Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Green Economy Conference in Tel Aviv

The annual Green Economy Conference, organized by Ernst & Young, The Marker, and Life and Environment (Chaim ve' Sviva), an umbrella organization incorporating the work of over 80 environmental organizations in Israel, is scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv on November 20th.
The organizers have put together an impressive agenda, which includes presentations from international cleantech leaders like Jeff Renaud (Director, Ecomagination, GE); Neil Auerbach (Managing Partner, Hudson Clean Energy Partners); Michel Goguen (General Partner, Sequoia Capital); Roger Saillant (Former CEO, Plug Power); Justin Adams (Head of Venturing, BP Alternative Energy); Shai Weiss (Managing Partner, Virgin Green Fund); and Nick Parker (Co-Founder and Chairman, Cleantech Group).

Israeli cleantech industry leaders participating in the conference include Glen Schwaber (General Partner, Israel Cleantech Ventures); Astorre Modena (General Partner, Terra Venture Partners); Booky Oren (President & CEO, Miya, Arison Group); Hillel Milo (Managing Partner, AquAgro Fund); and Tamar Naor (Founder, TN Ventures).

If you are in Israel this week, this event is a "can't miss" event.

I recently had a chance to speak with Itay Zetelny, Cleantech Leader for Ernst & Young Israel, about the Green Economy Conference and his take on Israel's cleantech industry.

JS: What are the origins of the Ernst & Young's Cleantech Conference?

: The first CleanTech Conference took place in 2007 as an independent track within the WATEC Convention. The success of the event together with the enthusiastic feedback led Ernst & Young to organize its own event.

JS: What are the goals of the conference? Who should attend?

IZ: The object is to offer Israeli Cleantech entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to present their ventures to leading global investors and create a platform for in-depth discussions regarding possible partnerships and/or investment opportunities. In addition, we are aiming to raise the awareness of the business community as well as of decision makers to the growing importance and value of sustainability considerations in business today, vis-à-vis the climate crisis.The conference will be focusing on the Cleantech sector performance in global financial markets, climate change as a business opportunity, technology trends, project financing, collaboration and multinational companies’ perspective as well as rules and regulations. It is intended for R&D companies, project companies, VCs, investment banks, international technology providers and researchers.

JS: What is Ernst & Young's role in Israel's cleantech industry? What services do you and the Cleantech Advisory Group provide to investors and entrepreneurs?

IZ: Ernst & Young ia a pioneer in offering services to the growing Cleantech industry in Israel. Three years ago the firm has undertaken the task of developing a unique and comprehensive platform for water and energy companies. Today our Cleantech Advisory Group is the largest of its kind in Israel and offers ongoing assistance to entrepreneurs and companies which includes: identifying local and global VCs, management of technological cooperation, project financing, audit services and tax consulting services.

JS: What are the most important (emerging) trends in Israel's cleantech industry?

IZ: Over the first half of 2008 the amount invested in Cleantech companies reached $140 M as opposed to $122M in 2007. These sums do not include two major investments: “Better Place Project” - $200 M in 2007 and “Brightsource” - $115 M in 2008 which involved venture capital funds, PEs and banks. The substantial increase in investment is a result of the VCs' penetration into the market and the growing participation of traditional funds in Cleantech investments. As expected, since the end of 2006, most Israeli VCs have been investing in Cleantech, a trend which is expected to grow in the future.

Additional reasons for increased investments include:

1) Continuous search for technologies and Cleantech companies by Arison, Ofer Brothers, Dankner, Recanati and others

2) Foreign funds which are establishing local operations to ensure continuous exposure to the local industry including: Virgin, Sequoia and Greylock

3) International companies which are establishing local business development activities such as GE and Siemens

4) Israeli private equities which have begun expressing interest in the field and are currently searching for ways to penetrate it

5) Although angels are investing low sums of money in each company the total amount invested is significant

In conclusion, the local Cleantech industry has attracted much attention over the past year. And despite the sub-prime crisis which is affecting all markets, the Cleantech industry will continue to appeal to investors.