Clearly, it’s all about the competition and awards this weekend. Via WorldChanging and TriplePundit, mega-venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has announced an annual $100,000 prize “…to promote technology or policy innovation in green technology.”
“This award will encourage innovation in sustainable, green growth,” said KPCB partner Brook Byers. “We will bring worldwide recognition to entrepreneurs who achieve breakthroughs in green energy generation, storage, conservation or policies, whether from an individual or a team, whether public or private, anywhere in the world.”
KPCB today inaugurates the Greentech Innovation Network with 50 of the world’s leading entrepreneurs, scientists and policymakers. They are gathering from the United States, Asia, Europe and South America to build a strategic map for evaluating needs and encouraging innovation, and to forge new partnerships. Insights from Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a “geo-green”, will keynote the networking event. …
“We have been quietly investing in Greentech for several years,” added Ray Lane, KPCB partner. “We’ve backed four new ventures since announcing our Greentech initiative in February of this year. These, together with five previous ventures, are innovating for green and sustainable growth. We’re seeing more and more entrepreneurs address critical environmental needs. This workshop is not a conference, it is a networking event to ‘help solve the problem’ by collaborating in five Greentech areas. They are electricity generation and storage, electricity efficiency, alternative fuels, transportation efficiency and carbon reduction policies.”
KPCB has previously announced investments in Lilliputian Systems, which produces micro fuel cells for portable and wireless devices, and Miasole (www.miasole.com), which makes a flexible, low-cost photovoltaic cell for large-scale solar energy. Six other Greentech ventures are in stealth mode.
As I’ve noted before, it’s great to see a VC firm of this prominence moving so aggressively into green tech — perhaps it’s more evidence that we’ve reached a tipping point. What will be even more interesting, though, is that major investors like this will ultimately determine what green technology is, as least as far as what makes it into the commercial market. While everything I’ve seen shows me the KP is funding really innovative technology, those of us out here will have to keep a close eye on developments and make our voices heard about the investments made by the money folks. For instance, another portion of this same press release noted that KP is backing Altra, Inc., which looks like a big player in the corn-based ethanol industry. More and more, I find myself on the fence about corn ethanol — it’s a place to start, it’s cleaner than standard gasoline, and it will give farmers a boost, but it’s definitely not something we want to view as the solution to our energy predicament.