Attrition in greentech venture capital

We covered the pivot by venture firm MDV last year and watched as the investment firm shifted its broad view of cleantech to a far more narrow vertical within its IT practice. We noted that MDV's Will Coleman had left the firm. Sven Strohband, formerly with MDV, is now CTO at Khosla Ventures. Marianne Wu, formerly a partner, has also left the firm and is no longer listed on the MDV website. Erik Straser, a partner at the firm and early investor and board member at Nanosolar is listed under the category of "venture development" on the MDV website.

This shift at Mohr Davidow is emblematic of the larger dynamic in cleantech VC. Few home-run exits and a sluggish IPO market (Tesla and SolarCity excluded) have generalist VC practices letting go of dedicated cleantech partners and moving away from cleantech.

We saw this happen at Battery Ventures after Jason Matlof and others departed. Ullas Naik left Globespan Capital with a reduced cleantech practice. Todd Kimmel, founder of Coskata and former cleantech principal at ATV and Partner at Mayfield, has formed his own small fund, Montage Ventures. Warren Hogarth at Sequoia now focuses on bioinformatics. Redpoint's Nety Krishna is now at Bright Capital and John Walecka focuses on tech infrastructure at Redpoint. Bill Wiberg, a former cleantech investor at ATV, is looking to raise a $75 million fund focused on "capital-efficient" enterprise software companies for a firm called G20 Ventures, according to Fortune. Rodrigo Prudencio, formerly with Nth Power, is now CEO of Hara.   

Behind closed doors at the larger VC firms, there is also a "de-emphasis" away from cleantech. Publicly, these firms claim to be cleantech investors -- but try going to them with an early-stage solar or biofuels startup pitch.

Rob Day of Black Coral Capital, an investor still very much committed to cleantech, looks at new cleantech investment strategies here.


Executive moves in greentech

SolarReserve, a VC-funded concentrating solar power firm, named Michael DuBois as VP of Project Management & Construction. DuBois has more than 35 years of experience in the power industry. Most recently, DuBois was VP at J-POWER USA, where he oversaw the performance of 3,800 megawatts of utility-scale power plants.


Sidley Austin LLP added Marc Gottschalk as a partner in its Palo Alto office, where he will serve as a member of the Environmental, Energy and Real Estate practices and focus on clean technology and emerging technologies. He joins Sidley from Proterra, a manufacturer of heavy-duty electric drive and energy storage systems and electric buses, where he served as chief business development officer and general counsel. Gottschalk previously served as a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, where he co-founded and co-chaired the energy and clean technology practice.


Tollgrade Communications, a provider of predictive fault analytics for electric utilities, named Kimberly Getgen VP of Corporate Marketing. Prior to joining Tollgrade, Getgen was Director of Product Marketing at smart metering firm Echelon Corporation. 


Empower Energies, a renewable portfolio solutions firm, announced the hiring of Dan Bove, Vice President of Operations and Performance Management, and Mike Wright, Vice President, Marketing. Empower Energies focuses on commercial-scale renewable energy, enterprise energy management, and clean transport infrastructure for General Motors and other industrial customers. Jigar Shah recently joined the board.


Kurion, a firm specializing in nuclear and hazardous waste management, named Steve Piccolo as the executive chairman of the board of directors. Former executive chairman Ralph DiSibio will remain a director of the company. Until his recent retirement, Piccolo spent three decades in the nuclear waste industry managing large projects at the Hanford, Wash. and Savannah River waste sites, as well as Yucca Mountain.