Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Hi! As has been the case the past few years, I made some predictions for 2015. And has been the case the past few years, they weren’t very good. But that’s fine, because they were all in good fun! Here’s the review of how things went…

There will be a big market correction on Wall Street in the first half of the year, followed by a rapid recovery.

Well, this kind of happened, but not in the first half of the year. Still, the basic principle held, that there would be a Wall Street hiccup but nothing terrible in the macroeconomic sense. So I’ll take partial credit.

The IPO window will be very narrow in the first half of 2015, but then will re-open in Q4.

Yeah, not so much.

It will be a relatively flat year for U.S. cleantech venture deals and dollars.

Looks pretty flat to me, pending Q4 results.

It will be a big year for automation.

I wrote that “in areas like transportation, lighting, water, and agriculture, ‘applied robotics’ will be the next big thing. There will be at least one massive driverless-car venture deal. And as a result of all of this hype around automation, worries about “the computers taking over” will grow to an all-time high. Mentions of “Skynet” will peak.”

I kind of feel like this was a layup of a prediction, and so I’m going to take partial credit even if some of the specifics didn’t hold true.

It will be a big year for implementation.

As I wrote, “At the midpoint of last year, my firm calculated that at least $4 billion had gone into such distributed asset financing pools over the preceding twelve months in the U.S. alone. Since then, market interest in implementation platforms and funding opportunities and yield has only increased. So in 2015, let’s watch as that $4 billion tally grows to $6 billion. That’ll be around triple the amount of venture dollars deployed in the space. But we’ll still spend most of our time talking about the venture dollars anyway.”

I haven’t been able to duplicate this study to confirm. But certainly it’s been a big year for distributed asset financing. And we’re certainly spending way too much time talking about the venture dollars anyway. So I’ll put a check mark next to this prediction.

A group of sovereign wealth funds will “unstealth” a collaborative, multi-billion-dollar direct investment strategy into cleantech.

Yep. And also, kind of yep.

A major buyout firm will purchase a large utility, with the express purpose of establishing a new “utility of the future” business model.

Nope. Didn’t happen. Should still happen. And has been attempted. But hasn’t yet happened.

There will be a big wave of downstream solar consolidation.

Yeah, kind of. But admittedly not yet to the point I’d expected. So only partial credit.

2016 was already setting up to be a big year for the downstream battles to become more pointed in the solar industry. And now the ITC extension will further open up that window. Some big acquisitions will likely surprise us this year in that industry.

Jigar Shah will write, speak, be interviewed, and podcast at least 200 times during the course of 2015.

I have no stats on this. But I’m claiming full credit for this prediction being true. Its truthiness is off the charts.

It will be a big year for cleantech M&A as corporates start to acquire for competitive reasons, not just option value.

This did not happen. Sure, corporates like GE started to get really serious about the sector. And there was some M&A. But for the most part, the big traditional corporates involved in this sector still mostly were slow movers and non-strategic (ie: opportunistic) acquirers.

I’m honestly despairing that the big players like JCI, Honeywell, et al will ever start to engage productively with the entrepreneurial community. And the best-positioned players to disrupt them, like Microsoft, Google et al, are still distracted and not focused on this sector. Perhaps GE Current will change things for the better. But right now one of the biggest factors that hinders entrepreneurial success in this sector is that no one out there is paying up for great startups. It’s very frustrating, and one would assume, eventually self-defeating for the energy corporate community. I mean, eventually someone HAS to figure out how to actually profit off of the major energy market disruptions underway, right? I guess I just gave too much credit to the incumbents that they would have figured this out by now.

Elon Musk will launch a new eponymous fashion line.

I’m wearing my new Tesla undergarments right now, aren’t you?

Okay, I guess this one was a bust.

At least one major energy storage startup will surprise the industry by announcing bankruptcy (or the “fire sale” equivalent).

No, the hoverboard doesn’t count. And I don’t think any of the other big energy storage startups officially gave up the ghost this year. I still think a shakeout is looming. But it didn’t happen in 2015!

A revenue-neutral carbon tax will be seriously discussed by Congress — and won’t happen.

Yeah right.

One or more high-profile generalist VCs will jump back into these markets, rebranding it along the way.

I really had hopes this might happen.

It did not.

Seahawks versus Patriots in the Super Bowl!

Nailed it!

So there you go. Overall, I would describe most of 2015 as having been a bit of limbo for the cleantech sector. No major developments from an industry perspective, just a lot of “blocking and tackling” from those entrepreneurs still plugging away in the industry. And some overall strong market growth, even if neglected by the VCs and their ilk.

But that said, it does feel like a turning point year. Mostly as a “bottom”, because the ratio of VC and media interest in the sector versus actual (exciting) market activity reached an all time low, and that has to change. And also because the ITC extension for renewables, the Paris agreements, and the overall corporate environment seem to portend a lot of progress about to happen.

Prediction: 2016 is going to be kind of awesome for our sector. Let’s make it happen!