Cleantech Superheroes: How to Find a Go-To-Market Partner

Two friends travel in the mountains with backpacks

Earth Day 2022 April 22

By Angela Bourne, Altitude Accelerator Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Three weeks ago, we launched Altitude Accelerator’s four-part “Cleantech Superheroes” blog series in celebration of Earth Day 2022, exploring this year’s theme, “Invest in Our Planet.” ™

Our goal for this blog series is to showcase the incredible work our startup founders are doing in this space, and to provide actionable recommendations for entrepreneurs looking to launch and scale a cleantech startup.

Our first blog was a call to action, the second article focused on finding sources of funding, and our third installment focused on telling your story – from your mission and vision to how you explain your value proposition to investors.

In this 4th blog post, we will share:

  • How startups can leverage Altitude’s official partners to help scale their companies.
  • How to find great startup / big enterprise partners as part of your GTM strategy.
  • A list of 9 Industry-Leading Enterprises for Potential Cleantech Partnerships.
  • Hot-off-the-press exciting partner news from Li-Cycle, an incredible cleantech startup we work with that is focused on lithium-ion battery recycling.

Altitude Accelerator: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

When a group of people share a common goal and work together to reach it, they can accomplish so much more than they would have ever been able to do on their own.

It is this ethos that we bring to startups at Altitude – and it has been this way since day one.

 Altitude Accelerator was created through a partnership with the University of Toronto Mississauga, the Mississauga Board of Trade, and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, & Trade and is proud to partner with Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), Ontario Cleantech Industry Association (OCTIA), Canada Cleantech Alliance, and Cleantech North.

And – a special shout-out to our program partners: Bereskin & Parr, Scan Consulting Group, CBSCA, and Pallett Valo LLP, who help our startups with essential legal and financial advisement.

As we work with our startups to bring these incredible innovations to market – and invest in the future of our planet – it is through these time-tested, incredibly valuable, and relationship-driven partnerships that enable us to help startups accelerate, get to market, and scale quickly. 

As one example, just a couple weeks ago SDTC officially announced that two of our current cleantech startups, and Ecosystem Informatics, each received $100,000 CAD seed funding as part of their $2.6 Million fund for promising new cleantech companies across Canada.

Startups vs. Enterprises: How to Find a Cleantech Partner That’s Right for You

The clean technology sector is growing rapidly and is projected to be worth $2.5 trillion globally by 2022. There are many ways an early-stage cleantech startup can approach go-to-market strategy, and one way is to find an adjacent company.

Here you have two options: 1) you could potentially partner with another early-stage company like yours that has complementary capabilities; or 2) partner with a large enterprise that is focusing on cleantech as a differentiator.

Fellow Startups

Finding another early-stage startup is tricky. Be sure to go beyond the Google search; attend virtual and in-person events, read recent press. See who is in your space. Do a deep-dive in Linkedin to find out who your connections in your space are connected to. Research top universities graduating students in this field. Frequently, professors are actively involved in early-stage startups at the research level. And finally, talk to accelerators like Altitude to see if they can make any introductions, through their team or via their various partners.

Large Enterprises

Do your homework. Reach out to companies who have demonstrated interest in working with early-stage cleantech startups like yours. Many large enterprises have environmental, social, and governance (ESG) mandates that make them surprisingly open to conversations with early stage startups.

It’s important to know what you want from a potential relationship.

Being clear on expectations will help ensure the partnership is strong and sustainable long-term. For example, if one of your goals is rapid growth and scalability, then it would be important to find a partner with these goals. Additionally, both parties should draw up an agreed-upon understanding of how the partnership will work financially and what each party will “own.” Sign formal agreements prepared by your attorney.

Always keep in the back of your mind: you don’t have to marry on the first date. Date a while to make sure it’s a great fit and that both parties benefit equally from the relationship, or it could turn sour quickly. Clear communication, goal-setting, and responsibility matrixes are essential. And don’t take an unanswered email as a “no,” either! Busy executives sometimes miss emails. Follow up and keep at it!

9 Industry-Leading Enterprises for Potential Cleantech Partnerships

The below enterprises have stated publicly that they are committed to reducing environmental footprints and are investing in innovative new solutions that help them and their global clients meet that goal. We’ve included some specific details below for each to help you learn more.

Question to ask yourself: how could your startup potentially partner with one to accelerate your company’s growth trajectory?  

Tesla In addition to its electric cars, Tesla also has solar panels and home battery packs that are designed to help homeowners and businesses reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

Phillips is a large enterprise perhaps best known for its LED light bulbs that help you reduce your carbon footprint and save money on energy. What you may not already know is that it has a line of other products that are designed to save energy and money and range from consumer products to enterprise imaging solutions.

Schneider Electric is a cleantech focused company that is perhaps best known for its smart building solutions, including cybersecurity and automation systems. It also has products designed to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy they use each year. For example, Schneider’s Intuition insight software uses analytics technology to help businesses identify areas where they can save energy and money.

GE is arguably a cleantech company with a broad range of products including wind turbines and solar panels. Additionally, it has a line of products designed to help businesses reduce their emissions. For example, GE’s Jenbacher gas engines are some of the most efficient on the market and designed to help businesses reduce their emissions by as much as 80 percent.

DuPont is perhaps best known for chemicals used in agriculture, textiles, nutrition, electronics, communications equipment, transportation safety equipment-and many other industries. It also has a line of products designed to help businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, DuPont’s CoolCell insulation is made with recycled materials and helps buildings stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Johnson Controls could be described as a cleantech company perhaps best known for its HVAC systems, car batteries, and fire detection products. It also has several products designed to help businesses reduce their energy costs. For example, Johnson Controls’ Metasys Nx Suite is a complete building management system that helps businesses track and manage their energy use in real time.

Honeywell’s cleantech portfolio includes products designed to help businesses reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Honeywell’s ZenithOptimedia Triton and ProStream media management software helps companies track and monitor the environmental impact of their advertising campaigns across multiple platforms-including print, TV, radio, digital and social networks.

Siemens cleantech investments include turbines, generators and a line of products designed to help businesses reduce their emissions. For example, Siemens’ Sinamics S120 variable-speed drives are designed to help businesses save money on energy costs.

ABB is a company that is best known for its power and automation products. It also has a line of products designed to help businesses reduce their emissions. For example, ABB’s Terraizone wastewater treatment system helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with wastewater treatment.

Your Checklist:

  1. Your cleantech partner needs to be able to provide a product, service or channel that will increase your market opportunity or enhance value to your customers.
  2. Your cleantech partner also needs to be able to provide a unique solution for your opportunity.
  3. Your cleantech partner should also be able to provide reliable service and support for your products. This is especially important if you’re looking for someone to help you with energy efficiency products, as these can often require long-term maintenance contracts.
  4. It’s important to make sure both cleantech partners can make money from the partnership. This doesn’t mean that one company has to be making all the money, but both companies should be able to see a return on their investment and feel like the agreement is fair and balanced.

Partner Success Story: Li-Cycle and Glencore

Last week on May 5, 2022, Altitude client Li-Cycle Holdings Corp., an industry leader in lithium-ion battery resource recovery and the leading lithium-ion battery recycler in North America, announced a strategic partnership with Glencore plc, a leading provider of primary metals for the production of EV batteries. The strategic partnership will better serve the EV battery supply chain by providing customers with an integrated approach for their primary and recycled metal needs.

Per the official press release:

“We are thrilled to have Glencore as a long-term strategic investor and global commercial partner. Bringing our complementary capabilities together will accelerate the path to a circular economy for critical materials in the lithium-ion battery supply chain,” said Ajay Kochhar, Li-Cycle Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “These agreements further secure and diversify our lithium-ion battery supply and feedstock sources, competitively positioning our network expansion in North America and Europe.”

Read the official press release to learn more details on this exciting strategic partnership announcement. Congratulations to Ajay and the entire Li-Cycle team!

Contact Us

To recap, when looking for a cleantech partner, it’s important to do your research and make sure you find the right company for your opportunity. If you’re interested in learning more about how to find a cleantech partner, please feel free to reach out. We’d love to chat with you.

To start, you can register with Altitude Accelerator to set up a meeting with our team and visit our website to learn more about our programs for entrepreneurs.

About Altitude Accelerator

Altitude Accelerator is a not-for-profit innovation hub and business incubator committed to commercializing impactful technology in Southern Ontario. Altitude’s team of more than 100 expert industry, academic, and government partners and advisors helps startups in cleantech, advanced manufacturing, internet of things (IoT), hardware, software, and life sciences grow faster, stronger, commercialize their products, and get to market. Headquartered in Brampton, Ontario’s Innovation District, Altitude Accelerator was created through a partnership with the University of Toronto Mississauga, the Mississauga Board of Trade, and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, & Trade and proud to partner with Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Ontario Cleantech Industry Association, Canadian Cleantech Alliance, and Cleantech North.

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