We sat down with our longtime business member and 2020 organizational sponsor, ecoCFO to learn more about the company and their unique experience and offerings!
Location – Portsmouth, NH
Length of time in business – since 2013
Number of employees - 5 employees
What is ecoCFO's mission? What, how, and why?
ecoCFO is the outsourced CFO and accounting department for our cleantech, renewable energy, and nonprofit clients. We take care of their financial needs, allowing them to focus on providing solutions to tackle climate change and the environmental crisis.
Our core competency is building finance and accounting infrastructure with a balance of simplicity and sophistication to support our clients' core mission - whether it's tech development, project development/construction/operations, R&D, or advocacy - all within the Cleantech space.
Why? We believe not only in the mission of the industry, but also that there are incredible economic opportunities to be unlocked by some of the smartest problem solvers on the planet. We are not engineers, scientists, electricians, or PhDs, but we believe we can make the greatest impact on the mission of cleantech by aiding them with strong financial planning, accounting operations, and infrastructure. We've identified this need in cleantech startups as it is often overlooked by founding leadership teams, and the economic viability of cleantech and renewable energy technology companies is vital. They need the back-office infrastructure and all the controls in place to be in compliance with the IRS, investors, and government agencies. They need this in order to do all the wonderful things that cleantech companies do.
It's essential, especially during these uncertain times, for a cleantech business to have a solid financial base to continue to innovate and grow.
Our team members have expertise with venture capital-funded startups, state and federal energy regulations, financial planning and analysis, cash flow forecasting, financial reporting, and business systems and controls. We understand that it can be cost-prohibitive for startups or SMBs to hire a full-time CFO and accounting department and that most of these companies do not have founding members on their teams with that skill set. To fill that need, we provide lower-cost, expert consulting to get these companies started, and build finance and accounting infrastructure that resembles companies further along in their life cycle so that it's not an inhibitor as they enter high growth mode.
Describe what the company does for its clients:
We provide outsourced CFO services, accounting, and strategic planning for our clients. We offer financial planning and analysis (FP&A), cash flow forecasting, budgeting and reporting, guidance during capital raising and M&A activities, implementing accounting systems and controls, board and investor reporting, as well as manage the audit and tax process with external CPA firms. We are the finance and accounting department for our clients.
Our clients are creating incredible technologies that are moving us toward the clean energy, circular economy. That's half the challenge. They also need to run viable businesses. That's where we come in. We create from scratch and run their back-office systems, controls, and processes.
We've been serving the needs of clean technology and renewable energy companies for years, bringing together the right team of financial and accounting experts with in-depth industry knowledge and technical skill. We help businesses take advantage of federal and state incentives and tax credits, wade through existing regulations, and plan out a strategy for the future.
Moving from operational growth to liquidity requires strong financial management and accounting excellence. Companies need to demonstrate strong financial controls and acumen. ecoCFO puts these procedures and controls in place for our clients so that we can meet the expectations of the board members, investors, partners, and potential acquirers.
What sets ecoCFO apart from other financial service companies?
Not only do we have deep expertise and years of experience in financial services, accounting, and federal and state regulations, we also have real and practical experience with solar, wind, hydro, CHP, as well as energy storage development, financing, construction, and asset management. We have done work in water and wastewater treatment, waste management and recycling, EVs and batteries, sustainably produced materials, and with various cleantech nonprofits. Cleantech companies have specific requirements from a financial and regulatory perspective, and this has a significant impact on both short and long term financial and strategic planning. Because of that, we do much more than the accounting for these companies. We run large projects for some of our clients and have deep relationships with the key players in the industry. Our clients are funded by groups such as the Department of Energy, Clean Energy Venture Group, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Saudi Aramco, Flagship Ventures, Volta, Intel, Applied Ventures, Hegemon, Braemar, Prelude, Blackrock, Credit Suisse, NYSERDA, MassCEC, and now more than ever, the SBA. We know what controls and systems they will need. We also know how to connect these companies with the vendors, lawyers, VCs, CPAs, and auditors that have cleantech expertise as we've worked with them for years.
Are there any new/popular services or items you want to highlight?
