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Bill Joy, Green Tech Investing Trumps Internet

When Bill Joy was hired by venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Paul Kedrosky wondered if Joy would be a Bob Metcalfe (a high-profile person that moved to VC late and fits the job) or a Stewart Alsop (a high-profile person that moved to VC late and doesn’t fit the job). We’re not ready to declare his venture record a wild success (or Bob Metcalfe’s for that matter), but Joy is definitely in the Metcalfe distinction when it comes to following greentech opportunities.

At a Lux Research conference in Cambridge, Mass., Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems (JAVA) and an Internet entrepreneur, was reported as saying that he is staying away from most Internet investments and focusing on the growing innovations to fight climate change. Referring to an oft-quoted phrase from KPCB’s co-founder, Eugene Kleiner, Joy said (via CNET):

…there is a time when panic is the appropriate response. And I think we should go into a panic — not only (because) the scale of the problem but also the economic opportunity that becoming more efficient in our use of energy gives to us.”

KPCB’s Ray Lane referred to the same use of “panic” in a speech he gave to a solar convention last month. Joy joined KPCB in 2005, and over the past several years the venture firm has invested in clean technologies like Altra Biofuels, Amyris Biotechnologies, Ausra, Bloom Energy, GreatPoint Energy, Mascoma and MiasolĂ©.

There’s been a growing trend of high-profile Internet and telecom investors shifting focus to greentech. Like Joy referred to in his talk, and Ted Turner and Ray Lane did in their speeches, the opportunities for investing in energy infrastructure and climate change innovations are massive and only just being seriously looked at.

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