VantagePoint Capital Partners has been one of the premier brands in cleantech VC. The firm has deployed billions of dollars in cleantech investments, with at least a few high-profile exits, including Tesla Motors. The venture firm has amassed a cleantech portfolio of more than 25 startups, including CSPsolarfirm BrightSource Energy, which unfortunately just pulled its IPO on Wednesday night.
One would assume that a firm of this import would be able to continue to raise capital from limited partners and to maintain a steady set of partners.
We've written about the firm's lead partner and founder, Alan Salzman, a number of times. It's no secret that he's opinionated and passionate about cleantech.
But we've learned from sources close to the firm that the venture firm is having some difficulties in closing its next fund, despite being described by an insider as "a fundraising machine" in the past. And it appears that partner retention is a bit of an issue.
This news follows a string of partners leaving under various circumstances.
The most recent departures:
- Marc van den Berg, a Partner, though still listed on the VPCP website, has just left to join a smaller cleantech venture firm.
- Meredith Petrin, an associate in the cleantech practice, has left the firm.
The firm has seen a number of departures of partners and staff in its cleantech practice over the last few years:
- Brad Mattson, a Partner, left the firm last year to become CEO of thin-film solar firm Solexant.
- Mark Platshon, a Partner, left to join BMW's corporate VC arm, i-Ventures.
- Jim Woolsey, a Venture Partner, left to join Lux Capital.
- Boris Lipkin, an Operating Partner, departed the firm a few months ago, according to sources.
- Bill Green, a Partner, left in 2010 to join Macquarie Capital Funds.
This level of partner churn in a VC firm would appear atypical. And that's not the complete list of recent ex-VantagePoint partners.
We have also learned that there has been a reduction in force in the firm's London and China teams (John Leggate, Melissa Guzy, et al.).
VantagePoint remains a force in cleantech and has some potential winners in its portfolio. But the cleantech market has not behaved exactly as planned, and VC egos and overreach with LPs can sometimes get in the way.
The cleantech VC shakeout will have a lengthy arc.
Here's a partial list of the venture firm's cleantech investments.
VantagePoint lighting and efficient semiconductor investments:
- iWatt (ICs for power supplies)
- Bridgelux (LED chip subassemblies)
- glo (next-gen LEDs)
- Switch Lighting (LED bulbs)
VantagePoint smart grid investments:
- Adura Technologies (software and hardware for managing commercial buildings)
- Tendril (cloud-based home energy management and hardware)
- Trilliant (smart grid communications)
- Premium Power (zinc bromide flow batteries)
- E-Moli (lithium ion batteries)
- Amprius (battery components)
VantagePoint's solar portfolio:
- BrightSource Energy (solar thermal power plants)
- MiaSolé (CIGS thin-film photovoltaics)
- Senergen (depositing silane onto free-form metallurgical-grade silicon substrates made via thermal spraying) (no longer in operation)
- SolarCentury (EU-based solar integrator)
- 1366 Technologies (new silicon process)
- Serious Energy
- Better Place (EV charging and battery leasing)
- Liquid Robotics