John Doerr: If We'd Predicted the Market Crash, Probably No Green Fund

At VentureBeat’s GreenBeat conference last night, Kleiner Perkins leader John Doerr touched on a lot of the themes he usually does: the necessity of putting a price on carbon, greentech as “the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century,” and the smart grid being a massive opportunity. But Doerr did make one very interesting statement that stuck in my mind (see Doerr videos from EETimes and the live stream of the event today on If Kleiner Perkins had seen how bad the market was going to crash it probably wouldn’t have started it’s green initiative:

“If we’d been able to foresee the crash of the market we wouldn’t probably have launched a green initiative. Because these ventures really need capital. The only way in which we were lucky I think is that the government stepped in, particularly the Department of Energy. Led by this great administration that put in place these loan guarantees. I’d say about a third of the Kleiner backed ventures and most of the really capital intensive ones have applied for and many of them received either loan guarantees, or grants form an agency called ARPA-E.”

For example Kleiner Perkins has backed 7-year-old Bloom Energy, which Doerr described as a “distributed fuel cell company” that now has “substantial revenues and orders.” Bloom has “required ten times as much capital,” compared to other venture companies — it took Google (s GOOG) $25 million to get to an IPO, Doerr pointed out, and Bloom has already taken $250 million. Doerr said he’d wager Bloom will take “nine years to a successful public offering.”

Doerr’s admission of the challenges VCs and startups face as a result of the economic downturn is interesting because it’s A). So honest. B). Shows how venture capitalists are still not entirely sure how to successfully navigate greentech investing and C). Probably doesn’t make Kleiner Perkins limited partners feel so great about their green fund investment.

Image courtesy of JDLasica Flickr, Creative Commons (photo not from GreenBeat).