What's More Important To The Government: Good Technology Or Jobs?

green collar tbi

When Barack Obama, or any politician for that matter, talks about the coming “green” revolution that will change our energy policy, he’s quick to cite all the jobs that will be created.

This has cleantech investors worried that the government’s focus on job creation could come at the expense of technological innovation.

Some of the best technologies in the world don’t need many employees. In theory, the best, most efficient, technology doesn’t need a large staff. However, if that’s the case, then the government, who is now the biggest venture capitalist in the world, might be less inclined to fund a promising technology.

peHUB: Cleantech venture capitalists are pretty psyched at the prospect of securing stimulus money for their portfolio companies. But they’re also doubtful that the money will actually go to companies with superior technologies. Rather, they say, recipients are likely to be judged on who creates the most “green jobs,” with less regard for whether those positions will be sustainable over the long term.

That was one of the concerns raised at a panel in Palo Alto this week on “The Current State of the CleanTech Bubble,” in which a half-dozen venture types debated whether the past half year’s precipitous drop in cleantech venture funding should be taken as an ominous or positive sign. Panelists agreed on one thing – that while VCs may be spending less, the federal government will be spending a lot more in the sector. And that’s likely to create conflicts.

“We don’t want to make our investment decisions based on what some government bureaucrat thinks about increasing headcount,” says Robert Walker of Sierra Ventures, which he says prefers to invest in startups that will take tens of millions of dollars to grow to maturity rather than “hundreds of millions in project finance.”

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