Cleantech Open Northeast is effective, thriving and diverse

Of the 414 cleantech startup alumni of Cleantech Open Northeast, 283 are currently active. Given that Cleantech Open focuses on accelerating early-stage (mostly pre-revenue and pre-customer) startups, this 68% success rate compares favorably to the average 25% survival rate across all industries in the US. Cleantech Open Northeast (CTONE) alumni have generated over $279 million in revenue and raised over $653 million in funds. Cleantech Open Northeast alumni companies employ approximately 3,300 people. They are diverse: in the 2020 cohort year, there are 13 teams led by women, 8 teams led by women of color, and 9 teams led by a person of color. Over the last few years, the cohorts have become increasingly diverse.

The value of data

Until now, we have been collecting survey data from startups participating in our annual accelerator, as well as from volunteer mentors who guide them through the program. We are conscientious about being in touch with many of our alumni and obtaining feedback from our sponsors. However, now we have an even clearer understanding of our impact, as reflected in the numbers that we are sharing here. Moving forward, we will strive to continue to track data that can inform how we operate.

A brief history of Cleantech Open Northeast

The Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator and business plan competition has been in operation for 15 years. In 2005, Ignite Clean Energy (ICE), the precursor to Cleantech Open Northeast was started by a few Board Members of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. In 2011 ICE joined forces with Cleantech Open, a similar program that started on the West Coast in 2006. In 2015, the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) became the Northeast affiliate of Cleantech Open. CTONE quickly expanded to cover all six New England states plus New York. Over time, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were added, and more recently, Eastern Canada.

Following are the Cleantech Open categories:

  • Energy Generation
  • Energy Distribution & Storage
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Chemicals & Advanced Materials
  • Information & Communications Technologies (ICT)
  • Green Building
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture, Water & Waste

NECEC is developing the clean energy economy in the Northeast with a focus on energy policy. The affiliation with NECEC also expands the Cleantech Open Northeast network. Overall, working with NECEC is like laying a “green carpet” for clean energy startups in this region.

What we set out to learn

The Cleantech Open Northeast team set out to use data metrics to document the success and impact of the accelerator. We wanted to answer the following questions: What percentage of Cleantech Open Northeast alumni startups are still in business? How much revenue are they generating? How much money have they raised? How many people do they employ? How diverse are the cohorts, and is the trend going in the right direction?

Two sources of data collection and one source of analysis

Two data sets are used to achieve this goal: “external data” and “CTONE alumni data”. An external team scoured the internet for websites of associations and venture capital firms, as well as Crunchbase and other sources on active companies. The criteria were cleantech companies that started in the Northeast region (New England plus New York), companies that were considered startups (~12 years old max), and cleantech innovation companies. They researched 420 cleantech startups in the Northeast region and Eastern Canada, with 180 of the researched cleantech startups being CTONE alumni.

The focus of Cleantech Open Northeast’s data collection and analysis was on alumni from the cohort years of 2005 to 2019. CTONE cross-referenced the external data and complemented it with alumni data on the remaining 234 alumni. Data on all CTONE graduates are found in the Cleantech Open Northeast Master Tracker, which includes information on their Cleantech Open sector, headquarter location (state or country), accolade status (whether the startup was recognized as a Finalist or Winner the year that they participated), operating status (open or closed), funding acquired, annual revenue, number of employees, and some additional variables. CTONE used surveys, web searches, and direct communications to collect data. Some web searches include the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Crunchbase, and online social media presence.

Data analysis

With the direction of Beth Zonis, Director of Cleantech Open Northeast, Rachel MacIntosh, a fourth-year Environmental Studies student with a minor in Business Administration at the University of Arizona, conducted the data analysis for Cleantech Open Northeast. The numbers demonstrate that Cleantech Open Northeast is an effective accelerator that continues to advance the cleantech industry through innovation and entrepreneurship.

To learn more or to get involved

  • APPLY to the next Cleantech Open cohort when the application opens.
  • APPLY TO MENTOR cleantech startups.
  • SIGN UP for the Cleantech Open National newsletter
  • REGISTER to receive NECEC’s Startup Shortcut, a weekly newsletter
  • GIVE to Cleantech Open Northeast, and help us grow and deepen our impact.

CONTACT US: bzonis [at] cleantechopen [dot] org

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Beth Zonis

Beth is the Northeast Regional Director of Cleantech Open.