Updated: Kleiner Perkin’s partner Ray Lane, who has led a variety of Kleiner’s cleantech investments, will transition away from focusing on bringing in new investments for Kleiner’s future fund, but will still remain active at Kleiner. Fortune’s Dan Primack reports that Lane is not listed as a general partner on fund documents for prospective limited partners for Kleiner Perkin’s next early stage fund.
The move is part of a transition in the partnership structure at Kleiner, says Primack, and partner Brook Byers is also not named as a general partner on the next fund documents. Update: Primack also reports that cleantech-focused Kleiner investor Bill Joy is not listed on the next fund documents.
As anyone that follows cleantech knows, Ray Lane has been one of Kleiner’s cleantech champions. He’s led cleantech investments in startups like electric car company Fisker Automotive, grid battery company Aquion Energy; GreatPoint Energy, a company that converts coal into natural gas; Luca Technologies, a company that produces natural gas via naturally occurring microbes in coal beds; efficient auto company NextAuto Networks (formerly V Vehicle), and solar thermal company Ausra.
At least two of these companies have required a massive amount of capital to scale up and reach commercialization — that can be a difficult strategy for venture capitalists, as early investments can get diluted during large later rounds. Fisker Automotive has raised around a billion dollars in private funding, and has been struggling with production problems with its first electric car the Karma. GreatPoint Energy recently raised $425 million in equity from Chinese industrial conglomerate China Wanxiang Holdings.
Fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, which was one of Kleiner’s first investment in cleantech, has also raised hundreds of millions of dollars over its almost a decade in existence. Solar thin film maker MiaSole has been fighting for survival in a solar market that has seen many manufacturers shutter factories over the past year, and raised $55 million last month to help it enter new markets and boost its sales staff.
Lane is not Kleiner’s only cleantech-focused investor to be sure. The firm lists an almost two dozen team for its greentech investments, including heavyweights Bill Joy and John Doerr. Lane told me in an interview in the Summer of 2011 that Kleiner is not planning to move away from cleantech investing. Update: As mentioned above Joy also isn’t listed on the next fund.
However getting exits in the cleantech space has been rather difficult for investors. Some of Kleiner’s green exits have included Ausra, which was sold to Areva in 2010, and solar inverter company Enphase Energy went public last month. But Silver Spring Networks has yet to go public, despite listing in the Summer of 2011, neither has Mascoma (it had more than a few red flags in its S-1 which it filed in September 2011). Luca Technologies is supposed to go public this week.
Lane told me last year that he thought there would be 6 to 8 IPOs out of its cleantech portfolio from firms like Bloom Energy, Miasole, Silver Spring Networks, Enphase Energy, Mascoma, Fisker and GreatPoint Energy. “They’ll probably all IPO. I’m not forecasting when, but these companies will be huge,” said Lane. He also said (in the Summer of 2011): “If you and I sit down two years from now and we don’t have a single IPO from this group [their cleantech portfolio], I’d say now we are behind.”
Other Kleiner-backed companies that have struggled include next-gen car company Next Autoworks (formerly called V-Vehicle), which cancelled its factory plans. Think Automotive, an electric car maker declared bankruptcy recently (Kleiner’s investment was just a tiny one for the American rights).
Lane will still be active at Kleiner working with his current portfolio of companies, and will still have the opportunity to bring in new investments to the fund, but just won’t focus most of his time on bringing in new investments. Lane also is executive chairman at HP.