Clean Energy Trust brings cleantech innovation to market by finding, funding, and growing high-impact cleantech startups from the Midwest. Structured as a nonprofit, we make seed investments and provide mentorship, coaching, access to a national network, and patient, hands-on support to help entrepreneurs scale and succeed.

We believe entrepreneurship and innovation are powerful forces that can be leveraged to address environmental challenges, create jobs, and generate attractive investment returns. We work to demonstrate that investing in and supporting early-stage cleantech innovation can yield financial returns and positive impact. We make early-stage investments in cleantech businesses in order to bridge the gap between the research labs and universities and the traditional sources of high-risk financing such as venture capital (VC). Without financial and business support across this “valley of death,” many of the promising technologies we need to help address climate change will never be successfully commercialized.

Recent research shows that traditional VC has largely stepped away from early-stage cleantech companies, preferring to invest in capital-light software and social media companies. To fill this capital gap, we have developed our own unique model to invest in the entrepreneurs developing revolutionary technology businesses that otherwise might not make it out of the lab. This investment model blends tried and true elements from VC with the mission-driven perspective and structure of a non-profit. We refer to this as our 501vc® model, which we designed to invest time, capital, and expertise in worthy technologies and entrepreneurs from the Midwest.

Today, we invest directly through an evergreen revolving fund and have made investments in 37 companies. It’s working: these companies now employ more than 650 people and Clean Energy Trust Portfolio Companies have gone on to raise more than $34 for every dollar that Clean Energy Trust has invested.