Kleiner Perkins' Secret Plan To Make Billions Saving World

A massive article in the NYT by Jon Gertner details Kleiner’s greentech strategy. Electric cars, thin-film solar panels, jet-turbine windmills, and KP profits of $1 billion a year. Alas, most of the stuff is so cool, they can’t tell you about it.

[M]ost of the Kleiner’s green-tech investments are not publicly discussed. By my count, the firm has acknowledged 15 of its 40 investments. The rest are in what V.C.’s call “stealth” mode, hidden from the press (and copycat V.C.’s) until they are on sounder footing.

Last summer, the growing number of stealth companies involved with clean energy formed a kind of dark matter in the Silicon Valley universe, businesses that could not be seen yet nevertheless exerted a discernible gravitational pull. Executives would suddenly leave jobs at established companies to join ventures with no official name. Manufacturing facilities would set up shop in cheap, anonymous buildings in towns like Santa Clara, Calif., then begin round-the-clock operations.

When Kleiner decided to invest in a company called FloDesign, a business in Massachusetts, sensitive pages on its Web site were quickly dismantled; when Kleiner decided to invest in a company known as Sundrop Fuels, online links that described the technology, which was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, were removed. In some respects, the more promising the technology, the more secretive the venture becomes. And both FloDesign and Sundrop were indeed promising.

FloDesign intends to replace the common propeller wind turbine with something that resembles a jet engine. Doerr told me that the company’s product, which is perhaps 18 months away from a prototype, would cost 25 per cent less than any other kind of wind generation — that could make it one of the cheapest renewable-energy sources in the world. Sundrop, meanwhile, is what Joe Lacob, a Kleiner partner, calls “solar assisted” fuel generation — a process that combines the ingredients of carbon, hydrogen and sunlight to create a petrol-like product. “We can actually take CO2,” Lacob told me, “which is what we’re trying to get rid of, and make that our source of carbon, and use the sun’s energy to create liquid fuels.”

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