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Blog Entries With Tag "volunteers"

Volunteer Perspective:

Posted by at 3:00 PM, 09/13/2010

Our volunteers are the backbone of the Cleantech Open.  Without them, our various programs and events would literally not happen.  Here is a volunteer perspective from Chris Frankchuk, in his own words.


I first learned of the Cleantech Open through a chance meeting with Katie Roberts, Marketing and Communications Manager, at an alumni reunion at Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business in 2008. What initially got my interest was the Cleantech Open’s mission statement “to find, fund, and foster the big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges,” as it matched well with my interest in social and environmental sustainability in addition to my engineering and recent small business startup background.

My first involvement was assisting at events such as the breakfast briefings and annual awards ceremony with setup and registration.  Here I learned more about how the Cleantech Open functioned, the people who made it happen, and the atmosphere surrounding the events.  To this day, it still amazes me how much the Cleantech Open does through volunteers who are commonly motivated by using their business skills to help solve large problems our society faces.   These volunteers are what give the Cleantech Open so much credibility to the entrepreneurs, partners, and sponsors who work with them.  What is great about the Cleantech Open’s events is that they exist mainly to support the cleantech entrepreneur in the growth of their idea towards a viable business.  Thus there is a greater sense of purpose behind the event rather than networking and sharing ideas.  That is the main motivation for me, and I believe it is what brings many others to the Cleantech Open whether directly or indirectly.

This current year I have been serving as the Recruitment Call and Email Team Lead working with a motivated group of volunteers to reach out to interested cleantech entrepreneurs, inform them of what the Cleantech Open can do for them, finding matches, and reaching our contestant goals.  The most rewarding aspect of recruitment is the actual face-to-face time with interested entrepreneurs.  This is where I can really put all of my experience with business plans to practice for the Cleantech Open.  Discussing goals, wants, and needs with the entrepreneur; I act as a consultant/salesman explaining how the Cleantech Open can help them as well as their need for a solid business plan.  Seeing a previously lost entrepreneur with and idea but without direction, now realizing they have direction with action they can take all because I have been able to provide it - puts a smile on my face.  It is very rewarding knowing I have helped someone come closer to reaching their goals as well as using business to hopefully provide viable solutions to an environmental issue facing our society.


Being active in the outdoors and as an engineer with a career built on improving efficiency, Chris Franchuk has always naturally found himself adapt at finding ways to do more with less.  In addition to his work with the Cleantech Open, Chris keeps busy as a Team Lead with Habitat for Humanity - Silicon Valley, member of the U.S. Green Building Council - Northern California Chapter, and occasional leads guided backpacking trips for the Sierra Club National Outings.  Chris Franchuk is a Program Manager with 17 years experience in operations process improvement, supply chain, and business communications, in a variety of industries and companies, from startups to global manufacturers.  He is a former U.S. Naval Officer and has an honors MBA from Santa Clara University and Mechanical Engineer degree from the University of California, Irvine, is a LEED Green Associate and Certified Green Building Professional.

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Leadership in the Clean Energy Economy

Posted by at 9:00 AM, 06/05/2009

When we launched the 2009 Clean Tech Open, we stated our ambitious goal of creating 100,000 jobs in the clean tech sector. Where might these jobs be created? What skills do you need to be an attractive candidate? Can these skills be readily transferred from other industries? To answer some of these questions, we asked Karen Fullerton, managing partner at ILM Partners, a boutique executive search firm building leadership teams within high-growth companies and market leaders in the clean and renewable energy and investment services sectors.

Karen is an active volunteer with the Clean Tech Open: she works on our Innovation Partners Program and acts as a mentor for CTO entrepreneurs. You might have seen her at the recent Innovators' Matching Event. Karen can be reached at


Karen Fullerton, Pachera GroupLeadership in the Clean Energy Sector: Help Wanted

The clean energy sector is generating a lot of interest as it revs up to transform the sustainability of our energy practices and spark growth in the global economy. Convergence and rapid innovation in technology combined with increasing investment, public awareness, and a supportive federal policy and regulatory environment are giving the sector a lot of juice. 

