Gore, VC Firm Forge Convenient Clean Tech Alliance

Former U.S. vice present and Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmental activist Al Gore has linked up with a Silicon Valley venture capital firm with similar street cred in the investment community.

Generation Investment Management, which Gore cofounded, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have announced plans to collaborate on identifying and funding green businesses, technologies and policies that have the greatest potential to solve the climate crisis.

The partnership will provide funding and expertise to both public and private companies as well as one-person shop entrepreneurs. As a part of the collaboration, Gore will join KPCB as a partner. The firm will also co-locate its European operations at Generation’s offices in London. John Doerr, partner at KPCB, will join Generation’s Advisory Board.

Green Collaboration

Under the alliance, KPCB will continue to invest in startup venture capital while Generation will continue to invest in global public equities. The two firms will collaborate on opportunities in such sectors as renewable energy technologies, building efficiency, cleaner fossil energy, sustainable agriculture and carbon markets. As part of the agreement, all of Gore’s salary as a partner at KPCB will be donated directly to the Alliance for Climate Protection — the nonpartisan foundation he chairs that focuses on accelerating policy solutions to the climate crisis.

The tie-up, Gore observed, brings together world-class business talent. Indeed, it would be difficult to locate a firm that has a better reputation than KPCB among investors.

“KPCB has been a very active investor in clean technology for the last few years, which is more than most other firms,” Dan Pullman, a principal with investment banking firm McNamee Lawrence, told the E-Commerce Times. For instance, there were some 10 companies focusing on investing in this area a few years ago, of which KPCB was one. Today that number is between 30 to 50. “KPCB has a real lead and strong expertise in this area,” Pullman said.

KPCB’s pull in the investment community is due in part to its approach to emerging technologies, be it in the tech or life sciences or clean or green technology sectors, Pullman continued.

“It doesn’t specifically look at investments as just a function of, say, tax credits” or for other non-business related reasons. Rather, KPCB “looks at potential investments to see which has the best chance of becoming economically viable businesses.”

Besides the economic sustainability issue, he said, the KPCB name also lends even more political credibility to the environmental movement. “It is a great move for Gore to step in with a deep player like” KPCB.

Global Ties

The partnership should also bring new blood to this issue, Eric Koester, member of the law firm Heller Ehrman, told the E-Commerce Times, noting that the partnership will be leveraging KPCB’s presence in Asia and the United States and Generation’s presence in the United States, Europe and Australia.

“It will be interesting to see what cross-border cooperation can bring to the table,” he said. This space is continually evolving as new regulations, new money and new technologies are established. “Making this a three-continent play should really push momentum,” Koester said.

For instance, zero-emission manufacturing — designing facilities for optimal energy use and alternative energy application — should benefit from greater visibility and increased investment, said Lou Ronsivalli, senior executive with Trane, which works with organizations in the military, healthcare, education and business sectors to help them to improve energy efficiency.

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