We had a conversation with our old friend, Mungo Park, on Friday the 23rd, primarily to talk about the annual CleanEquityMonaco conference (http://www.cleanequitymonaco.com/) hosted by his company, London-based boutique investment bank, Innovator Capital (http://www.innovator-capital.com/). The 2010 edition of CleanEquityMonaco* is set forMarch 4-5, 2010, and it will follow the established mandate of finding 50 of the most innovative and potentially world-changing emerging technologies in the cleantech/greentech world.
Mungo Park (a descendent of the 18th-century Scots explorer of the same name) has spent most of his professional life working with emerging technology companies, largely in the role of investment banker. The Irish Mr Park started at Prudential Bache, and then came up through the ranks at northeastern US investment banks of legend, many swallowed up by larger institutions in the consolidation frenzy of the latter years of the 20th century: Alex Brown & Sons, Cowen & Company, Dillon Read & Co. He headed Nomura’s European i-banking operation before founding Innovator Capital. Innovator was at first devoted to life science banking, and broadened over the last 5-6 years to include cleantech banking, due to its obvious connection with preventive healthcare and societal wellness.
The following are excerpts from the conversation:
SCW: You were originally attracted to life sciences. Why are you now seeking out alternative energy and greentech companies?
MP: I was working on a financing for a company that had a technology to remove oxides of nitrogen from diesel emissions and I realized that not only was this a way to make people healthier (less asthma, fewer respiratory ailments), but the business plans of cleantech companies follow a similar pattern to what I had seen in biotech and healthcare in general. That is, invention, research, development into a usable product, commercialization. A biotech product has to survive 7-9 years of test, however, and in many cases a greentech product can be ready for market in 7-9 months, which means the potential for a return on investment is much closer, if the wheel lands on your number. Most green technologies do not have to clear through an FDA-type regulator in order to be “legal,” which makes all the difference in the world, often reducing the length of time from conception to commercialization.
The most important reason I am working on cleantech is, however, that it ticks the “ethical box” — that is, it improves the quality of human life. And that is also the reason for CleanEquityMonaco.
SCW: Other than the name, what’s different about CleanEquityMonaco? There are greentech/cleantech scientific or financial conferences springing up everywhere. And how does a company get invited to participate?
MP: About the time I was becoming more and more interested in cleantech, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II became the sovereign of Monaco. I have had the good fortune to know him and he has significant credentials in environmental issues. Shortly after his accession I had a meeting with him and we came up with the idea for CleanEquityMonaco, a conference whose purpose is to introduce emerging/early-stage, innovative, next-generation technologies from all over the world. The fields of interest are, broadly, clean energy, clean earth, clean water, clean air.
Many of the presenting companies are fresh out of academia or an inventor’s laboratory. Many are working on their first proof of principle and are very early stage. They need money, yes, but they need other things as well. CleanEquityMonaco is set up as a platform to introduce them to sources of investment (financial and strategic), but also to media, politicians and political influencers, potential licensees and potential technology partners.
As to how a company can be invited, there are numerous ways. We have developed a list of about 300 companies that we are looking at ourselves. Many of those, as it turns out, are not qualified because they are too large or too well-established. We try to invite presenters who are below €250 million in fair value — and that is an important distinction between our search for emerging technologies and other conferences’ searches for faits accomplis. But we accept nominations from people we trust, and apply our diligence principles to those. We try for a geographic spread that is global, so we don’t want more than, say 10 companies from North America, preferring to be clearly and fairly global. And we give some preference to companies that are not yet listed for trading in a public market — and that may not have that as a goal either. We are interested in the entrepreneurial spirit as it affects the cleantech/greentech movement, and, potentially, the health of people around the world.
SCW: Why would a company want to present?
MP: If we put it together right — and so far the conferences have gone pretty well — in the 2 days of CleanEquityMonaco, the companies can cover a huge amount of ground. They can save a lot of time and money because there is such a good mix of people there. We have heard back from the participants that it is an extremely productive meeting.
We have two levels of participation for companies in different stages of development: full participation for companies who are post-development/expansion stage, and a “Next Wave” participation for companies who are pre-revenue/early-stage. The Next Wave companies make a shorter presentation, but they have all the opportunities for networking which, in the final analysis, is what the conference is about.
SCW: We hear that Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou will be presenting a new award at the conference.
