Reason for Kleiner's start in clean-tech: Bill Joy's luxury boat

Newsweek has a good story about how big-name Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins fell for clean tech.

It took several steps, but the ironic obsession by new partner Bill Joy with his $50 million 190-foot superyacht is what put it into high-gear:

…Joy was already deeply interested in alternative energy, ironically thanks to an indulgence of the über-wealthy. Since 2004, he has spent tens of millions to build what he describes as the world’s most environmentally friendly sailboat: a 190-foot superyacht, to be named Ethereal when it’s finished in 2008. As part of the boat’s design process, Joy had been rethinking nearly every aspect of energy generation and efficiency. At KP, Joy developed a taxonomy of 65 investment categories and ranked each red, yellow or green…

kleiner.bmpAnother catalyst was India-born mechanical engineer KR Sridhar, whose initial project was to convert solar-generated electricity into air, water and methane and to grow a living plant inside a tent on Mars. But NASA canned Sridhar’s project, so he approached Kleiner with a new idea: Reverse his electrolyzer technology into a fuel cell — using water, oxygen and a hydrogen source such as natural gas to cleanly generate electricity.

The company became Ion America, since renamed to Bloom Energy (The company finally has a Web site, but still reveals little).