Global Ideas

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is behind the Global Cleantech Open Ideas Competition?
A: The competition is organized by the Cleantech Open ( The mission of the Cleantech Open is to find, fund and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental and economic challenges. The Cleantech Open has helped hundreds of clean technology startups bring their breakthrough ideas to fruition since 2006, and helped its alumni raise over $800M and create thousands of green-collar jobs.

Q: What is the mission of the Cleantech Open?
A: The mission of the Cleantech Open is to find, fund and foster find, fund, and foster companies with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges. Through this mission, the Cleantech Open encourages the development of clean technology companies that foster a healthy, natural environment - companies that provide environmental benefits in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, pollution reduction and resource protection and conservation. The Ideas Competition is the first step to help entrepreneurs build a successful cleantech business.

Q: How does the Ideas Competition work?
A: To enter the competition, entrants are asked to briefly describe their ideas, and why it's groundbreaking. The idea submissions will be reviewed to select finalists to compete in a national competition. Selected finalists will present a five minute pitch in their country. In November, during Global Entrepreneur Week, one national winner from each country will compete on the global stage during the Cleantech Open Global Forum, attended by a live audience of 1,000 clean technology experts, investors, and enthusiasts, and press from around the world.

Q: Who can enter the competition?
A: Anyone looking to turn their clean technology idea into a thriving business can apply. Entrants can be sole proprietors, teams or early-stage companies. All entries must be a startup with less than $1,000,000 from private third party funding (from equity investors such as angel investors and venture capital firms) at the time of entry.

All entries must be a startup with less than $5,000,000 from all other sources of funding (grants, family and friends, and your own pocket) at the time of paying the application fee; this limit is separate from the limit on private third party funding.

Q: What exactly is a pitch? How do I get started?
A: The pitch, whether to an investor, a potential customer, or a business partner, is the way in which way an entrepreneur conveys their product or service idea, and the value of it, in a meaningful and authentic way. During the competition, we will help you to develop a full 3-minute pitch.

Pitches may be either formal or informal, and might be delivered by different methods, from a PowerPoint presentation to a casual, impromptu conversation.  Most important is to know what message you want to convey, and the audience to whom you will present this information.   Those two pieces of information will help create a "success paragraph" to convey your idea, and convince your audience to say, "Tell me more!"

Get Started on Your Pitch by Building a "Success Paragraph"

To register for the competition, follow the 5 concepts below to build your "success paragraph." 

  1. My idea is:  (describe in 200 words)
  2. The problem my idea solves is: (describe the value proposition)
  3. The market for my idea is: (describe who will buy the product/service)
  4. My idea will have a positive effect on the environment because: (describe the environmental impact)
  5. My idea is a winning one because: (describe  the unique competitive advantage)

Here’s an example for a company that makes eco-friendly ceiling tiles out of recycled materials.

"My idea is for a new building material that uses recycled content to create a state of the art acoustical ceiling tile. In order to meet carbon emission standards, builders need new, low-emitting materials for both new buildings and those that are being refurbished or remodeled. This new product will help building contractors increase their use of utilize recycled materials in any building, while delivering an attractive, sound-absorbing ceiling tile that has no harmful emissions. The market for this product is through existing building distribution channels and is cost competitive with existing ceiling products. It is made from recycled materials, has a long life, and is fully recyclable. There are no companies currently manufacturing this type of material in the US."

Q: How will my pitch be judged?
A: A team of professionals will serve as competition judges and will evaluate your pitch on a scale of 1 to 5 for the following measures:

Idea Concept: Concisely and clearly explained
Innovation: Breakthrough in thinking or design
Business Viability: A significant and interesting market exists
Sustainability: Positive impact on environment

Q: What is Sustainability?
A: Sustainability is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Source: Brundtland Commission, 1987). Cleantech Open’s Sustainability Program strives to highlight the relevance of and promote the philosophy of sustainability throughout everything Cleantech Open does. We ask competitors to have a positive impact on the environment and the broader community, and to make this part of every phase of development - not just for the end-use application. Your idea should deliver products or services that have a net positive environmental impact.

Q: How many prizes are there and what is included?
A: There is one national winner for each country who will receive press recognition for their award and go on to compete at the Cleantech Open Global Forum in November. The global winner will receive extensive startup services and have access to seasoned advisors in the essential areas that will help ensure their ideas can be translated into a business. The Cleantech Open advisor community includes specialists in business plan development, intellectual property protection, marketing, PR, sustainability and fundraising. Starting with a plan to leverage their Global Cleantech Open award, the advisor team will develop a plan specific to the global winner’s needs.

Q: What does it cost to enter the competition?
A: It costs nothing to enter the Cleantech Open Global Ideas Competition. All incidental costs, such as producing a video or traveling to the Cleantech Open Global Forum, are however the responsibility of each contestant.

Q: What is cleantech?
A: Cleantech has been described by Clean Edge, a clean technology research firm, as “a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes.” The terms “cleantech” and “green tech” are often used interchangably to describe products, services and practices that are environmentally friendly.