We are working very closely with our small business clients to make sure they apply for (if eligible) and receive all the federal and state loans and grants available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CFO's role at a time like this is essential. We have run countless cash flow forecasts and scenarios in the last 2 months in an effort to plan and prepare for possible outcomes.
Over the previous 6 months, 5 of our companies have executed A or B round financing events, so we have been busy building countless financial models and populating data rooms to support those negotiations.
I'd say the last six months have been one of the busiest times, as we kicked off annual budgeting for the upcoming year, and then rolled right into audit and tax season. We have a couple of hundred reporting entities and project companies that are subject to audit requirements, so working through that is a significant undertaking for all involved.
What are some challenges facing the clean energy/cleantech industry that you feel are most important to address?
I think we all have our eyes on oil and gas prices, spark spreads, and COVID-19 right now. It's truly a unique and challenging time. When these massive federal bills are passed, it gives me pause as we are racing to digest all of this new information without clear guidance on the possible drawbacks. I feel a potential challenge or drawback to the SBA programs is that there will be tax breaks or other favorable laws afforded to us in the future that those who received PPP loans will be deemed ineligible. That may very well be fair, and we often make short term decisions at the expense of long term upside; however, in this situation, we probably don't know what those long-term sacrifices are yet. It's all moot, though, if someone is in a position where taking PPP is your last line of defense to ensure the business outlasts the pandemic.
The economic slowdown caused by the fight against the coronavirus is taking a toll on parts of the cleantech and renewable energy industry the same way that it's affecting the rest of the economy. We all need to pull together to make sure that the cleantech and renewable energy businesses in New Hampshire make it through this period and come out the other side ready to grow and continue our mission.
What do you want potential future clients to know about ecoCFO?
We speak your language of acronyms and know the impacts they have on your businesses. Whether it's ITC, RECs, MACRS, NPDES, DPU, PUC, or any other number of them, we're right there with you.
Secondly, it seems counterintuitive, but we look forward to the day you hire full-time finance and accounting staff. We will even help you do it because it means it's another success story for us where we supported you to the point that you've grown enough to justify it, and we helped you get there.
In the meantime, outsourcing your finance department is an excellent way to both reduce the cost and time of handling it in-house. At the same time, you also gain specialized cleantech & renewable energy industry expertise from our experiences elsewhere.
Why does ecoCFO support Clean Energy NH?
Our mission aligns well with Clean Energy NH. We are committed to working with companies that are building an eco-friendly future for the state. We are devoted to making sure these companies succeed by providing our financial expertise in tandem with the advocacy work that CENH does on behalf of its membership.
There are viable, lucrative economic opportunities for businesses in New Hampshire that are untapped. There's an opportunity to create jobs and wealth for the founders and social wealth for everyone in terms of a cleaner environment. Both Clean Energy NH and ecoCFO are looking for ways to support this goal.
What would ecoCFO say to potential new members?
It's never too late to make a difference. Clean Energy NH provides a valuable educational service to the state, making sure that these issues are front and center in the business community. Its track record of success and impact is unparalleled in the last five years, and its potential for more significant impact is not limited by skills or capabilities, but rather the financial means to take on additional dockets, initiatives, and policy interventions.
Why does ecoCFO like being based in the Granite State?
We have it all here. With the White Mountain National Forest, the Appalachian Trail, Lake Winnipesaukee, and of course, the Beaches. You can feel like you're on vacation with a 15-minute drive no matter where you live. It's an ideal state for anyone who loves the outdoors, and it's a great setting to raise a family and for this kind of business. Plus, the craft beer scene just keeps getting better.
Are there things the state can do to be more encouraging or welcoming to the clean energy/cleantech industry?
It is estimated that 21 percent of electricity in the United States will come from renewable sources this year, up from 10 percent in 2010. But as a state, NH is lagging far behind, providing only about 1 percent of energy from renewable sources. We don't want to miss out on the jobs and the economic boom that will eventually come from this section of the economy. We encourage our state government to reconsider net metering for the solar industry and for everyone to reach out to our senators and US Representatives to include the renewable energy industry in the next round of COVID-19 relief programs.
Learn more and connect at www.ecocfo.com!