Rob Day over at Cleantech Investing has some great tidbits today so I’ll start by encouraging you to drop by the site. But one I’d like to focus on is the announcement that Kleiner Perkins plans to spend $100 million on cleantech investments out of three new funds totalling $900 million. “In so doing, they become one of the highest-profile firms to officially set aside capital for funding cleantech firms,” writes Day, who then draws our attention to a great quote from Kleiner’s John Doerr that appeared in a Red Herring article: “Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.”
Cowabunga! Now that’s an endorsement. Of course, we all know Kleiner Perkins are the folks who gave Google, Amazon.com, Compaq Computer, Sun Microsystems and Symantec their early financial kickstart. More recent investments in the clean energy space include fuel-cell maker Ion America and next-gen battery wonder EEStor — the latter having tremendous potential to, well, completely turn the world on its head.
I had a nice conversation today with Chris Grundler, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s transportation lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ll save most of his comments for another day, but one thing he did say seems relevant in the larger discussion about heightened interest in cleantech: “We don’t have a technology problem… what we had up until recently is a marketplace malfunction. What we need to do is design policies that will move this technology to the marketplace in numbers that matter. That’s the trick that people like me and others are thinking about day and night. How do we create the right conditions so these technologies show up in the right numbers.”
The reason I included that quote is because it seems to me you’ve got a number of things happening right now that makes VCs like Kleiner Perkins take notice of the fantastic opportunities in the cleantech space. You’ve got high fossil fuel prices. You’ve got increased consumer awareness and desire for cleaner, greener, more efficient products and processes. You’ve got companies competing for that consumer attention. You’ve political concerns dealing with domestic energy security. And you’ve got guys like Grundler trying to design public policy that draws scientists and researchers out of the labs and gets technologies in the marketplace. In other words, policy that creates certainty — something investors, like VCs, like a lot.
So while Kleiner Perkins’ growing interest in cleantech should come as no surprise, consider it a positive sign that things are heading in the right direction and the stars continue to align for all things clean.