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Is VC interest in clean tech really going bust?

This weekend presented an interesting case study in the perils of buying into a narrative and then fitting it to reality. The Post's Juliet Eilperin has a story in this month's Wired arguing, using Solyndra as its example, that venture capital interest in the clean-tech sector is going bust. Here it is:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/01/ff_solyndra/all/1

It seems a plausible idea, as someone who has documented the struggles of the advanced biofuels industry. But the evidence Eilperin cited struck me as a bit thin. So it wasn't a complete shock this morning when PWC released its VC report for 2011, which found that, in fact, venture capital investment in clean tech increased by 12 percent last year, to a record high of $4.3 billion.

The PWC report: http://t.co/tUwjSUTX (PDF)

So what's happening here? My guess -- just a guess -- would be that Wired and Eilperin realized the Solyndra story had become stale since she pitched it, likely months ago given the lead time for magazines, but by broadening the narrative frame, they opened themselves up to reality slipping from their grasp. (I've heard this VC story, too. But I had no idea if it was actually true.)

I've got no dog in this fight. I'm a reporter. I don't make predictions and if clean tech is going bust -- and it's certainly taken its lumps -- I have no desire to hide it. But if I'm an editor commissioning this story, I'd make damn sure that the statistics back up the anecdotal thrust I'm using. Credibility is all.
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David Biello's profile photoPaul Voosen's profile photo
 
As a postscript, I'd add that there has been a lot of spot-on reporting about Solyndra and its meaning for clean tech, too. My personal favorite is by +David Biello of SciAm: http://bit.ly/oomGjq Nails it.
 
Too kind, too kind. And I agree: way to (re)affirm the conventional (DC) wisdom Wired. Silliness.
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