluster. She is also a board observer of Solexant and ZeaChem. Eggerss began her financial career in 1985 at Morgan Stanley and has a BS in Biology from Stanford University and an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.
18. Moonkyung (Moon) Kim
Founder, Managing Director, Peony Investments
Senior Advisor, SOW Asia Foundation
Cleantech Venture Partner, Spring Capital Asia
Independent Director, China Hydroelectric Corporation
Moonkyung Kim is the Founder and Managing Director of Peony Investments (Hong Kong) Limited where she provides investment, advisory, and board leadership to green businesses in Asia Pacific. Kim is also a Senior Adviser to SOW Asia Foundation, a non-profit venture philanthropic organization in Hong Kong where she provides advisory support in fundraising, investment opportunity sourcing and execution, and portfolio management. She also serves as a cleantech Venture Partner at Spring Capital Asia, where she does early growth equity investment in Chinese cleantech companies. Kim has been an Independent Director at China Hydroelectric Corporation since September 2012. Kim earned her BS in Environmental Engineering from Harvard University and an MBA, with a major in Finance, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Kelsey Lynn joined Imperial Innovation in 2011. She has worked in energy technology since 2003 and previously worked as partner at Firelake Capital Management where she focused on private investments in the cleantech sector.
While at Firelake Capital Management, Lynn mentioned to zoomforth.com, “Our thesis is to recognize that the world and the infrastructure that was built for a population of 1 billion people will not support a population of 10 billion people.”
Today, Lynn works passionately on new technology innovations and investments. She specializes particularly on materials and resource productivity.
“I think you should find a job like mine if you love tracking innovative change and trends and going deep into a variety of sub-sectors and helping to build billion dollar companies.”
Lynn graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a BS in mechanical engineering. At Stanford she joined the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) and played on the women’s Rugby team. In 2011, Lynn was featured in Forbes 30 Professional Under 30 in Energy.
20. Andrea Bolger
Head of Business Financial Services for RBC’s Canadian Banking division
At RBC, Andrea Bolger helps invest in sustainability in Canada and the United States. A major part of her role at RBC is setting the direction and leading lines of business to serve small businesses and commercial clients. In fact, one investment from RBC was towards the Farm & Foodcare Foundation, which develops and supports communication with Canadians helping to build confidence and trust in Canadian food and farming.
Bolger recently participated in the 2013 GLOBE Series of Conferences and Trade Fairs, a conference that gathers sustainability experts from around the world. Her particular participation was a roundtable entitled “Is Sustainable Retail an oxy-moron?” where members explored sustainability as key to ensuring the long-term success of businesses.
In a report by RBC and the Farm & Food Care Foundation, Bolger noted, “Canadian farmers have an established track record as leaders in sustainable farm management. With continued investment in innovative technology and energy efficient equipment; farmers can capitalize on the many productivity benefits of sustainable business, while ensuring access to global markets, now and in the future.”
If you know any other women in this critical field, please send us their names, and we would be happy to add them to our next list.
Lisa Ann Pinkerton is founder of Women In Cleantech & Sustainability, a San Francisco Bay Area group dedicated to the advancement of women in various environmental and technology sectors. She is also Founder and President of Technica Communications, where she handles marketing and public relations strategies for cleantech and biotech companies. Pinkerton is a former award-winning broadcast journalist who reported for National Public Radio, PBS Television, WPXI-NBC, American Public Media, and Free Speech TV.