Tuesday, August 28, 2007

From alphabet soup to focused energy hot pot

Over at xconomy, Wade Roush reports two interesting developments in Massachusetts' energy entrepreneurship space. First, the New England Energy Innovation Collaborative (past sponsor of the MIT Energy Conference!) may be merging with Governor Patrick's soon-to-be-publicized Massachusetts Clean Energy Council.

Second, and perhaps of more local interest, the NEEIC Business Creation Competition may merge with the Ignite Clean Energy Business Plan Competition.

I think both of these are (potential) positive developments, but as MIT Energy Club Entrepreneurship Chair, I am personally more interested in the potential merger of the business plan competitions.

If the merger between the business plan competitions does happen, it will be interesting to see the parameters of new event. Last year, I know from experience that the ICE competition put a lot of emphasis on polishing the business plan documents and powerpoint decks to make as persuasive a case as could be made for a given team and technology. Teams with polished pitches did well. The NEEIC competition, in contrast, seemed to judge entrants more on a holistic, "do I buy it or not" VC mentality which evaluated a technology's perceived chances in today's energy venture marketplace.

As the xconomy piece notes, differences in the prize structure would also need to be rectified in the event of a merger. The difference in judging criteria is likely related to the prize structure. NEEIC's use of a convertible note as a prize means that VCs wind up invested in the winning team. Naturally, a holistic, yet all-or-nothing VC mentality results in the judging process. This isn't a bad thing, of course, but is in contrast to the ICE competition. There, the motto is "learn, network, win", which to me suggests that one of the primary goals is simply educating the participants about the world of energy entrepreneurship here in Massachusetts.

One thing that I hope won't change is the success that MIT Energy Club members and MIT students in general have in these competitions! Just to name a few, Peter Bermel, who co-founded StarSolar and won the NEEIC competition, has lent his voice to past EC discussion groups. Dave Pelley, a member of the ICE-winning RSI Silicon team, is an MIT alum Energy Club member. Who from the MIT Energy Club will dominate the business plan competitions this year?

2 comments:

David Danielson said...

I strongly hope that if ICE and NEEIC merge their business plan competitions that we end up getting the best of both worlds: 1.) the community orientation and strong educational focus of the ICE competition along with 2.) the gravitas and heavy hitters of NEEIC and it's backers.

I see the possibility for a huge win-win if this merger is done right.

More prize money, more winners, more heavyweights involved, and a strong entreprenership education focus is the way to go.

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