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Beth Zonis, Senior Director, Cleantech Open Northeast, NECEC

Cleantech Open Northeast alumni are combating climate change, growing the green economy, and driving environmental equity.


Combating climate change through innovation and entrepreneurship 

In order to be accepted into the Cleantech Open accelerator, a startup must have a solution to improve the environment. During the accelerator, the entrepreneurs learn many skills and complete specific deliverables that should serve them well as they build their businesses. 

  • As a cleantech accelerator, the Cleantech Open Northeast expects its startups to have a Sustainability plan. This is one of the program’s “essential business deliverables”.

  • The entrepreneurs learn how to calculate their Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Potential (GHG ERP). 

  • Having a GHG ERP calculation is very beneficial for founders as they meet potential employees, partners, suppliers, customers, and investors who care about the environment. Quantifying their environmental impact is meant to give them a head start in these conversations.

The 2023 cohort of startups estimated their aggregate emissions reduction potential at 1,761 million metric tons of CO2e. That’s equivalent to taking 392 million gas-powered cars off of the road annually. 

The effects of climate change are increasing pressure to address the climate crisis. Cleantech Open Northeast startups are poised to make a difference, and many already are.

Growing the Green Economy

74% of the 601 Cleantech Open Northeast alumni (from 2005 to 2023) are still in business or have had a successful exit. They have raised more than $1.47 billion, created more than 4,400 clean economy jobs, and generated more than $696 million in annual revenue.


Entrepreneurship is difficult, and getting a cleantech startup to commercialization is even more difficult. Many startups close for a variety of reasons. 

What’s unique at Cleantech Open Northeast is that the entrepreneurs work extremely hard and display perseverance. This is much more than a pitch competition. Entrepreneurs practice humility through listening and taking advice from a variety of experts, as their mentors represent multiple skill sets and industries. For example, a mentor team may include a serial entrepreneur, a marketing and communications professional, a specialist in the startup’s core technology or industry, an angel or venture capital investor, and an attorney. The mentors give the startup regular feedback and encourage them to think about their business in new ways. Confidence comes when the startup receives feedback that leads to interested investors and prospective customers.

74% of Cleantech Open Northeast alumni are still in business or have had a successful exit. They have raised more than $1.47 billion, created more than 4,400 clean economy jobs, and generated more than $696 million in revenue. 

From the acclaimed McKinsey & Company report Diversity Matters (February 2020), we learned that “Top-quartile companies for racial and ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians… Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.”

Cleantech Open Northeast works with startups at the beginning of their journeys. Then other accelerators, as well as incubators, customers, and investors take over after that. It takes a whole ecosystem to support a cleantech startup as it builds and scales.  

Alumni from Cleantech Open Northeast become part of the NECEC ecosystem as soon as they are accepted into the program. Once they graduate, NECEC has many ways to help them connect to that rich ecosystem of innovation support organizations, investors, corporates, customers, academics and experts in a wide variety of areas such as policy, IP, accounting, marketing, communications, and manufaturing. This includes the Cleantech Navigate resource network and connection events, as well as the Strategic Partner Network. Find out more at


Driving Environmental Equity

Since 2005 – for almost two decades – Cleantech Open Northeast has worked hard to build diverse cohorts. In the last few years, the program has trained startups on topics ranging from building diversity into the startup culture, how to build diverse teams, and how to improve environmental equity. This year, the entrepreneurs benefited from three live sessions with different experts, culminating in recommended actions they can take. The entrepreneurs understand and appreciate the value of diversity and inclusion, and they are an integral part of the just transition.

In 2023, members of the 2023 Cleantech Open Northeast cohort shared their demographic information.

68% of the startups in the 2023 cohort have a founder who is a woman, a member of an underserved community, or both. 

As they grow increasingly diverse and inclusive, Cleantech Open Northeast alumni are well-positioned for success.

A Proven Program

Between 2005 and 2023, Cleantech Open Northeast has trained 601 early-stage cleantech startups through its annual business accelerator. The program runs once a year for about six months, with the core programming during the summer months. Cleantech Open is like a mini MBA – teaching entrepreneurship skills to propel startups on the path to commercialization as quickly and effectively as possible. 

Each startup is matched with up to four mentors who serve as an advisory board, guiding the startup through the rigorous curriculum. After completion of the deliverables, the startups compete for cash prizes ($70,000 in 2023), showcase their innovations, and meet investors. 

The entrepreneurs graduate with a better understanding of their market, a stronger value proposition, a more viable business model and business plan, an expanded network of industry experts, and a plan for how to further progress their business. Upon graduation, many are well on their way to raising their first funding rounds. This is a proven program designed to set up cleantech startups for success. 

Data and analysis methodology

Sources include a list of Cleantech Open Northeast alumni startups, information on the founders and current executives, and data from Crunchbase. A data and business analytics team from Brandeis University International Business School pulled the data from Crunchbase and conducted analyses on that data. 

Some assumptions were made in cases where Crunchbase provided a range rather than a specific number. For example, the analyst used the median numbers of the range for startups’ estimated revenue and the number of employees. For active startups not listed in Crunchbase (excluding the 2023 cohort), the assumption was one and a half employees per company. 

Some founders identify as both women and members of underserved communities; the Cleantech Open Northeast team was careful to count each person only once and to count each startup only once if they had a woman founder, a founder who’s a member of an underserved community, or both.


To learn more about Cleantech Open Northeast and how you can be part of the community, please contact Beth Zonis, Senior Director, Senior Director, Cleantech Open Northeast / NECEC: bzonis AT cleantechopen DOT org.

Data Analysis by Henry Liu, Data Analytics Intern at NECEC and MSBA Candidate 2023 at Brandeis University

Graphic by Manhattan Strategies