Green

Venture titan John Doerr: Cleantech’s “Netscape moment” coming next year

john doerrCleantech investing may have fallen by 30 percent in the past few months, but legendary venture capitalist John Doerr said this morning that he’s still optimistic about backing startups in this field.

Doerr, whose investments include Internet giants like Google and Amazon, said that looking at the amount of money invested doesn’t indicate the quality of companies — after all, during periods of peak venture investment, many “inconsequential” Web startups got funded. In cleantech, Doerr said the industry is waiting for its “Netscape moment”. In other words, the industry needs a big, successful initial public offering that will “capture the imaginations of investors and consumers alike.”

“I think we’re very likely to see that next year,” Doerr said.

(Some cleantech companies, namely Tesla and A123Systems, have already had successful IPOs, but their stock price subsequently dropped.)

Doerr made the comments at VentureBeat’s GreenBeat conference on the Stanford campus. In the past few years, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (where Doerr is a partner) was largely seen as refocusing on cleantech, but it has made headlines over the past few months for its mobile and social investments. Still, Kleiner is definitely “open for business” in cleantech, Doerr said, and it invested in six clean-energy companies during the past year.

Doerr also took the opportunity to talk about the recent election. Most Democrats are feeling pretty glum about the results (Doerr is a big Democratic donor and also served on President Barack Obama’s economic advisory board), but Doerr focused on the defeat of Proposition 23 in California, which would have halted the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He called the proposition a “duplicitous, sinister proposal” funded by Texas oil companies.

“Californians said, ‘We want a clean energy future,’” Doerr said.

[photo by Dean Takahashi]