Five to watch in the Business of Green

April 24, 2009

With government money flowing and traditional industries fading, 2009 is set to be a watershed year for green business. Reuters News and Venture Capital Journal have selected five decisionmakers who will help to decide the course of technology, energy usage and climate change in the years to come.

Vinod Khosla

Founder, Khosla Ventures

Khosla grew up dreaming of being an entrepreneur, despite spending his childhood up in an Indian Army household with no business or technology connections. He eventually became a founder of Sun Microsystems and then joined legendary venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.

In 2004, Khosla, driven by the need for flexibility to accommodate four teenage children and a desire to be more experimental, formed Khosla Ventures, funded entirely with family funds. His goals remain the same – work and learn from fun and knowledgeable entrepreneurs, build impactful companies through the leverage of innovation, and spend time as a partnership making a difference. He has made investments in companies working on waste water and water desalinization, solar, geothermal and cellulosic ethanol.

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Dan Reicher

Director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org

Reicher wants to conquer the Valley of Death — the seemingly insurmountable funding gap for unproven green technologies. The former Clinton administration Energy Department official is putting Google’s philanthropic funds behind a range of possible breakthroughs, including $10 million for geothermal, but also solar thermal and high-altitude wind power. Two early recipients of Google.org’s largesse were geothermal firms AltaRock Energy and Potter Drilling Inc.

More recently, Reicher has promoted Google’s free software that lets consumers track home electricity use and improve energy efficiency.

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Jennifer Fonstad

Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson

Fonstad’s interests span a broad set of technology and life sciences companies, including cleantech. One of the investments that helped make her #89 on the Forbes Midas List is GreenFuel Technologies, which takes carbon dioxide produced by power plants and feeds it to algae, which are then converted into biofuel. Before becoming a champion of a particular entrepreneur, Fonstad considers a number of factors in evaluating a potential investment opportunity, such as whether the company has a strong technical team with clear breakout capability, experience and a real passion for re-inventing the world.

“This means we are making bets on people first and foremost and we are making bets on our judgment about market spaces that are emerging,” she says. Forbes notes that she “once escaped kidnappers while working in Russia by jumping out of a moving car; and closed a deal while in labor with her first child.”

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Lyndon Rive

CEO, Solar City

Solar City was dubbed “the Swiss arms dealer” of solar installation by VentureBeat, although “Swiss army knife” might be more like it. The company sells, leases, installs and maintains solar panels for residences and small businesses, with a sideline in energy efficiency consulting. The idea is to convince geographic clusters of homes and businesses to go solar, and then reap cost savings from economies of scale.

The company’s venture background is impeccable: Rive sold an earlier software company to Dell, and Solar City is backed by Elon Musk of PayPal fame, who happens to be Rive’s cousin. And if the switch away from fossil fuels fails, and the polar ice caps melt, Rive has a hedge — he’s a member of the U.S. Underwater Hockey team.

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Matt Kistler

Wal-Mart senior vice president for sustainability

The world’s largest retailer may not have the greenest of corporate images, but its sheer size ensures that its initiatives will have an outsize impact on the global economy. Matt Kistler is the public face of Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts, from curbing plastic bag use — aimed at cutting plastic bag waste by a third by 2013, equal to 9 billion bags a year — to reaching new fuel efficiency targets for its massive truck fleet.

The efforts of Wal-Mart and Kistler, a former marketer, are not only aimed at burnishing its corporate image and trimming costs, but also to cater to green-conscious consumers, as with its private label coffee brand, certified by Fair Trade.

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(Additional reporting by Nichola Groom)

3 comments

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These are the new green heroes, they have proven that it is possible to invest in green technologies and still make alot of money. Their success of turning green into gold will persuade more entrepreneurs to develop green technologies.

Alternative energy and energy efficiency is the growth industry of the 21st century. With the growing demands for energy and the increased costs for tapping traditional energy sources, getting energy that is renewable is a must to meet that demand. Retrofits on existing buildings is a boom that is happening right now, it is a sure-fire way to reduce demand and get more productivity from your existing sources of power. All in all, this is going to get a lot bigger and will create many jobs over time.

[...] Five to Watch in the Business of Green (Reuters) [...]

Good for Green. Why doesn’t anyone talk about blue? Our Oceans are dying. The water is getting to warm and levels to high. The hothouse gas reduction goals governments are about to set subsequent to Kyoto are woefully inadequate. CO2 should be reduced around 40 percent by 2020 or 2021. The EU and the U.S. want to set targets of 15 or 20 percent. The Cod are almost gone and the Salmon are not far behind. We have waited to long and now drastic action is required. Those living in the West have been comfortable for along time at the expense of those living in the developing world. It is now our turn to sacrifice.

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[...] Reuters News and Venture Capital Journal have selected five decision makers who will lead green business in technology, energy usage and climate change in the months and years ahead. [...]

[...] flowing and traditional industries fading, 2009 is set to be a watershed year for green business. Reuters News and Venture Capital Journal have selected five decision makers who will help to decide the course of [...]

Domestic Solar Power…

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