Blog Post

David Gelbaum Cuts Donations — Bye-Bye, Greentech Plays?

Former hedge-funder-turned-philanthropist — and greentech investor — David Gelbaum won’t be donating his usual $20 million to the American Civil Liberties Union this year. Nor will he contribute to the Sierra Club or the California Community Foundation’s Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund.

Put simply, it’s been a rough year for Gelbaum, who cited “a shift in my financial circumstances” as the reason he’s reining in his contributions, in an interview with the New York Times. Those financial circumstances could potentially mean disappointment for any cleantech startups pinning their hopes on a big investment from Gelbaum’s Quercus Trust — which according to the Cleantech Group was the third-most active venture fund investing in cleantech in all of 2008.

Gelbuam had a 20-company portfolio of clean energy stocks worth more than $400 million as of December 2007, New Energy Finance reported. Most of that portfolio consisted of small- and micro-cap clean energy stocks, but increasingly Gelbaum has been making venture funding deals.

Some of the Quercus Trust’s biggest plays in recent years have included leading investment rounds of more than $35 million for solar developer WorldWater & Solar Technology and $15 million for smart grid company GridPoint. Gelbaum’s firm has also joined rounds (often with co-investor 21 Ventures) for solar startup Lightwave Power, green building solutions company Standard Rnewable Energy, early-stage ultracapacitor developer Graphene Energy and energy management startup Advanced Telemetry (check out our list of 10 Cleantech Deals from Quiet Quercus).