John Cook of Geekwire caught up with cleantech investor and former Microsoft exec Brian Arbogast at the Northwest Energy Angels holiday showcase on December 13, 2012, held in Amazon.com’s backyard at the Portage Bay Cafe in South Lake Union. Here’s more from their chat:
Where does clean tech investing stand right now? “At a meta level, like in Silicon Valley, there were a lot of people who didn’t know anything about it jumped in. They felt like they got burned with biofuels or solar, and then they ran away. The folks who are actually clean energy and clean tech investors are plugging away and making progress. What we really need to see are some exits, but we are getting to the point where in the next three years, we should start to see some of the bets we’ve made pay off. That’s the timing. I am bullish.”
Why are you interested in clean tech after your years in software? “Basically, I was interested in how can I spend my time and money on things that will have the most positive impact on the world. And clean tech is that. I mean the innovations in this space have the potential to really change the trajectory we are on, and it either leads to a lot of hardship and suffering, or leads to a lot of new kind of prosperity and much more sustainability economy. I love being with all of these folks, the entrepreneurs who are basically inventing the future. We are bringing money, and maybe some spark and networks and experience to help kind of accelerate that. In the tech space, I think it is far and away the most impactful thing I could do.”
Why have many investors decided to pull out of clean tech? “I think what happened is you had (venture capitalists) John Doerr and (Vinod) Khosla in the Bay Area who were very highly regarded from the tech world, they jumped into clean in a big way, so all of these other software folks said: ‘I guess that’s the next big thing.’ They didn’t really know what they were doing. All of a sudden, you have a lot of battery companies, a lot of biofuel companies, a lot of solar companies getting invested in, and not all of them are going to pan out. So, you had a lot of people who were not that savvy about it, and then they just retreated. Doerr is still in it. Khosla is still in it. All of us who care about clean tech and are a bit more savvy about it, are still in it and are seriously bullish about it.”
Read the entire story by John Cook, Geekwire, December 14, 2012.