5 questions with Rob Day

Rob Day is one of the most high-profile cleantech investors around.

It isn’t because he’s been in the biggest deals or had the best exits. People know Day for his writing. He started an early and influential cleantech blog as a principal at Expansion Capital Partners and continued it as a principal with @Ventures.

Now that he is with Black Coral Capital, a cleantech-focused family office, Day has no plans to give up writing. But don’t expect him to spill the beans about Black Coral. When Senior Writer Alexander Haislip caught up with him, Day declined to give any particulars about the family office, such as how much money it manages or even if it is based in the United States or abroad.

Q: Did you get recruited because the private backer read your blog?

A: No. I knew the other investor, Christian Zabbal, and I’d gotten to know him through my network. We saw a good opportunity to work together with a blank sheet of paper. It seemed like a pretty fun chance and challenge so I said ‘sure.’

Q: So who is this secretive family office?

A: They have connections in the energy industry. They’re backing something that could be interesting and I want to respect their privacy.

Q: What are you going to be investing in?

A: We’re going to be looking at everything from venture capital to later stage to infrastructure—things that are focused on the core economic value propositions, not just things that have neat technology. We’ll look at writing the right sized check for the opportunity. That’s one of the things I found very appealing, this was an opportunity to step back and look at a range of opportunities. We’re also going to be looking at both direct and indirect investors.

Q: You’ll be investing in VC funds?

A: We’re already talking to managers of funds. We’re going to be making some additional commitments and we already have a few underway. We are now looking for good quality managers across all of these asset categories. We’re going to take the lay of the land and work with really talented managers. They have to also be focused on core economic value propositions, not just investing in things that the world needs, but things that have good market paths.

Q: And you’re hiring. What type of people are you looking for?

A: They should have a deep respect for how to introduce new technologies into these industries. The rate of technology adoption in energy, water and materials is going to increase, but it’s increasing from a very slow rate. We’re building something for the long-haul here. We’re looking for real leaders at this point. We’re not going to jump into hiring a whole bunch of inexperienced people.