1. The company is energy or environmental technology related. 2. I like their products. 3. The market needs them. 4. The company is smart about building their business. 5. I'd like to own the company if I could (for the right price, of course!). 6. It is not already one of mine (my apologies to my friends Zenergy Power).
I have included cleantech companies big and small. Volume I surprisingly ended up with a lot more solar companies than I would have guessed, and no biofuels. Perhaps I really am a closet solar fanatic.
1. Sharp Electronics - In solar, still the biggest, and still growing. Enough said.
2. Det Norske Veritas - DNV is a massive 150 year old risk management firm. Their auditors underpin roughly half of the carbon markets. In carbon, audit and verification is everything. I could not leave them off.
3. IBM (NYSE:IBM) - What IBM is doing in smart grid is very exciting. They are part of a large proportion of the smart grid implementations that are in process, and a huge proponent of open standards. Smart grid is to electricity what fiber is to telecom. It underpins everything.
4. Applied Materials (NYSE:AMAT) - The future of photovoltaics lies in scaling thin film manufacturing process. Who better to do this than the dean of semiconductor capital equipment. I broke the story of Applied's entry to solar in the blogosphere in 2006, and if anything underestimated how hard they were pushing. The whisper mill has been whirring that the installations of their plants are not on track. Not only do I have faith they will get there, I think it is critical to the industry that they do.
5. Fuel Tech (NASDAQ:FTEK) - I wrote about them in 2007. The CEO John Norris is a long time friend and an excellent operator. Cleaning up coal is a huge business that needs to be done, and they do it well.
6. Fat Spaniel - Distributed power, solar included, is a ticking time bomb without independent monitoring. Fat Spaniel does it the best.
7. Smart Fuel Cells (XETRA:F3C.DE) - I wrote about them recently. I helped create a fuel cell business in 2002. This is the first fuel cell company in 5 years that has intrigued me. They actually ship product with solid gross margins. That is a start.
8. First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) - Lowest cost producer in the photovoltaic business. Guaranteed to make the list until dethroned.
9. Global Solar - I have been following this company for a long time. CIGS is very hard and has broken (or is currently breaking) hundreds of millions or billions of dollars worth of wannabes. This management team, led by Mike Gering, respects how hard it is. And since they have actually been running a pilot plant shipping product for 3 years, so we need to take note when they say they have cracked the manufacturing scale nut.
10. Schott - Long a major player in crystalline silicon photovoltaics, amorphous silicon photovoltaics and concentrated solar thermal, where they are one of the top manufacturers of solar thermal receivers. That balance is unique, and exciting.
Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is Chairman of Cleantech.org, and a blogger for CNET's Greentech blog.