When PayPal went public in 2002, then executive vice president Reid Hoffman, spent some of his winnings on investing in an early round of Silicon Valley’s first solar thin film startup Nanosolar, according to an article in the New York Times. Hoffman, of course, later on founded LinkedIn (s LNKD), which went public in May of his year, but Hoffman hasn’t seemed to continue that sort of interest in funding early stage clean power and cleantech companies.
Those early shares of Nanosolar that Hoffman bought are likely worth a decent amount at this point. Other seed investors at the time included Spring Ventures investor Sunil Paul, Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Benchmark Capital.
Nanosolar was reportedly worth $2 billion at one point in 2008 when it last raised money, but I’m not sure how the company is valued now. As the demand for solar panels, particularly one’s not made of silicon, has dropped dramatically this year, and thin film solar companies have struggled, I wouldn’t be surprised if that valuation has dropped, too.
Back when Hoffman made that investment in Nanosolar, then colleague at PayPal Peter Thiel bought a Ferrari with his earnings, says the New York Times. Thiel has gotten a lot of attention recently for calling cleantech investing “a disaster.”
So who was right back then: Thiel or Hoffman? Will Nanosolar struggle like its peer Solyndra has, going bankrupt partly due to cheap Chinese solar panels, and making Hoffman’s seed investment worthless? (And idealistic compared to Thiel’s sports car splurge). Or will the company be one of the solar leaders and add more cash to Reid’s coffers if it gets bought for a high amount of goes public?