The Green Fringe: Conferences, Media, et al.

Anyone who can read a newspaper or watch a television knows that the “green” movement is, as Mike the Ford spokesman says in a current tv commercial “kind of a big deal.”  The recent IPO of Watertown, MA-based A123 Systems (Nasdaq: AONE; http://www.a123systems.com/), which has virtually doubled the money of those who put their bets down on the IPO, has only served to underscore the obvious: that migrating wildebeests moving from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara ain’t got NUTTIN’ on the greentech movement.   A123 Systems, a company about which there is a considerable split of opinions, is the largest and most prominent US-based lithium-ion battery company, with a market cap of about $2.3 billion, which puts it out of our realm of interest, although we do try to keep an eye on energy storage as perhaps the most important enabling technology in the green movement.

But what we want to do today is have a look at some of the folks at the edges of the green movement — not the scientists or engineers, not the R&D workers or the panel installers, not the guys in white overalls in clean rooms — but the enablers, the ones who are green by reflected glory, dedication or avocation. 

The most obvious green fringe companies are the ones that put on conferences, which, to be clear, are hives to which the little green bees can bring their pollen or store their honey.  There are numerous investment banks that have either greentech conferences or greentech “tracks” in otherwise more general investment conferences.  Those include San Francisco-based Merriman Curhan Ford (Nasdaq: MERR; http://www.merrimanco.com/), a company we have written about on numerous occasions, and whose stock has done rather well in the recovery.  They also include Rodman & Renshaw (Nasdaq: RODM; http://www.rodmanandrenshaw.com/), whose enormous convocation in Manhattan late in September created enough hullabaloo that there was simply not room for all the invited guests at the opening night gala, which took all of Ellis Island and featured Diana Ross singing her heart out.  RODM traded as low as $0.14 earlier this year, and is currently at $6.20 (yikes!), a dizzying gain.  it also includes Newport Beach-based Roth Capital (www.rothcapital.com), whose growth-stock conference in February is an eagerly looked-for event for the largely snowbird investment community.  And to be fair, there are lots of other investment banks/ broker-dealers whose conferences are wowie-zowie and who have strong greentech banking groups.

The purely greentech conference scene also includes conferences with a distinctly tree-hugging personality.  January 20-21, 2010, will kick off the greentech conclave season in Palm Springs, with the CleanTech Investor Summit (http://www.cleantechsummit.com/), sponsored by greentechies like Milwaukee-based RW Baird and Wells Fargo, lawfirms like Morrison & Foerster and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.  Limited to 500 attendees “for the maximum networking experience,” this Summit (they are all called “premier” events, by the way) could easily be the greentech version of speed-dating.  But heck, you can cover a lot of, um, ground.

Then on February 24-26, 2010, The Palace Hotel in San Francisco will host another premier event with a similar name, but distinguished by its fancy-looking Roman numeral: Cleantech Forum XXVI (http://cleantech.com/cleantechforum/).  This event is for startups and VCs only, which seems a bit like matching giants against babies, but that is the point of such events, with the lucky babies getting to suckle at the VC tit in exchange for a long period of indentured service.  Clearly a worthwhile experience, and with a lot of marquee names.

The elegance in this field, however, is all in Monte Carlo March 4-5, 2010, with CleanEquity Monaco (http://www.cleanequitymonaco.com/).  This conference gathers up no more than 50 small companies from all over the world, and invites scientists, investors, the media and UN influentials to a series of high-toned seminars and presentations punctuated by the lavish and eye-poppingly beautiful area around the famous Casino.  Smoothly run under the serene eye of Prince Albert II, the organizer is London-based Innovator Capital (www.innovator-capital.com).  Allen & Caron, the publisher of this blog, is a sponsor of CleanEquityMonaco for 2010. 

The media clearly has a stake in greentech as well, and are overall no more united or careful about what they say in this regard than in any other, with lots of entries on social media like Twitter, and nearly uncountable blogs (like this one, I suppose).  It may be simply the nature of media to run in packs (different packs to be sure, and often snarling at each other).  There are far too many to enumerate, but there are some growing empires in that area.  Worth mentioning are the GigaOM internet publications, frequently one of the firstest with the mostest: http://earth2tech.com/?utm_source=gigaom&utm_medium=topnav.  The CBS Interactive property, CNET, offers the insightful Martin LaMonica, who is a good source and worth pointing your news aggregator at:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10367683-54.html?tag=mncol.  There is also the slightly stuffy-looking but extremely wide-ranging GreenCarCongress, which is SO not just about cars: http://www.greencarcongress.com/.     And never one to be outdone, HuffPo has a hyperactive and wide-eyed Green Section: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/green/.   And lots more, lots more. 

Finally, have a look at http://www.guardian.co.uk/globalcleantech100 in which the respected GUARDIAN allies itself with the sponsor of the San Francisco conference mentioned above, and set for Feb 24-26, 2010.  This is a somewhat idiosyncratic list of what someone thinks are the “Top 100” cleantech companies in the world, a little like a rolodex that some cards fell out of.  Somewhere between a Mr Blackwell Worst-Dressed List and an uptown awards ceremony, there seems to be little pattern to the choices — but it is a sign of the greentech culture that this sort of list begins to appear.

Please keep in mind that we do not recommend stocks; we simply write about companies we find interesting.  Do your own diligence, please.

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