As with any sector in a dynamic phase of expansion, however, clean energy is experiencing a shortage of suitably experienced leadership talent. The rising talent gulf poses a very real threat to the sector’s overall growth, creating a pressing need for pipelines of talent from non-traditional yet analogous industry sources. And, although I speak to scores of candidates daily who are interested in “getting into” clean energy or clean tech, most are uncertain about how or where to enter.

If you are interested in clean energy (which includes some clean tech), it’s important to understand that the sector is a broad category that includes many, highly differentiated subsectors. A vast majority of candidates don’t truly understand the scope or scale of the space and, as a result, have no idea where their skills and experience can play. I like to think that the clean energy sector’s growth and attractiveness are similar to that of the Internet space during the late 90’s. Everyone wanted to be in an online business then. But, while eBay, Amazon, Inktomi, Hotmail, Netscape, and Yahoo! all fell under the Internet umbrella, they were each in very different businesses. The same is true in clean energy or clean tech. 

Clean tech, in and of itself, doesn’t describe a given market or skill-set required. Rather, like the Internet, it is an umbrella term used to define a business sector or asset class that broadly encompasses high-growth, technologically innovative industries and their related vertical markets. The Clean Tech Open, an organization leading the way in accelerating new innovations toward commercialization, defines six broad categories of clean, environmentally sustainable technologies: Air, Water, Waste; Energy Efficiency; Green Building; Renewables; Smart Power; and Transportation. Which areas are you most interested in, and where might your skills best apply?

The challenges inherent in bringing the Internet online pale in comparison to clean energy’s uniquely complex operating environments that marry established and emerging technologies with science, heavy industry, information technology and government. To further complicate matters, new investment paradigms are required, including combinations of venture capital, debt financing, government grants and loan guarantees. This means that companies in this sector need a mix of fundamental and specialized skills.

Steve Westly, managing partner of the Westly Group, a Clean Tech investor and founding executive at eBay, believes in one essential element. “The bottom line is experience. There is no substitute for having an operating executive proven to be able to take an innovation and scale a company to profitability.” For executives hailing from analogous operational environments such as those in technology, manufacturing, and regulatory affairs, there is a great deal of opportunity.

Specialist skills are also in high demand. For example, while a traditional finance background is important, Ben Cook, CFO of Recurrent Energy, a distributed power company and leading provider of solar energy, believes specific backgrounds in structured finance are most relevant for his company. “If I want someone to finance large-scale solar systems in the U.S., I'd want expertise in big-ticket leasing or low-income housing. Thanks to the tax incentives provided, a lot of the value of solar systems is in tax benefits. So, you need someone who has structured other tax-driven investments like railcar leasing to CSX, or financed low-income housing units, which are both tax-driven financings.”

Further, with technology as the linchpin for many clean tech innovations, proven success in the fast-moving, entrepreneurial environments common in high tech is also highly relevant. Kate Gerwe, COO of Lucid Design Group, left an executive marketing role at Yahoo! to helm an early-stage company that sells real-time energy monitoring and display systems for commercial buildings. She finds her technology background invaluable in her current role. “I got involved in the space leading the Green Team at Yahoo! before making the transition here. Having the operational background is essential but so is having the passion. Just as in the Internet business, we’re working to affect a profound consumer behavior change, this time it’s around energy consumption. Lucid Design is as much a technology company as it is a green company.” 

Finally, for those looking seriously at the clean energy space, there is ample opportunity if you know how to position yourself. Do your homework and learn the sector, so you can understand how your skills and experience will translate. Establishing credibility by garnering industry knowledge and thinking about how and where your skills will be needed are good first steps in preparing yourself to move beyond “I want to get into clean tech” and landing a great role in this dynamic sector.


Karen Fullerton is a Managing Partner at ILM & Partners, a boutique executive search firm building leadership teams within high-growth companies and market leaders in the clean and renewable energy and investment services sectors. She can be reached at


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