The Cleantech Open Training Program begins in June after the semifinalists are announced and runs through the beginning of September and the deadline for business plan submission. The goal is to educate and enable the semifinalists to become successful businesses. Attendance in each portion by at least one team member is highly encouraged. All semifinalist teams participate in the following with their assigned mentors:
- Cleantech Open Academy
- Special Topic Seminars
- Business Clinics
- Mock Judging
Cleantech Open Academy
The Cleantech Open Academy is an intensive, extended long weekend program for Cleantech Open semifinalists. The weekend is intended to address all aspects of the required business plan and investor pitch. The end goal is a high-quality business plan and a succinct, clear pitch, so that each semifinalist company emerges from the competition with the best shot at success.
Based upon learning models used in leading MBA programs, the Academy pulls from the experience of successful entrepreneurs, business executives, educators and area experts. The program allows for instructional learning from a lecture format tied closely with a hands-on approach, group exercises and activities.
Over a three-day weekend, the curriculum covers five topics, which are presented in twelve pieces or modules. The core topics are:
- Business Plans for Sustainable Ventures
- Marketing Strategy and the Business Model
- Financial Modeling and Fundraising
- Setting up the Venture – Practical Matters
- The Investor Presentation
Sustainability is integrated into each element, reflecting the goal of the Cleantech Open to create successful, sustainable businesses.
Semifinalist companies build an Action Plan as they progress through the Academy, a plan which serves as a guide for their work following the weekend and leading up to the business plan deadline. All presentations, slides and other material are supplied to the semifinalists for future reference.
Each team works in small non-competing group with its assigned mentors, student interns and sustainability mentors. There is plenty of time for networking and team building built into the curriculum at the end of each day. Semifinalists are also given access to Specialist Mentors (subject matter experts) for more information in a "speed dating" event. The presenters are also available to all semifinalists outside their presentations.
Special Topic Seminars
There are several three-hour seminars throughout the summer that, though not mandated for attendance, provide key information for semifinalist teams. The topics include:
- manufacturing operations
- energy plant operations
- government sales and funding
- marketing and sales fundamentals for founders
- briefings on Federal and State policies and regulations for eight cleantech categories (air, energy efficiency, green building, renewable energy, smart grid, transportation, waste, and water)
During these 45-minute one-on-one consulting sessions, semifinalists receive in depth assistance with core sections of their business plans and investor pitches from subject matter experts. The business clinic coaches are part of the Mentoring Program and are pulled directly from their field of expertise.
(See Mentor Program for more details)
Semifinalists receive the chance to practice their pitches in front of mentors who critique the teams and help them improve before the final judging sessions.