In the midst of a seeming malaise around cleantech venture investing, emerges a bright spot of news: Private equity firm Silver Lake is launching a clean energy fund with investment from billionaire investor George Soros. The fund will be led by former Foundation Capital Partner Adam Grosser, and Cathy Zoi, Obama administration’s former acting under-secretary for energy and assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, will join the fund as well.
That’s essentially a cleantech investing dream team. At Foundation, Grosser worked on investments in firms like Silver Spring Networks and EnerNOC and he was the only investor I put on this list of Top 15 Smart Grid Influencers back in mid-2009. At the DOE, Zoi has had a prime spot to observe and connect with a multitude of energy startups. Soros has said before that he planned to invest more than $1 billion of his own money into clean energy technology.
The so-called Silver Lake Kraftwerk fund (love the band; couldn’t resist the photo) will be the first clean energy fund for Silver Lake, which has been making investments in the tech sector for years. While Silver Lake hasn’t disclosed the size of the fund, the firm operates on the private equity investing scale, so I’d bet the fund size will be in the multiple hundreds of millions to billions.
To me, the new fund represents a second wave in cleantech investing. A variety of venture capitalists over the years have gotten burned investing in expensive clean energy technologies like solar technologies and biofuels that have taken a lot of capital to scale and haven’t delivered returns in the time frames they got used to during web investing. Perhaps the Silver Lake Kraftwerk fund, with the combined experience of the partners and the investors, will lead to smarter investments. Here comes cleantech 2.0.
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