Building a Cleantech Innovation Community - Together

By Beth Zonis, Director of NECEC’s Cleantech Open Northeast and Julia Travaglini, VP of Marketing and Communications at Greentown Labs 

In the Northeast cleantech ecosystem, we talk a lot about the many ways the members of our community intersect, collaborate, and partner to drive innovation and tackle our world’s biggest climate, clean energy, and environmental challenges. Nowhere is the power of this ecosystem more visible than in the growing network of startups that have both participated in the Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator program and joined the Greentown Labs community.

Cleantech Open Northeast and Greentown share much in common. They both started in the Greater Boston area with a mission to support and scale North American startups focused on solving the climate crisis and driving the clean energy transition, and both stand as pillars of the Northeast’s cleantech and climatetech innovation ecosystem. To date, more than 50 startups count themselves as both Cleantech Open Northeast alumni and Greentown members—and we want that number to grow! As we approach the start of Cleantech Open Northeast’s 2021 application round on January 15, 2021, we want startups to know that participating in both the Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator and joining the Greentown community will equip them with the tools and resources they need and give them the best possible chances of success.

Emerging cleantech startups typically come to Cleantech Open Northeast, which is managed by NECEC as the on-the-ground affiliate, with a technology product or service aimed at solving an environmental challenge and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These startups usually have just a few team members who are eager to learn and develop, and their goal is typically to drive their technology or service to market. They may have some funding from family and friends, grants, and prizes, though they are generally pre-revenue. During the Cleantech Open accelerator, these eager entrepreneurs are empowered to become startup founders.

Each startup is matched with a team of up to four mentors who guide them through the accelerator curriculum. Beginning with customer discovery, the startups produce deliverables, including a go-to-market strategy, an impact and sustainability plan, a financial model, an executive summary, and a pitch deck. They attend business clinics to test their assumptions, broaden their knowledge, and refine their plans. They also expand their professional networks with experts who can advise and open doors for them. At the end of the accelerator, these startups pitch to panels of judges, meet investors, and showcase to a wide audience of potential partners, funders, and customers. By the time they graduate, 95 percent of Cleantech Open alumni say they are confident in their ability to run a cleantech startup. And even once the program ends, Cleantech Open continues to work with alumni, nominating them for grant opportunities, connecting them with various resources, and promoting their success.

Similarly, Greentown member companies are developing climatetech solutions, which the incubator defines as technologies that mitigate the impact of climate change on both people and the planet and build resilience. These startups are focused on addressing challenges across the largest GHG-emitting sectors: transportation, electricity, buildings, manufacturing, and agtech or water. Most Greentown member companies participate in an accelerator program—such as Cleantech Open Northeast—or a university prize competition before joining the incubator to arm them with the business, sales, team, and fundraising knowledge necessary to prepare them for the next stage of their company’s growth. Once they become a member of Greentown, the startup gains access to more than $1 million worth of member resources ranging from hardware equipment to software tools to legal services. The incubator hosts more than 250 events per year, ranging from office hours with industry experts and panel discussions with corporate executives, to curated investor networking events and major ecosystem events to foster networking, collaboration, and startup visibility. And while no two Greentown member companies are the same, once they’re settled into the incubator they “typically” have about $5 million in funding, 10 full time employees, and a technology readiness level of seven. Most startups stay at Greentown for about two years, raise 83 percent of their funding while at the incubator, and move their solution from working prototype to commercialization.

By accelerating their venture with Cleantech Open and continuing their entrepreneurship journey with Greentown, startups improve their odds of success. Take, for example, SparkCharge, developer of a portable, ultra-fast charging unit for electric vehicles; Sistine Solar, maker of SolarSkin, a patented graphic overlay that can be applied to any traditional solar array to transform its visual appearance; and Bevi, creators of the smart water dispenser that’s changing the way the world thinks about personalized beverages using user-centered design.

Together, Greentown and Cleantech Open Northeast are forging a strong network of cleantech and climatetech pioneers who are accelerating the innovations necessary for real, meaningful climate action. Cleantech Open Northeast is accepting applications for its 2021 cohort from January 15 to April 18, 2021. The accelerator runs from May to October, with the core programming offered from June to August, and will be 100% virtual until further notice in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Learn more and apply here.

About Cleantech Open Northeast

Cleantech Open Northeast is part of the global Cleantech Open accelerator and is managed by NECEC as the on-the-ground affiliate. Cleantech Open is the world’s largest cleantech accelerator and is dedicated to providing entrepreneurs and technologists the resources needed to launch a successful cleantech company. Its mission is to find, fund, and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, Cleantech Open provides the infrastructure, expertise and strategic relationships that turn clever ideas into successful global cleantech companies. Fueled by a network of more than 2,000 volunteers, Cleantech Open unites the public and private sectors in a shared vision for making America’s cleantech sector a thriving economic engine. Between 2005 and 2020, Cleantech Open Northeast trained more than 450 early-stage clean technology startups through its annual business accelerator. Sixty-eight percent of Cleantech Open Northeast alumni are still in business, raised more than $650 million, created more than 3,300 clean economy jobs, and generated more than $280 million in revenue. For more information, visit or follow on Twitter.


NECEC is the premier voice of businesses building a world-class clean energy hub in the Northeast, helping clean energy companies start, scale, and succeed with our unique business, innovation, and policy leadership. NECEC includes the Northeast Clean Energy Council, a nonprofit business member organization, and NECEC Institute, a nonprofit focused on industry research, innovation, policy development, and strategic communications. NECEC’s innovation program includes Cleantech Open Northeast, the Northeast affiliate of the national cleantech accelerator Cleantech Open, and Cleantech Navigate, which provides cleantech startups with curated connections to mentors, test sites, customers, corporate partners, and investors. NECEC brings together business leaders and key stakeholders to engage in influential policy discussions and business initiatives while building connections that propel the clean energy industry forward. For more information visit and follow us on Twitter.

About Greentown Labs

Greentown Labs is a community of climatetech and cleantech pioneers working to design a more sustainable world. As the largest climatetech startup incubator in North America, Greentown Labs brings together startups, corporates, investors, policymakers, and many others with a focus on scaling climate solutions. Driven by the mission of providing groundbreaking startups the resources, knowledge, connections, and equipment they need to thrive, Greentown Labs offers lab and office space, software and business resources, and a large network of corporate partners, investors, industry experts, and fellow entrepreneurs. Greentown Labs is headquartered in Somerville, MA and has supported more than 300 startups since its founding in 2011. These startups have collectively created more than 6,500 direct jobs and have raised more than $1 billion in funding. Greentown's second-ever location will open in Houston, TX, in spring 2021. For more information, please visit or follow the incubator on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

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Meggie Quackenbush

Meggie Quackenbush is NECEC's Senior Communications Manager.