My Clean Break column today is a mini-profile of Alan Salzman, the CEO of VantagePoint Venture Partners and, I should add, a fellow Torontonian. Salzman, who did his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto (University College) decided in the early 1980s to lay roots in California so he could join the “entrepreneurial wave of innovation” that would evolve into Silicon Valley. In 1996, after a number of successes as a venture capitalist under his belt, Salzman co-founded VantagePoint and has proved a key player in the success of many high-tech, Internet and biotech companies. His big focus today, however, is cleantech. VantagePoint has funded Tesla Motors, Miasole, BrightSource, Better Place and a number of other promising cleantech ventures. Salzman talks about his decision to go big with cleantech, trends that are driving transformation of the energy and transportation sectors, and how the current global economic crisis could — but won’t necessarily — delay this transformation.
Despite having lived in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years, Salzman’s family still lives in Toronto. He has also retained his Canadian citizenship (I forgot to ask him if he still loves hockey).
My Clean Break column today talks about the idea of creating a green bond as a safe investment vehicle for Canadians that at the same time could raise money for large-scale renewable energy projects, enabling infrastructure and building-efficiency projects. The money would be distributed in the form of low-interest debt financing. Given the current credit crunch, now is perhaps the best time to launch a green bond as renewable energy developers face higher financing hurdles for their capital-intensive projects. At the same time, Canadians whose stock portfolios have been ravaged by the collapse of Wall Street — and the precipitous decline of the commodity-heavy Toronto Stock Exchange — could take advantage of green bonds as a safe haven with modest turns, at the same time knowing that their money is going toward building “green” infrastructure that both tackles climate change and creates jobs in a struggling economy. Continue reading My name is Bond, Green Bond
I want to know what readers of Clean Break think about the credit crisis and its impact — existing or potential — on the development and deployment of renewable energy and clean technologies.
One could argue it might help, because big-budget nuclear and clean coal projects will have more difficulty raising the money — i.e. debt financing — to push these megaprojects forward. In such a situation, renewables, conservation and combined heat and power projects could be viewed as the least risky and therefore most worth pursuing. On the other hand, the credit crunch could hit big wind and solar projects with equal impact, and force governments to make a greater commitment to backstopping nuclear and other conventional projects with taxpayers’ dollars.
And what do venture capitalists think about all this? Does the crunch affect how they allocation money, or their ability to raise it? Does it make life more difficult for cleantech startups in need of financing?
If you have any insights or opinions to share, I welcome it…