Managing Director of Investments
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
Investing in the Energy of the Future
For someone who claims to have stumbled into the clean energy and sustainability industry, Tibor Toth does not lack passion when it comes to the intersection between business and clean technology. As Managing Director of Investments at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), Toth aims to advance new technologies and business models pertaining to energy. As a quasi-public independent agency, MassCEC was created by the Massachusetts state legislature and began operating in 2009 with the intent to grow the clean energy industry within Massachusetts as well as to help the state achieve its environmental and economic goals.
“Our goal is to invest in companies that generate a financial return and spur economic development in addition to making a material impact on our clean energy mission,” says Toth, who joined the agency in 2013.
MassCEC invests in five to ten companies a year and, since joining, Toth has led his team to participate in over 50 rounds of financing. MassCEC currently has more than 30 companies in its investment portfolio. When combining the revenue of these portfolio companies, half of which were pre-revenue at the time of initial investment, MassCEC’s portfolio currently generates almost $100 million in annual sales. The organization is primarily funded through a system benefits charge that residential and commercial customers in Massachusetts pay as an adder on their electric utility bills. Companies that receive support from MassCEC must be based in Massachusetts and work on a variety of issues and technological innovations across the energy value chain, including next-gen renewables, efficient mobility, grid resilience, energy storage, water-energy nexus, and sustainable buildings.
Toth, who engages with early stage companies that are addressing pressing market problems and have validated their solutions, graduated in 1994 from Northwestern’s MMM Program, a dual degree that combines an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management with a master's in design innovation from the McCormick School of Engineering.
“My time at Northwestern has certainly prepared me for what I am doing now,” says Toth, who worked for different private equity and venture firms post-graduation. “The manufacturing side of the MMM Program helps me understand business operations and where there may be challenges or where value can be created. The broader business education is helping me analyze companies and their full business plans, not just crunch numbers.”
In 2010, Toth began working as CFO for his first start-up company— a clean energy start-up that built utility-scale hybrid power plants as a way to share infrastructure and reduce the cost of stand-alone solar. While the company no longer exists, the experience introduced him to the clean energy business.
“The manufacturing side of [Northwestern's] MMM Program helps me understand business operations and where there may be challenges or where value can be created. The broader business education is helping me analyze companies and their full business plans, not just crunch numbers.” — Tibor Toth (KSM/McC '94) Managing Director of Investments at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC)
“It got me excited about being in clean energy and making an impact,” says Toth. “Working with a successful cleantech venture can make a difference in the world, not just make money.”
However, Toth acknowledges that the energy business, especially clean energy, has its challenges despite the rewards. He advises those seeking to work in the energy space, whether they are an investor or entrepreneur, to seek opportunities where the mission is aligned with one’s personal values and to take advantage of local resources.
“Tap into the ecosystem in your area,” says Toth. “There are players and organizations that cooperate and care about each other’s success, especially in the clean energy sector.”
* Editor's Note, November 2022: Tibor Toth is now Investment Director at Aramco Ventures.