Cleantech Innovators: Win $250K+ Funding and a Foot in the Door at DFJ, Cisco


These aren’t exactly the best of times for young graduates hitting the job market. And while venture capital investment in cleantech took a nose dive in the first quarter of this year, all is not lost for cleantech innovators on college campuses. Venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, in partnership with Cisco, (s CSCO) has just launched a business plan competition for students that will lead to at least $250,000 in seed funding from the two companies for one entrepreneurial team working on “new technology-oriented ideas.” The winning team will also get mentorship — and a foot in the door — at two companies with significant stakes in clean technologies.

The competition is open to all sectors, but given that DFJ has been near the front of the pack in the cleantech investment crusade in recent years, and that Cisco is making a big push to harness its intelligent networking infrastructure for the smart-grid buildout and has more than $1.3 billion in venture capital under management, the prize could be especially valuable for cleantech innovators. DFJ’s Marta Bulaich told us this morning that this is a “competition of competitions,” so teams must have won a university- or DFJ-sponsored business plan competition during the 2008-2009 school year to qualify.

DFJ says the competition, which is open to teams in regions including Brazil, China, India, Israel, Russia, Southeast Asia, United Kingdom and the U.S. (divided into six regions: West Coast, East Coast, Southwest, Midwest, Texas and Chicago) will have “geographical diversity” as a consideration, but its “ultimate objective is to find the best business plan in the world.”

According to Cisco, applicants will be evaluated based on:

various criteria including the quality of the management team, technical innovation, addressable market size, competitive positioning, barriers, capital efficiency and financial projections

So for those of you who just missed the final submission deadline for the million-dollar-plus Clean Tech Open competition — or who applied for that one and want to hedge your bets — you might be able to squeeze in and pitch for the DFJ-Cisco competition. According to Bulaich, teams have until this Friday to enter the competition, and they should contact her to find out how.

By the end of the day on June 19, 16 student teams will be selected as finalists to pitch a San Jose, Calif.-based panel of executives from Cisco and DFJ in real time from the 14 regional sites. All of this will be done using Cisco’s live-streaming virtual meeting service, “TelePresence” —  which the company also touted earlier this year in a virtual talk with Al Gore about cleantech opportunities. The grand prize winner will be announced on June 30. For more details on the competition, check out the DFJ web site.

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