FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT Al Gore will join venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Buyers as a partner. He will advise the iconic Silicon Valley firm in identifying and underwriting alternative energy start-ups that can help mitigate global warming.
Gore, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for disseminating knowledge about climate change, says he hopes his efforts at Kleiner will focus attention on the climate crisis. "Together, we have a working understanding of this urgent, multidimensional challenge and are resolved to help business and government leaders accelerate the development of sustainable solutions," he says.
John Doerr, a Kleiner partner and friend of the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee's, convinced Gore to join Kleiner after a year and a half of discussions. Under the agreement, Doerr will join the advisory board of Generation Investment Management, a London-based firm Gore chairs that invests in socially and environmentally responsible businesses.
Together, Kleiner and Generation plan to invest in renewable energy technologies, building efficiency, cleaner fossil energy, sustainable agriculture, and trading in carbon emissions rights. Kleiner is well-known for early investments in high-tech firms such as Google. Since 1999, it has invested $200 million in biofuels, energy storage, and energy efficiency start-ups. It plans to spend another $200 million on green technology start-ups.
Other Silicon Valley venture capitalists are also on the hunt for such investments, including Vinod Khosla, a cofounder of computer maker Sun Microsystems. His Khosla Ventures has put money into a number of alternative fuels and energy-saving technologies and often coinvests with Kleiner.
Venture capitalists competing for a place in the alternative energy arena will find that well-established firms such as DuPont are muscling in as well. Last week, DuPont told investors at a biosciences event that it will invest $300 million between 2007 and 2010 in biofuels production and pilot facilities. The firm is assessing three ethanol investments in addition to one already under way in England and plans to develop commercial biobutanol and cellulosic ethanol processes by 2010.