Session 4.4: Crossing the “Valley of Death”: Impact and Venture Capital Investments in Early-stage Clean Energy Firms

May 22nd, 2019

It is a major challenge to cross the “Valley of Death” as an entrepreneur and to develop a company that can showcase positive results and demonstrate the ability to expand capacity to make impactful gains in the market place. Presenters in this session highlighted the challenges and risks faced by start-up companies in the clean energy industry and provided examples of how to overcome these obstacles.

Moderator: Andrew Jeffries, Director, Energy Division, South East Asia Regional Department, ADB


Vignesh Nandkumar, Partner, ASPADA

NEPRA : Rising from the Ashes
E.N. Venkat, Partner, Aavishkaar

Within three months of raising its Seed Round of capital, a startup (Nepra) encounters the Cliff Of Death following a fire that reduced its facilities to ashes. What follows is a story of resilience and determination by the promoter team and investors as they rebuild the enterprise from scratch not only for survival but also to significantly accelerate and scale the business. Nepra, which has today, established itself as India’s leading dry (recyclable) waste management company, has scaled 30x since Aavishkaar’s initial investment and is now positioned to scale another 50x in the next 5 years! A ringside view of the investment and its evolution from the eyes of the investor!

Key Factors to Attract Impact and Venture Capital in Early Stage Clean Energy Businesses
Bence Szegedi, Vice President, Susi Partners

Using real life examples in the solar and energy efficiency space in South East Asia, the presentation highlighted key factors which make business attractive to Impact/VC investors.

Developing Partnerships for Sustainable Clean Tech Financing in South-East Asia
Cecile Dahome, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Sevea

The "missing middle" or "valley of death" is a common cause of clean tech start-up stall, as early-stage companies need to access debt and equity in the $20,000 to $500,000 range while typically lacking mature internal capacity, skills, financial literacy and access to traditional investment. This presentation discussed learnings from the development of an Uberis Capital impact investment fund aiming to tackle this challenge. This fund works in partnership with Sevea to provide operational and strategical support to investees to reduce the “early stage” risk and foster sustained growth.