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Phoenix Forward

Cleantech Open and University of Phoenix join forces to help green entrepreneurs

A wind farm with a beautiful bue sky

When University of Phoenix decided to take their commitment to the environment one step further, becoming National Education Partner of Cleantech Open (CTO), a non-profit that mentors startups in the environmental-technology sector, was a logical next step.

Offering a $250,000 grand prize to the winning startup, CTO holds an annual national competition to encourage entrepreneurs to solve environmental issues by developing services and products. At the final event — known as Cleantech Open Global Forum — finalists present their technologies on stage before panels of judges.

Announced on November 16 at the Global Forum held in Redwood City, Calif., this year’s national grand prize winner was Atmosphere Recovery, which makes laser-based gas analyzer systems.

It's one thing to have a great clean-tech idea. It's another thing to turn that idea into … tomorrow's environmental solution.

“Entrepreneurs not only compete,” explains says Seth Mones, Apollo Education Group vice president, sustainability policy and programs, who led the partnership with the Silicon Valley-based nonprofit and is on CTO’s board of directors as well as the competition-judging panels. “But they are also trained on key business skills: how to land venture capital, as well as how to move their environmental ideas into the market.”

This mentoring is critical to CTO’s success, says Mones. “It’s one thing to have a great clean-tech idea. It’s another thing to turn that idea into a successful business, or tomorrow’s environmental solution,” he explains. “This takes skills and practice in many key areas, such as pitching to prospective investors, analyzing the marketplace, dealing with intellectual property, and developing strong business plans for success.”

And although each year there is only one winner taking home the prize, the Cleantech Open is about a lot more than finishing first. “It’s great to win,” says Mones, “but the mentoring, training and education that competitors get is itself a victory.”

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