Thursday, December 10, 2009
Interview with Nikhil Jain, Clean Green Guy
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
One of the industries which has seen a lot of activity lately in Southern California is clean technology, with a large amount of investment activity and new company formation. We recently ran into Nikhil Jain, CEO of Clean Green Guy (www.cleangreenguy.com), a newly launched online marketplace for green tech deals. We spoke with Nikhil, to hear why he thinks the site is important for green technology companies and investors, as well as how the effort is related to his own incubation firm, Artilient Labs.
Let's start with an overview of Clean Green Guy. What is the site all about?
Nikhil Jain: Clean Green Guy is an online platform, which allows entrepreneurs and inventors with green business concepts, ideas, and companies connect with investors, financing, and service providers. We're focused on deal making in the green space. A hypothetical scenario, is an entrepreneur might be looking for a couple million to commercialize some technology, which takes algae and converts it to biofuel. They might need to build a prototype, and are looking for the right kind of investor. They can place that deal online, putting an executive summary and a video of their elevator pitch into our deal marketplace, which we then show to investors in diesel or algae. Also, if they're looking for consultants, a CPA, an attorney, real estate broker, or other services, they can find them all on our site. The web site caters only to people in the green space.
We notice you're also head of Artilient Labs. What's the relationship between Artilient Labs and Clean Green Guy?
Nikhil Jain: The concept behind Artilient Labs is it's a way to take a business, from the ground up, with very low capitalization. It's a concept similar to investing in property--you want to be able to make the most money when you buy the place, not when you sell it. So the concept is we're building companies with a very low budget, around $25,000 for each company. Clean Green Guy is the first company of the lab, and we'll have other companies similar to that, which are quick to execute and quick to market--three or four months.
Those are Internet sort of businesses?
Nikhil Jain: Yes, right now what we are working on is primarily Internet businesses. It's easier to build a $25,000 company on the Internet. The methodology is in place, developers are in place, and we have a team that can build companies quickly, in just three or four months.
What is your background, and how did you decide to start Clean Green Guy as your first company?
Nikhil Jain: I'm an electrical engineer, and got an MBA in finance. I grew up in Bombay, where my father was the chief Electrical Engineer for a power facility. I grew up in a township in Bombay which was known for its sustainability in the 1970's and 1980's. My father had been an advocate for water treatment facilities, intra-township agriculture, and the recycling of human waste into things such as fertilizer. As my thesis in college, I studied the efficiency of salt water ponds to store solar power. Coming into the U.S., I got involved in government agencies and job creation, and ended up working with lots of entrepreneurs. I realized there was a gap between how entrepreneurs raise money and investors. I figured out the economy was a new and emerging space, and there was a big need for a platform to close the gap between entrepreneurs and investors. They say that business is a table with three corners--one is the inventor, the second the investor or guy with the money, and the third is the support, such as service providers. That's how I came up with the concept of bringing them all together, sort of an eHarmony for green businesses.
How far along is this, and are you listing deals yet on the marketplace?
Nikhil Jain: We already have a list of deals, from Southern California, the rest of the U.S., South Africa, Australia, and have brand new deals every week. After launching in the last month, we've now got a thousand members registered on the web site, and about eleven deals in the deal marketplace. We saw our first testimonials last week, where a user told us they posted a deal online and got six responses in 24 hours from potential investment groups.
Speaking of matching investments and entrepreneurs, do you run into any legal issues in that area?
Nikhil Jain: We have made sure our terms and conditions were very carefully done, because we can't indulge in any brokering, and can't take any equity or fees on any success that happens. The only thing we can do is charge a membership fee, a subscription so people can participate in the deal platform.
Do you have any investors yourself?
Nikhil Jain: The company is completely self funded, by myself. As I mentioned before, the budget for launching our companies is small, so I've been able to fund it myself.