“Cleanweb” refers to businesses which combine the power of information and communications technology (ICT) to ideas which make more efficient use of energy or resources, including reducing the cost of generation or distribution of energy. While renewable energy forms the basis for the “cleantech” sector, cleanweb could also include ideas that could even make current fossil fuel-based energy grids smarter. Think products or services that can reduce the carbon footprint of current process and/or resources, and which are now powered by cutting-edge ICT, especially facilitated by rapid advances and recent modularization in areas such as the internet of things (IoT), big data, cloud computing, low energy sensors, remote sensing and monitoring, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) etc, among others.
Cleanweb could be anything from a renewable energy product or service which uses data analytics to predict peak demand, to something as simple a solution as Lyft which uses a very high-quality mobile app to help people share a ride. Cleanweb, as the term is itself evolving and getting defined, is about using ICT to enhance the value of a concept which independently would have been in the cleantech space, but now the power of ICT significantly enhances its effectiveness. More importantly, the use of ICT has reduced the costs involved in developing and testing cleanweb – this presents a significant advantage over traditional cleantech solutions which are perceived to be capital-heavy and rely heavily on advanced technology or R&D. In addition to lower capital requirements, this also makes cleanweb an attractive area for venture capital investors.
Cleanweb going mainstream
While the term ‘Cleanweb’ is admittedly a very recent phenomenon, around the world, ICT has been quietly conquering the cleantech sector. By combining innovative business models with recent advances in areas like IoT, big data analytics, cloud computing and high-speed mobile communication, a new breed of successful Cleanweb startups, e.g. like Nest, Opower, Lyft and OnFarm are enabling smarter and more efficient use of energy and other resources in everything from our homes and cars, to our factories and farms. Elsewhere, companies like SolarCity, Clean Power Finance and Mosaic are combining smart ICT solutions with financial innovations to significantly reduce the cost and risk of generating and consuming renewable energy.
Aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in the cleantech space will do well to integrate ICT to take cleantech to a different level. Aspiring entrepreneurs will find the cleanweb opportunity an inspiring enough challenge to go after, and that cleanweb ideas can be developed or tested with much more ease than pure cleantech ideas. Areas where cleanweb ideas could have significant impact are in energy analytics, smart buildings, smart transportation, precision agriculture, smart manufacturing and many more. These ideas could be products (hardware), services or even innovative financial models.
In fact, the 100 Smart Cities Program and the Make in India Program initiated by the Indian Government represent a significant opportunity across all sectors, and will have even more emphasis on smart solutions for cleantech and renewables. Combining ICT with cleantech can provide aspiring entrepreneurs a definitive edge in accessing funding, mentoring and resources (e.g. government grants, access to research labs, etc.).
While the cleantech sector globally has witnessed steady growth over the past several months, adoption in the developing world has been relatively slow. Cleanweb holds the potential to help developing markets like India realize the true potential of cleantech. The following SlideShare presentation captures the potential in the cleanweb space quite well.
PowerStart 2015 – an accelerator program for Cleanweb startups
Infuse Ventures, in association with the Asian Development Bank has recently launched PowerStart 2015 – an accelerator program for cleanweb ideas. The two-month-long program will be based in Bangalore, and will be the first-of-its-kind in India that is focused exclusively on entrepreneurs at the intersection of information and communications technology and cleantech. We’re looking for both teams as well as individuals who are currently developing (or plan to work on) cleanweb solutions. Two ventures from the program will receive a seed investment of Rs. 25 lacs each from Infuse Ventures.
Business opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs and startups
At CIIE and Infuse, we get 1000s of applications for funding and support every year. While most applicants are super-serious about becoming entrepreneurs and may have brilliant ideas, most have limited understanding of how to convert their ideas into high-potential business ideas. And hence, they often tend to conceive businesses that are way below their competencies, capabilities, and aspirations. We’re starting this series of articles to introduce aspiring entrepreneurs to emerging business opportunities that can help them think beyond the ordinary. These are big problems to go after, and bigger areas in which scalable businesses can be built, i.e. these are problems worth solving if we have to change the world for the better.