Kleiner Perkins' 5 Biofuel Bets

Vinod Khosla, who has seeded more than a dozen biofuel startups, can quite comfortably lay claim to the “Baron of Biofuels” title. But apparently his former firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (where he is still an affiliated partner), is no green spring chicken when it comes to investing in the stuff, either. The firm has now invested in five biofuel companies, this morning’s Wall Street Journal quotes Kleiner’s Ray Lane as saying.

“We developed a view a long time ago that corn ethanol was not economical,” Lane tells the Journal in an otherwise dry article on venture investing in cleantech. He goes on to say the firm has invested in five biofuels companies, all of them focused on cellulosic production. (Kleiner’s web site currently only lists three of its biofuel investments.)

The first is Los Angeles-based Altra Biofuels, which leverages various kinds of biofuel manufacturing processes, and along with the funding from Kleiner, has raised over $415 million from Khosla Ventures, Angeleno Group, Omninet Private Equity and Sage Capital Partners. The second is Emeryville, Calif.-based Amyris Biotechnologies, which is using synthetic biology to produce a better biofuel and has $90 million from — in addition — to Kleiner, DAG Ventures, Khosla Ventures and TPG Ventures. And the third, Cambridge, Mass.-based Mascoma, is looking to produce biofuels from cellulosic biomass using microorganisms and enzymes, and has raised $39 million from Kleiner, Khosla Ventures, Flagship Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Vantage Point Venture Partners, Atlas Venture and Pinnacle Ventures.

As you can see, Khosla was also an investor in these three biofuel firms, so Kleiner’s former partner seems to be able to successfully bring it in on the bigger biofuel deals. But we’re particularly interested in seeing to which other two biofuel companies Lane is referring, and if they will follow this trend as well. (We have asked Kleiner for comment and are waiting to hear back).

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