Innovative Entrepreneurs Drive Sustainability

By Byron B. McCann, Co-Chair, NW Energy Angels  (Originally posted at

Innovation is the life blood of entrepreneurs and investors. It solves problems and creates opportunity, economic value, and in the case of cleantech, a more sustainable future. Innovation by its nature is about adaptation and flexibility. Nowhere is this found in such pure form as the entrepreneur.

Since 2005, the NW Energy Angels have invested over $4M in more than 25 entrepreneurs and their cleantech ventures from renewable energy and materials science to sustainable agriculture. Over the next few years, we should see several, rapidly growing ventures become well established in driving their cleantech solutions deep into the market place here and abroad, playing a crucial role in affecting sustainability change.

Entrepreneurs see an opportunity to solve a problem and innovate to address it. As investors in the NW Energy Angels, we endeavor to find and support the entrepreneurs who have significant innovations which are impactful and have a good chance of succeeding as a business. Our goal is to create value (economically and environmentally) and achieve liquidity from investments to recycle funds into more cleantech ventures/innovations, further driving environmental and economic benefit. We chose to focus on cleantech because of the vital importance for our sustainable future and because it makes business sense.

Good entrepreneurs understand the importance of being nimble and pivoting to address shifting needs. Good investors partner with those entrepreneurs to support and amplify their innovations and need to adapt. As much as we like to understand the trajectories of technologies and markets, they change all the time. Innovation is hyper-dynamic as it adapts to rapidly occurring shifts. At NW Energy Angels, the membership is comprised mostly of successful technologists who understand innovation and seek to encourage it in their activities. It’s the “Takes one to know one” type of thing and the kind of dynamic that we hope makes innovation fly.

Collaboration between policy, technology, entrepreneurs, and investors is critical to building the cleantech economy. Business Leaders for Climate Solutions is particularly relevant to the NW Energy Angels given our focus on businesses working to address global warming—either directly or indirectly. And, Policy Director KC Golden is on NWEA’s Advisory Council to help us gain insight into policy trends that can affect the business of much needed innovation in clean technology. And, we realize this is a globally competitive market for innovation. It’s more like co-opetition where competition will drive positive outcomes for the benefit of all no matter if it comes from China or the U.S. We just have to make sure we have our fair share of innovation to offer and that’s why getting aligned is so critical.

Future successes with entrepreneurial ventures and the benefits they provide to the planet will prove that the effort to support innovation was more than worth it.