Vinod Khosla recently announced a new member of his Khosla Ventures team: none other than former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has been a vocal proponent of action to combat climate change. According to reports, Blair will be a paid advisor and will add his eloquence and global connections to Khosla’s plans to change the world through cleantech investments.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, honored and delighted to team up with Vinod and the people he has working for him,” Blair said before taking the stage for a “fireside chat” with executives from six companies in Khosla Ventures’ vast portfolio. “Vinod is one of the most creative, dynamic and extraordinary people I’ve ever met in my life… the answers to climate change and energy security lies in the technological innovations. I am thrilled to play whatever small part I can.”
Chances are, Blair will play much more than a “small part” in keeping global warming and the need for cleantech innovation front and center. His eloquence and British accent will no doubt help. But he’ll be keeping his distance from his fellow Brits at BP who have created an environmental disaster.
Here is an interview from the Fresh Dialogues archives which explores Vinod’s motivations for investing in Bloom Energy, future predictions and his concern about cleantech bubbles.
Minutes after his company was picked as the National Award Winner. I sat down with Scott Hublou, co-founder of EcoFactor. His three-year-old start-up has created an energy management systemfor the home that uses weather data to optimize heating and cooling. Scott claims savings of between 20 to 30% are achievable. Sounds pretty attractive in this tough economy, and the judges thought so too.
How did the CleanTech Open and its mentoring help you?
“It forces deep thinking around various different business models. Because there are actual deadlines, it’s kinda like being back in school again where you have to have deliverables… You’re presenting to your peers and potential investors, so you always want to make a good impression… think about sustainability, and good market strategies.”
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Earlier this year, I met with Linda Holroyd, CEO of FountainBlue, a Silicon Valley based forum that brings together top experts and entrepreneurs in green tech. We discussed why her company is thriving because of the down economy; and why she has faith in the resiliency of green tech. Given that oil and gas prices have tumbled, is there still a pressing case for clean energy and green tech investment?
Despite the economic gloom, Jennifer McFarlane challenged the panel to “tell us something cheerful.” And they produced. Kevin Surace was most vocal and bullish, anticipating his company will double in manpower and revenues in 2009. So if you’re inclined to join the eco building world of Serious Materials, get your resume in ASAP. Prakash called for “bright stars ahead,” thanks to the incoming Obama administration and said, “the floodgates are going to open in the 3rd Quarter of 2009.” He outdid Kevin, by predicting a tripling of Nordic Power’s manpower and business by year end 2009.
There was general consensus that the TARP may not have helped the financial market to date, but it’s been a solid shot in the arm for the solar industry: extending the federal tax credit for another 8 years. Jennifer beamed broadly at that discussion, but Kevin pointed out that green products/ energy must be priced right/ cost the same as the competition or be a “solution sell” and put dollars in consumers pockets over their lifetime.
On the gloomier side, Kevin Barry said, “It’s still the Wild West from a hiring perspective…there’s been lazy hiring and there may be a bubble.” Steve Reale also used the word “correction” for the green business world and said the promise of a $100’s of billion market has lured many (possibly too many) VCs. Ominous stuff.
Advice for those thinking of a new green tech career: