Some of the most interesting numbers out of my recently-completed MIT Sloan Executive Education class Clean Energy Ventures: Creating Innovative New Businesses Through Entrepreneurial Management involve Massachusetts, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT.)
Regarding Massachusetts, I learned that there are currently 5,000 clean energy companies here, which currently employ 1.5% of the state's work force! I had no idea that there was that much clean energy development going on locally!
Regarding MIT, over 26,000 startups have been spun out over the years. Annual sales from these companies total about $2 trillion, which would make it the 11th biggest economy in the world.
The May/June 2012 issue of Technology Review: Can Energy Startups Be Saved? echoes many of the same issues faced by startup companies in the energy arena that were discussed in my Clean Energy Ventures class. The article states "...given that energy is a highly competitive commodity business dominated by entrenched corporations and infrastructure, commercializing new energy technologies requires much more than a large infusion of money. Scaling up innovations in energy production also requires exceptional acumen in business, engineering, and understanding markets."
This was a primary thrust of the class, that it is much harder to start a new energy company, compared to a software or Web-based startup. The skill set required in energy goes well beyond the business and technical arena, and includes public policy and environmental abilities. Furthermore, you must be patient in the energy arena, as you can't make a company and sell it in 18 months for a billion dollars, as the Instagram founders did with Facebook recently. Energy companies take years to develop (often at least a decade).
The best thing about learning all these skills is that since the energy arena seems to be the toughest to do business in, my new skills should translate well into any business area.