Last December, we reported that VantagePoint Venture Partners was in the midst of raising a $1.5 billion fund for green technology companies in their later stages. The firm was also contemplating a name change, said sources.
The idea behind the fund is to help startups bridge the manufacturing gap. VCs have plunked money into hundreds of interesting companies with novel green technologies in the last six years. Over 200 companies in solar alone have received VC funds. Few companies, however, ever get the money to build factories or produce products because of the large amounts of capital required. VantagePoint wouldn't say a word. A meeting with head honcho Alan Salzman was canceled -- for other reasons.
Progress, apparently, is occurring. VentureWire reported that VantagePoint is raising a $1 billion late stage fund. Thus, VantagePoint may have scaled back a bit, but it's the same fund. We shall now bow.
Although many pundits have predicted that investors will shy away from green, the opposite -- oops! -- has happened. $700 million in VC money was raised in February. Biofuels, a chronically struggling market, has experienced successful IPOs with Amyris and Gevo while Solayzyme just filed an S-1. ("Based on our review of the knuckleheads in our office, we anticipate our forecast to be incorrect," I hope to one day hear a Wall Street analyst exclaim.)
Kleiner Perkins in some ways has taken a similar late-stage tack. It jumped into green with startups like Lilliputian (who?). Recently, though, a good portion of its green activity has revolved around putting money into companies like Silver Spring Networks and OPower that had already racked up large contracts.
VantagePoint so far has invested only in one green company that has gone on to an IPO (Tesla Motors) and one (New Energy Capital) has been acquired. Additionally, VantagePoint has put money into a number of companies that appear to be doing well. MiaSolé, the maker of copper, indium, gallium, selenide (CIGS) solar cells, seems to have worked out the kinks in its manufacturing process and is boosting its efficiencies. It hopes to hold an IPO next year.
VantagePoint also has investments in Goldwind, the fast-growing turbine maker from China; Trilliant, the smart grid specialist; Ostara, which produces fertilizer from sewage streams; solar thermal developer BrightSource Energy; Premium Power, which claims it has a formula for reducing the cost of flow batteries; and Solazyme, an algae fuel maker that is selling fuel to the U.S. Navy.
But the firm also has investments in Better Place, the high-risk car charging venture, and Mascoma, one of those biofuel companies that seem to be on a never-ending quest for funds. Some such as BrightSource and Serious Materials have also passed the $100 million mark in fundraising.
The portfolio in many ways has been constructed with precision. The firm likes to get an investment in each category. In lighting, for instance, it put money in glo, an LED company; Bridgelux, which makes LEDs and components; Teos, a light bulb company; and Adura Technologies, which focuses on lighting networks. In automotive, the investments span cars (Tesla), charging (Better Place) and batteries (Amprius). In a meeting earlier this year, we asked CEO Alan Salzman if a pattern existed, and he confirmed that yes, the selection process has been deliberate.
Here's a video we shot with Alan last year. Interesting character.