Not all venture firms are joining the cleantech exodus. Lux Capital, which invests in a lot of science-based, hardware and infrastructure innovations, has closed its third fund of $245 million, and Lux Capital partner Peter Hebert told me that the firm will continue its current model of investing about a third of its funds into energy tech, a third in information technology and a third in health and biotechnology.
A few of Lux’s portfolio companies appear to be doing pretty well. Kurion, a startup developing nuclear waste cleanup tech, scored a breakthrough deal to help clean waste water for Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdown. About a year ago I called them “the most successful greentech startup you haven’t heard of.” Portfolio company Shapeways has become synonymous with the emerging industry of 3D printing, and smart grid startup Gridco just launched to build a next-gen power grid using solid state transformers. Portfolio firms that have been acquired include skin company Magen Biosciences, LED tech company Crystal IS, and chip companies SiBeam and Silicon Clock.
“There’s definitely been negative sentiment towards cleantech in the market,” said Hebert, but it really “depends on the individual Limited Partners” (the groups that put money into venture firms). Our LPs still see substantial innovation ahead around energy and resources, said Hebert. Going forward in 2013 “we remain disciplined and selective,” said Hebert.
While Lux says it remains committed to energy tech investing, other firms have been unable to raise new cleantech funds, and some have dialed back or transformed their energy and cleantech focused divisions to make them more capital efficient. VantagePoint Capital Partners shut down its efforts to raise a $1.25 billion cleantech fund recently, and firms like Mohr Davidow and Draper Fisher Jurvetson have reduced their commitments and turned to backing IT-based cleantech, or cleanweb companies only. In 2012, venture capital firms put a third less money into cleantech companies compared to 2011.
Still some investors like Lux Capital still see the potential of energy and resources technology innovation. Canadian firm Chrysalix says its energy focused portfolio is doing well. NEA says its still committed to energy investing, though its scaled back a bit. Khosla Ventures still continues to make aggressive and many bets across sustainability from energy to agriculture to smart grid to biofuels.
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