Vortex Tools qualified as a semifinalist in the Cleantech Open—a global competition to accelerate green technologies—for their application in turning harmful CO2 waste from oil and gas wells into recovered high-value energy. This series of blogs is designed to chronicle our experience going through the 2012 Cleantech Open as a reference point for future applicants. Today’s blog: What to expect from the one-day national conference.
Last time, I gave an overview of the Cleantech Open and what to expect from the application process. Although I originally intended to cover both the one-day national conference and the multi-day regional academy in this blog, upon finding so many words falling out of my fingers, I decided to split the two and cover the one-day national academy here. As stated previously, these are the opinions of one participant going through the process in 2012.
If your company gets accepted to the Cleantech Open, the first big event you’ll attend is the national conference in San José, California. (You’ll likely have a regional mixer before this, but it provides a limited glimpse of what the Cleantech Open is about.) Although the one-day national conference is optional, as the required 3-4 day regional academy is immediately after and in the same city, it makes sense to tack on the extra day, unless you’re strapped for time and/or you live close to Boston, Massachusetts (where the east coast academy is held the following week).
Here’s what to expect from the one-day national conference:
1. Non-Stop Networking
Part of attending the national conference is having a trade show booth.
If you’ve ever worked a trade show, you know that it’s odd to interact with people in this environment. They don’t make eye contact; they wander off mid-sentence; and you can only bribe them to interact with so much free swag (candy, pens, water bottles, etc.) for so long. If people do come near your booth — pray you don’t get stuck next to the bathrooms or the food — they’ll take in any visual information you provide (in the form of fliers, posters, videos, etc.) far too quickly, and if it’s not bluntly clear what you do, they’ll lock in the wrong impression of your company and wander off ill-informed.
It’s okay. I’ve attended trade shows and acted the same way towards trade show workers, because no one wants to feel trapped in a sales pitch, even if that’s not what you’re there to do. What you are there to do is network, and you’ll do a ton of it at both the national conference and the regional academy. My boss and I came back with over 50 cards between us with very little overlap.
Sure, collecting cards isn’t anything impressive — there was a guy who went around vomiting business cards on anyone with a pulse — but it never hurts to get your company out there more, and we came home with a half-dozen decent opportunities to pursue. Additionally, as there was another similarly aligned trade show going on at the same time in the same space (though the conferences were clearly divided), there was opportunity to connect with non-Cleantech Open contacts as well.
However many people you send to this event, split up so that you cover more ground. No one gets to stand around and be the pretty face.
2. Expect Some Bluster
In addition to having a trade show booth, you’ll also have to juggle your time with required presentations. As you’ll be leaving your booth all by its lonesome, this means that, a) you can kiss your free swag goodbye; b) you’ll want info sheets people can take; and c) You won’t want to leave anything valuable behind (internal reports, laptops, a briefcase full of unmarked bills, etc.).
In watching presentations in the main hall, you’ll realize that the national conference is the day for bluster material. To a degree, this should be expected, as the first day of any conference has a degree of self-congratulatory moves. Additionally, you can expect that the corporate sponsors have bought speaking time to make themselves look good.
Two of the major sponsors, Chevron and Walmart, got to give speeches on their commitment to sustainability, and whatever your opinion of those two companies before those presentations, I doubt it would’ve budged much. Although part of this is image makeover techniques of major corporations (and yes, statistically it actually works in increasing marketability, quality workers and profits), this also shows one of the greatest strengths of the Cleantech Open: As an organization, they’re open to hear about what’s out there in terms of green pursuits without writing anyone off. There’s no environmentalist snobbery that says, “Your company isn’t green enough.”
Sadly, this line of thinking is rarer than it should be when it comes to green conventions, but it’s necessary for wider acceptance and growth.
Finally, debates on whether cleantech has finally arrived will do little to sway your view of that either, as the definitions are broad enough that it’s easy to debate in the first place. However, as covered before, this national conference will give you lots of insight as to the current state of green energy in the U.S.
3. More Disorganization
I mentioned this in the application phase blog in problems with the Cleantech Open website and the trend continues here, only at this stage it’s in person.
The first thing that happened is that there was supposed to be a 10-minute shuttle that came to collect all the participants in the Cleantech Open and take us from the hotel we were told to book into with lower rates and over to the convention hotel. Upon walking outside after breakfast, however, there was a mob of angry people who’d already been waiting for this shuttle that was apparently 45 minutes late. As a result, I took a cab over to the convention hotel with my teammate. We asked people if they wanted to split the fare, but didn’t get much of a response. We assume we were docked greenie points because of this, but we wanted to set up our booth in time, as there was no time to do so the night before.
An hour later, all those polite people who waited for the shuttle showed up rather disgruntled. Additionally, they all had to wait in line to get their trade show passes to set up their booth and attend it… after the conference had already officially started. Although I got to skip this huge line by taking a cab to arrive early, the convention center workers handed out the wrong passes to us early birds and expected us to wait in line again for this mistake.
Although it’s very impressive what the Cleantech Open is undertaking here—helping to accelerate 150 green companies—they’re long overdue to build in some more structure and organization. Additionally, there’s a degree of defensiveness when you share any criticism, even if it’s appropriate. You can expect to hear things about your “lack of initiative” and the all-encompassing shield of “We’re all volunteers.” If you’re as opinionated as I am, you likely won’t accept these excuses, especially since you, as a participant, are paying for this experience (this doesn’t mean being rude, rather that accountability is still in play). However, I will state that by the end of the subsequent regional academy, you will be ahead in terms of the value the Cleantech Open has given to you.
I’ll close this blog with the note that while I’ve covered a number of negative aspects of the Cleantech Open, my overall view of the process is favorable. These blogs came out of the reality that for as big as the Cleantech Open is, there’s very little independent information on it. My goal is to share both the good and the bad aspects for potential future applicants.
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In the next Cleantech Open blog, I’ll cover what to expect from the regional academy.
Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:
-SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).
-Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).
-Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).
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