Xconomist of the Week Christina Lampe-Onnerud Talks Cleantech

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say we’re oil independent and set a date. If we don’t move from that, the same innovation power that’s going [to China] to fulfill those goals would be here. If there’s not clarity around what that paradigm looks like, you have almost no access to capital.

X: Do you mean public capital?
CLO: I am very focused on how you grow a business. We have almost entirely private capital at this company. If the policies make it clear that you have a real market, the fastest and most efficient way of capital is private capital. The expectation is you grow a business and make it profitable. When you have political money you may have a lot of other obligations.

X: What has been the impact of government investments in cleantech companies?
CLO: We have no U.S. stimulus money in our company. So I’m not intimately familiar with the details. My observation is the push for cleantech is probably correct, but it was maybe a little fast in how it was put together. If the U.S. would have stuck to ‘we want this market to develop, here’s our 20-year vision for energy,’ the market will figure it out.

I still think that some of this stimulus will be put to good use. Whether they pick the right winners not, some of the proceeds will be picked up by others.

I believe in market efficiencies. I appreciate that they tried to do something quickly. People that tried to do it did the best they did with the tools they had.

What’s important is to recognize reality. The U.S. can decide to watch and see, or enjoy that game. I participated with a trip to Washington, D.C. with 65 other entrepreneurs. I think it was immensely clear that everyone is ready for energy policy and tax revision. My sincere hope is after the election is over, we will get to work on this.

X: What do you make of A123’s recent financial turmoil?
CLO: A123, of course, should answer their own questions. As an entrepreneur and innovator, I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done. They’ve done some things beautifully, and missed a few things. It’s hard for me to judge that. For us it worked really well to keep a lower profile. We developed a sense and a control inside the company: a do-it-right-immediately and obsessed-with-quality approach.

We’re not a household name. People in the industry know us; no one else knows us. I think we’re good with that. I focused the company on quality, cost reduction, and high performance early on.

I think it’s hard to go public before a market is ready. I am … Next Page »

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