John Doerr still sees a future in cleantech

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on May 23, 2013

From The News Desk

In 2007, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers investor John Doerr gave an emotional TED Talk about the state of the planet and the need to invest in green technology. Six years later, the state of green technology has changed drastically, causing some to wonder if Doerr’s analysis was wrong.

Tonight at San Francisco’s PandoMonthly, Doerr was asked point blank if he, indeed, was wrong all along about cleantech and what the real take-home is with his clean technology investment track record. His answer: While in some ways he was incorrect, what we need to realize is that cleantech is both bigger than we’re aware of and a profitable endeavor.

Doerr didn’t provide details on Kleiner's investment in solar panel maker Miasole, which initially led some critics to question cleantech investments as a whole. Instead, he explained that greentech should be considered a spectrum, and not a sector. “And within the spectrum,” he replied, “there are sectors that are crummy. “

Doerr didn’t want to talk about the crummy one (but we all know they exist, and he does too). Instead he reminded the audience that even though he may have gotten ahead of himself in the past, green technology is a sound investment.

“I encouraged us to do too much green too fast,” he said. “But I think it’s in the right balance right now.”

What kind of balance is it at? He named a handful of clean technology companies that are doing just fine, including OPower, OSIsoft, and Silver Spring Networks.

Beyond that, he reminded the audience that the Kleiner's greentech scorecard is actually doing quite well. In 2011, Kleiner's clean technologies investments brought in $1.4 billion in revenue, and in 2012 that went up to $2.4 billion. So while he may have been a bit overzealous in the past, he wasn’t just plain “wrong.”

There is still a sense of the urgency when Doerr talks about the industry and the potential greentech possesses. While he may have made some hasty investments, he believes he now has a better grasp on where the right sectors in the clean technology spectrum lie.

In his words: “I’m kind of an enthusiastic investor.” And that's exactly why Doerr has the reputation that he has.