DAVOS-VantagePoint has over $1 bln for green startups

DAVOS, Switzerland Sat Jan 31, 2009 7:21am EST

DAVOS, Switzerland Jan 31 (Reuters) - Silicon Valley venture capital firm VantagePoint Venture Partners will invest more than $1 billion in green startups over the next 24 to 30 months, Managing Partner Alan Salzman said on Saturday.

"We are aggressively and actively investing," Salzman told Reuters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We'll probably back 10 to 15 companies over the course of 2009."

VantagePoint, one of the biggest backers of early stage "cleantech" companies, has invested in an array of startups including electric vehicle infrastructure company Better Place, solar thermal energy company BrightSource Energy and electric car maker Tesla Motors.

For now, the firm is "well funded," Salzman said, in spite of a global economic downturn that led to a 71 percent drop in venture capital fund raising in the fourth quarter of 2008.

"I can't plead poverty at this point," Salzman said.

He pointed out, however, that the capital requirements of green energy companies are very large compared to the technology and healthcare businesses that venture capitalists have traditionally helped get off the ground.

"There is probably less than $10 billion available in the venture capital industry over the next 24 months for cleantech projects," Salzman said, calling it "woefully underrepresented" relative to the burgeoning industry's potential for growth.

"If you are going elephant hunting, you need an elephant gun. You don't go off with a .22 under your arm," Salzman said. "You have to look at the capital needs relative to the scale of the projects you are taking on."

For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to www.reuters.com/davos (Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Simon Jessop)