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Summary:

It’s been a long year and a half since Cleantech Blog published its last Cleantech Blog Power 5 highlighting the top investors in cleantech. . . And the bottom five wild cards. Time for round two.

trophies

It’s been a long year and a half or so since we published our last Cleantech Blog Power 5 on the top investors in cleantech.  Time for round two.
As usual the criteria for inclusion.

  • Investor made a significant contribution to the cleantech investment sector
  • More smart looking investments than stupid looking investments
  • On balance, I’d like to have your portfolio.
  • I actually might like you.

And the middle two criteria have some wiggle room.

So our Power 5 this year are:

  1. CMEA Capital – A long time player, with a slice of venture capital in last year’s top cleantech IPO, A123, one of this year’s top cleantech IPOs, Codexis, and this decade’s biggest cleantech gamble, Solyndra, real hard to leave them off the list.  They come in at number 1.  Hopefully Solyndra doesn’t take back all those profits when it’s solar cattle-guard finally gets caught out.
  2. CalPERS – Despite somewhat skeptical on the performance to date, CalPERS has certainly played its part, and really anchored the explosion of venture money in cleantech.  And it continues to support it with another $500 million commitment this fall.
  3. Bayard Capital – Makes the list for 1 deal, that is all their deals in one company.  This is the Australian firm who turned their capital fund into Landis + Gyr through a series of acquisitions before anyone in the U.S. had heard of the smart grid.
  4. Us – I mean the U.S. DOE – Single-handedly carrying the the entire cleantech venture sector on its back? Wow.
  5. Foundation Capital – Makes it because despite a couple of deals in their portfolio that make me cringe, they’ve gotten a lot of kudos in California for sticking it out with Silver Spring in the early days, and with one of the better cleantech exits behind them in EnerNOC and multiple bets in both solar power development and financing, and smart grid, I have to like the strategy.

And the 5 for the Royal Questioner to Question:

  1. Advanced Equities - If I need to explain why, you shouldn’t be in investing.  Do your Google search.  I’m not even going to give you some links to point to this time.
  2. Every single cellulosic biofuels investor – Hey you guys, start reading our blog and stop playing the “watch my magically shrinking cellulosic biofuels forecast and my oh so please don’t notice the bait and switch to bio-anything but fuels business plan”.  Let alone the, “we can be cheaper than gasoline” or “this process has solved the oh so tricky problems and it’s just a little engineering scale-up”.  And for the record, we think the Cello Energy debacle is hilarious.
  3. Kleiner Perkins – EEStor, Bloom Energy, I turn green 1/3rd of the way down their list.  They’re the originators of the fundamentally flawed “stealth in cleantech investing strategy.”  And they make me look humble (which is hard to do).  Even making a few dollars in Amyris, doesn’t come close to making it up.  Of course, maybe the latest news articles are right, and they’re pulling out of cleantech?
  4. The American Taxpayer/ errrrr, I mean the DOE – Hmmmmmmh.  Who’s the genius who signed off on massive low interest loan guarantees to Solyndra, Tesla, Beacon, and friends?  But just wait until the conditional commitments in big project dollars get spent, I’m sure that will fix it.  But for the record, it’s not generally a good sign when the government brags about out investing the private sector.  How about you guys invest my share of the total in a real chief credit officer.  I’d apply for the job, but only if you term it chief workout officer.
  5. Ok, we’re stopping, now, my stomach is still churning after number 4.

Note to all:  This list is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too US centric.  I’m feeling very parochial.  More international suggestions please?

This post originally appeared on the Cleantech Blog.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner of Jane Capital Partners LLC, a cleantech merchant bank whose clients have included the technology arms of multinational energy companies. He has served as a director of several technology companies, is chief blogger for Cleantech Blog, named one of the 50 Best Business Blogs by the London Times, and chairs industry portal Cleantech.org. He is currently the Chairman of Jane Capital’s recently acquired Greenhome.com operating company, the original ecommerce ecostore. He is a cofounder and director of venture backed carbon IT startup Carbonflow, a Jane Capital spin-out in SaaS worfklow for the carbon markets where he served as founding CEO and raised the first two rounds of finance.

Image courtesy of Terren in Virginia.

  1. Neil,

    if you look internationally, you’ll find cleantech investors that easily top anyone you’ve named.

    Masdar for one (disclosure: I’m a Founder and former Director). There you have a $250 mn cleantech fund 1 (fully invested and with exits), a ~$300 mn cleantech fund 2 investing now, >$600mn invested in a thin-film PV play, 40% of a solar thermal play in Spain (17MW power tower, the first commercial one to use molten salt, plus 2x50MW trough plants…you can do the math on the $), $180mn invested into Winwind (wind turbine mfg.), 20% of the 1 GW London Array (world’s largest ofshore windfarm), a $700 mn 100MW CSP plant in Abu Dhabi, plus a cleantech institute and a cleantech urban development (partially-built but very significant investment made so far).

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