Archive for October 19th, 2009

Here is a good piece from WSJ Online.

It’s well known as a major investor in wind- and solar-energy projects. But General Electric Co. also hopes its growing role as a venture capitalist will give it an edge in a broader spectrum of emerging green technologies.

Since its first investment, in lithium-ion battery maker A123Systems Inc. in January 2006, the venture-capital group at GE Energy Financial Services has put $160 million into a portfolio of 20 companies focused on renewable energy, power-grid and energy-efficiency improvements, and, to a lesser extent, advanced oil and gas technologies.

GE sees these later-stage, clean-energy start-ups as a way to get a sneak peek at emerging technologies. Through its venture arm, it also gets a piece of the ones it believes will be ahead of the pack in the global shift to a reduced-carbon economy.

Kevin Skillern, the VC group’s managing director, says it’s too early “to tell if we’ve turned one dollar into two or three dollars.” But at GE, there’s another key metric: technology. Mr. Skillern says GE is also interested in how the portfolio companies can help its businesses.

“This is a vehicle that provides our larger company with a window into what could be a $15 billion to $20 billion industry in emerging energy technologies,” he says.

Mr. Skillern, who grew up in Houston and worked for more than a decade in the oil industry, got his M.B.A. at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. He went back to the oil patch after he graduated, at a time when many of his classmates were pursuing Internet start-ups. But the seed of venture investing had been planted, and GE Energy Financial Services’ venture capital was the perfect new patch to let it grow.

We met with Mr. Skillern at GE Energy Financial Services’ offices in Stamford, Conn., to discuss how the large conglomerate is influencing the clean- technology industry through its venture investing. Excerpts from that conversation follow.”

Read the full article here.

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