John Doerr: Green Is What's Growing in the Valley

John Doerr, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ high profile green venture capitalist, told attendees at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday that cleantech is what’s growing in Silicon Valley. Perhaps not what a room full of Internet entrepreneurs wanted to hear, but Doerr and KPCB have changed investing strategies over the past couple years to reflect that trend — a third of Kleiner’s latest fund is allocated for cleantech and a third for digital media/web companies.

The current level of venture investment in cleantech — now the third largest investment area — isn’t even all that much, said Doerr, considering the massive opportunity. Two areas he sees that are underfunded are energy storage, including batteries and super capacitors, and geothermal power. KPCB has invested in a geothermal startup, AltraRock Energy.

One way that IT entrepreneurs can move into green is by accessing the intersection of cleantech and computing, Doerr said. Information technology is making energy systems smarter, and can be used to add intelligence to the power grid and the charging of electric vehicles. Doerr also pointed out that computing, in and of itself, sucks up a lot of energy and has a significant carbon footprint. That problem can also be an area of innovation, and Kleiner has invested in startups such as Verdiem, which develops software to move PC’s into idle states when not in use. Computers generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as the airline industry, Doerr said.

But with all the attention on cleantech, that’s not to say that Doerr and Kleiner have forgotten about the web. In contrast to articles (like this one in Fortune) that have declared that Kleiner has left the web behind, Doerr points out that the Internet still gets a third of the firm’s investments. In the past year Kleiner has invested in nine web-related startups (four in the web, and five in the iPhone and mobile web). So, the web enthusiasts at the show this week shouldn’t feel all that bad.