In the early 2000s, cleantech was the hot new advancement as it quickly became affordable enough to hit mass markets. Ten years later, it's sort of lost it's spark among failed mass adoption and experiments.

With the trend of urbanization and the new concept of 'smart cities', cleantech is rebranding to catch that demand.

"We’re not packaging this as cleantech; we’re saying these are smart cities," Jenny Fielding, managing director at the incubator Techstars, said of pitching her new class of startups to VCs. "That’s a very popular term right now, and people are throwing a lot of money toward that proposition. I’ve seen that what’s old becomes new again, and it just has a different name and a different business model."

Cities are an ideal spot for cleantech startups to show their value, Fielding said, because of the enormity of the data that could be gathered on metrics like energy use, air quality or infrastructure maintenance. The opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed. U.S. venture investment in cleantech companies more than doubled in the third quarter from the previous one to $741.1 million invested across 65 deals, the most money since 2014, according to data provided by PitchBook. The startup researcher defines cleantech as technology companies that seek to reduce the environmental impact of human activities or to significantly reduce the amount of natural resources consumed through such activities.

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