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WindSail Capital wants to fill clean energy funding gap, providing loans to growing companies

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 24, 2012 08:19 AM

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Michael Rand and Ian Bowles are talking more openly this spring about a new financing firm they formed last year — perhaps because they're out shaking the money tree: WindSail Capital Group.

michaelrand.jpgBowles, a former Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs, says, "Our ambition is to be the first sole-purpose clean energy lender." As the clean energy business transitions from scientists in white lab coats developing new technologies to technicians in blue jeans actually installing them, Bowles and Rand (pictured at right) say that many of the companies handling deployment need credit that isn't readily available.

"There's no venture capital for these companies that don't have intellectual property of their own, and if they're not profitable yet, they can't get credit," Bowles says.
"Banks are still being very conservative."

WindSail set up a $3 million loan for Boston's Next Step Living last year, to help the company grow; Next Step conducts residential energy efficiency audits and performs some home energy upgrades.

"If a company is installing LED lighting or solar panels, they have inventory and receivables, and those are assets," says Rand, who previously ran a private equity fund at Gordon Brothers. "We're lending based on that underlying asset value."

Rand says about half of the prospective deals they've been looking at have been in eastern Massachusetts, and half in the rest of the U.S.

"This industry is big already, and it's only going to get bigger in our lifetimes," Bowles says.

Both partners declined to talk about their fundraising efforts for WindSail, citing regulatory restrictions.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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