MP: Of course Stelios is very well known in Europe as a hugely successful entrepreneur, perhaps most famous from EasyJet and EasyGroup, but from many businesses that he has started or encouraged from scratch. And as a successful entrepreneur, he wants to give something back to the world. He has been looking at cleantech for a while, and attended CleanEquityMonaco 2009. He is sponsoring the conference, and has indeed agreed to present an award for entrepreneurship in cleantech, but he is particularly looking forward to meeting people, sharing his experience. The Stelios Foundation (http://www.stelios.com/ ) has as its areas of interest: the environment, education and entrepreneurship.
SCW: What makes this conference different from other conferences?
MP: The extraordinary thing about this conference is the rich texture of participation. We invite 50 companies to present, and about 300 attendees to mix, mingle and offer their help. The focus is strictly on emerging technologies — not on upcoming financial deals. The view is global, not country specific, and the attendees tend to be quite senior in their positions, representing international organizations like the UN, sovereign governments, big international corporations, academia, and finance. We expect to see big multinationals there, shopping for investments and looking for junior partnerships — companies like Philips, GE, Siemens, Nissan and IBM.
Perhaps most important, the attendees go to Monte Carlo specifically for the conference, and they tend to be in attendance for all the sessions both days. If we tried to do the same thing in London, we would have people popping in and out, coming to the lunch, and some presenters would get short shrift. That is simply not the case in Monte Carlo. It is a two-day event for everyone concerned, and the attendees tend to be at the conference 12 hours a day.
SCW: The upcoming conference will be the 3rd annual. Have you had particular success stories that came out of the first two editions of CleanTechMonaco?
MP: Several come to mind right away. Zenergy Power (http://www.zenergypower.com/ ) presented in 2008; they are a superconductor energy technology company, listed on AIM, but operating in Germany, the US and Australia. They have a variety of products targeted at electric utilities, and have done very well with the technology for transmitting large quantities of electricity over long distances with little or not leakage. They got a large amount of recognition at CleanEquityMonaco, which also resulted in a lot of publicity. Subsequently they have received additional funding and are, I believe, the first superconductor developer to be partnered by a major US utility.
Ener1 (http://www.ener1.com/ ) presented at that same meeting. At the time they presented, they were pretty early-stage, and had recently restructured their capitalization. They spent a good deal of their time at the conference with Think Electric, an auto company from Norway that was also presenting — and the two have subsequently partnered in several ways. Ener1 has been a success story on the stock market, and was the recipient of a large US stimulus matching grant to expand its manufacturing in Indiana.
Heliocentris Fuel Cells AG (http://www.heliocentris.com/en/about-us/profile.html) , based in Berlin and traded in Germany, is a hydrogen fuelcell company that presented to the 2009 conference. Very soon thereafter they were able to announce a new financing that has helped them expand their business considerably. They are partnered with many of the leading fuel-cell companies around the world.
US Geothermal (http://www.usgeothermal.com/) is headquartered in Idaho and traded on the NYSE Amex. It is what its name implies: a company that uses the earth’s own heat to generate power. They have had a steep growth trajectory, and were recently awarded a grant by DOE for a project in Oregon.
Scots company Aquamarine Power (http://www.aquamarinepower.com/ ) is installing the world’s first nearshore wave energy device that will generate clean energy from the movement of waves. They presented at the 2009 conference and have won numerous awards and commendations from all over the world. They were able to raise a fair amount of new capital during a very difficult market subsequent to their participation in CleanEquityMonaco, and we are pleased that the timing was so propitious for them.
SCW: It is all business then?
MP: CleanEquityMonaco is held in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the camaraderie that comes out of the meeting may be as important in some cases as the sharing of scientific developments. The meeting is small enough and senior enough that it helps create a network that’s not dissimilar to some “old school” or university networks — reaching all over the world and to many parts of society and industry.
We have special rates from the best hotels in Monte Carlo: the fabulous Hotel de Paris, the beautiful beaux arts Hermitage, and the modern seaside Monte Carlo Bay Hotel. We will be announcing several social events, including a CEO-only dinner on the night before the first day of meetings. However serious we are, it is still Monte Carlo, after all.
SCW: Many thanks.
*Allen & Caron, publisher of this blog, is working with CleanEquityMonaco on a collegial basis in North America.