Green

Silver Lake launches new cleantech fund with George Soros’s firm

Private equity firm Silver Lake  is teaming up with billionaire George Soros’s fund to invest in “the energy and resource sectors.”

The new fund is called Silver Lake Kraftwerk (the press release refers to it as “SLKW”) and will be led by Adam Grosser, who spent a decade as general partner at Foundation Capital, where he worked on major cleantech investments like Silver Spring Networks and Enernoc. He also previously worked at Apple, Sony and Lucasfilms. Cathy Zoi will also join the fund in April; she recently left her job as the Department of Energy’s undersecretary for energy and assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“There are many parallels between the development of the technology sector and the innovation that is occurring in the energy and resource sectors today,” said Silver Lake managing director Greg Mondre in a statement. “We are excited to launch Silver Lake’s fourth investment strategy.”

Mondre’s comment seems to reflect some of the convergence we’ve been seeing lately of traditional venture capital in Silicon Valley and cleantech. With energy efficiency and building controls shaping up to be a big trend this year, investors with IT experience may find their expertise translatable to startups doing things like home energy automation, programmable lighting systems and energy management software.

The size of the fund wasn’t disclosed, but it’s certainly got some financial and professional heft behind it. This is a bit of bright news for cleantech investing, which saw a slow down in VC investments over the last two quarters after a record $7.8 billion of venture capital invested in the U.S. last year. Investors seem to be trending towards capital efficiency as fundraising has slowed for venture capital funds, hitting a new low since 2003. Worldwide, investment jumped 30 percent over 2009’s numbers to reach $243 billion in 2010.

George Soros (pictured) has previously pledged to invest $1 billion in cleantech. SLKW is “focused on providing growth capital to business innovators in the energy and resource sectors” and will operate in Silicon Valley and China. China has made ambitious pledges to grow the smart grid and renewables — it already heavily subsidizes the solar manufacturing industry, is competing in wind turbines and wants to speed up electric car adoption. Last year, venture capital firm VantagePoint opened a $100 million fund dedicated to renewables investing in China.

The fund will target growth-stage companies with “proven technologies and business models.”

[Image via Flickr/World Economic Forum]