Can venture capital really lead to sustainable businesses, energy and products? Or is venture capital an outdated and inefficient means of funding sustainable enterprises?
We posed this question and more to a panel hosted by IGEL and Bank of America at the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in San Francisco.(1)
Venture capital is the only way to sustainability. – Ashmeet Sidana, Panelist, Foundation Capital
The panel’s consensus was a resounding yes – venture capital can lead to environmental sustainability. Panelist Ashmeet Sidana of Foundation Capital went on to argue that venture capital is the only way to reach sustainable goals. Panelists highlighted their cleantech investments, including new methods of algae biofuels manufacturing, solar power, geothermal energy and smart grids. Last quarter saw the most investments in cleantech ever, said Andrew Chung of Lightspeed. Robert MacDonald of Craton Equity Partners showed the optimism of the markets by remarking that investments in cleantech is nearly $200 billion worldwide.
Remarkably, these investments are largely consumer-driven with large corporations like GE, Chevron and Intel buying in. Consumer and corporate buy-in is crucial, given the lack of policy-leadership in the U.S. on clean energy. In fact, investors’ frustrations are only mounting from uncertainty in the political climate.
The panelists also discussed necessary steps for scaling up cleantech investments. Capital efficiency is crucial, said Cynthia Ringo of DBL Investors. Also necessary is further advances in technology for renewable energy storage.
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The panelists were:
Ashmeet Sidana, General Partner, Foundation Capital
Mr. Sidana has investments in cloud computing, network efficiency and consolidation, and wireless monitoring. He also is involved in solar power for India; he led the Foundation’s investment in and currently serves on the board of AzurePower, a solar power company in India. Foundation Capital also invests in such green and clean-tech such as smart grid technology, paper-less sharing systems, food and water sanitation systems, environmentally-friendly advanced materials manufacturing, energy conversion and efficiency technology, and thermal management.
Cynthia Ringo, Managing Partner, DBL Investors
Ms. Ringo is a board observer for LiveScribe, a new computer-version of pen and paper, as well as a board member for Solexant and Soladigm, two solar companies with new PV technologies. Prior to DBL, she was the CEO of CopperCom, a next-generation telecom equipment company. DBL also invests in electric cars and smart grid technology.
Andrew Chung, Principal, Lightspeed
Mr. Chung is a Principal at Lightspeed and has helped lead the firm’s entry into new areas of investment that include cleantech, education, genomics, and healthcare IT. Lightspeed’s investments include next-generation biofuels. Andrew chairs the Cleantech Advisory Board for The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), serves on the Advisory Board for Stanford Energy Crossroads, and is an advisor to the Clean Tech Open.
Jon Krahulik, Managing Director and Global Head of Clean Technology Investment Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Mr. Krahulik is responsible for growing the firms’’ coverage of companies across the clean tech sector globally. Mr. Krahulik joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch from Deutsche Bank Securities, where he served for four years, most recently leading clean tech investment banking. Earlier in his career, Krahulik spent seven years in the global technology group at Lehman Brothers, most recently as a senior vice president.
Robert MacDonald, Managing Partner, Craton Equity Partners
Mr. MacDonald developed Catalyst Energy Corporation into one of the largest IPPs in the country. Bob currently serves on the boards of EnLink Geoenergy Services, GigaCrete, Inc., Petra Solar, and RYPOS.