Long-Term Sustainability Not a Hot Bet?

The New York Times 12 June had an interview with well-known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who has placed large bets on technology aimed at a transition to a sustainable economy.  The context of the interview:  how venture capitalists might respond to the previous week’s EPA carbon reduction targets for U.S. states.

In venture capital land, it has turned out to be easier to make money with photo-sharing apps than creating tangible products and technology to move to an economy much less dependent on fossil carbon.  Here’s the pattern of annual V.C. investments (billions, $US) over the last 20 years in sustainability technology:


Mr. Khosla said:
“V.C.s tend to focus on short-term, moneymaking ventures. What the planet needs is breakthrough technologies that are usually very high-risk.” 

On a more positive note, Khosla said the recent EPA policy could serve as a strong signal to students about useful and remunerative work:

“… it will send a message to the next generation of Ph.D. students that this is still an interesting area to work on. It takes a decade to develop this talent and training, and we had a depressing trend toward reduced interest in these critical areas. We need the best new minds at Stanford and M.I.T. to go into this area, and an action like President Obama’s goes a long way toward increasing our brain pool.”

I hope so.  In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with the tools and skills derived from the Silicon Valley tech revolution to make incremental improvements. 

My next blog post will outline our development of a web app to help a hospital team drive out wasted energy through daily feedback cycles.

Building Will to Change our Fossil-Fuel Based Economies

Telling a Story with Simple Graphics: Building a Case