Like so many of his web peers in recent years, the chief technology officer of the online video site Hulu.com has ditched the dot-com life for greentech pastures. Eric Feng, who joined Hulu after his Beijing-based startup Mojiti was acquired by Hulu, has left the web video firm to join Kleiner Perkins on its greentech team and to work as a technical advisor to former Vice President Al Gore. Feng says in a widely published email, “I’ve long aspired to become involved in the transformative solutions around greentech.”
First off, the more bright minds in greentech the better. As Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr said last week, with the proper investment, the next 20 years could deliver a massive fundamental shift in the creation of much-needed energy innovation.
But Feng will also be one of a long line of investors and entrepreneurs that will be entering the vast and diverse greentech industry — which is largely based around hardcore science and engineering — with a web and computing background. Kleiner Perkin’s greentech team is full of ‘em, from Bill Joy to John Doerr to Ray Lane.
While it still remains to be seen how well Kleiner’s greentech portfolio will do, it has yet to produce many winners. Geothermal company Alta Rock has struggled, as has biofuel firm Mascoma, and the jury is still out on fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, electric vehicle company Fisker and carbon capture company GreatPoint Energy. To be fair, smart grid company Silver Spring Networks and biofuel producer Amyris Biotechnologies both filed S-1s recently and hope to go public this year. Solar thermal Ausra has been Kleiner’s only exit in greentech, the price wasn’t disclosed so it’s hard to know how well they did.
The best advice I’ve got for Feng is to look to those intersections between digital and green (we threw a whole conference on this called Green:Net), where Feng can bring some of his expertise: smart grid, energy efficiency and data center energy consumption. Feng would also be well advised to look to his experiences in Beijing, where he built Hulu’s software development center. China will be the 800-pound gorilla in the greentech world over the next several decades, both in terms of buying the technology and also as a source of innovation. Good luck — the greentech learning curve is pretty steep.
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Image courtesy of Hulu.