* Westly Group has raised $50 mln toward $175 mln fund
* Plans 80 pct cleantech, 20 pct Internet
* Says IPO market improving
By Peter Henderson and Poornima Gupta
MENLO PARK, Calif.,, May 11 Clean technology
venture capitalist The Westly Group has closed the first $50
million investment toward a new $175 million fund and sees the
initial public offering market firming up.
The California group, which hit it big with Tesla Motors
(TSLA.O) and Amyris Inc (AMRS.O) stakes, plans to continue
investments in a range of technologies focused on clean energy
and energy efficiency, with special focus on green building
Westly, the former eBay (EBAY.O) executive and California
politician who runs the group, also expects to put about 20
percent of the fund into Internet companies. Up to a fifth
could be invested outside the United States, especially in
China, he added.
The market for selling startups to big companies or in
stock offerings is improving, as is interest by investors who
want to get into startups on the ground floor.
"You are going to see a lot of cleantech IPOs here," Westly
said in an interview. PricewaterhouseCoopers said that first
quarter 2011 IPO proceeds hit $12.4 billion, the highest since
"I think there is a good chance we have an M&A exit this
year, maybe two," Westly said. "We have at least one company in
the portfolio that we believe will be over a hundred million
(in revenue) next year. Depending on market conditions they
should be able to go public, and that's Amonix."
Big energy companies and technology companies are both
showing interest in the clean technology sector. French energy
major Total SA (TOTF.PA) recently offered $1.37 billion for a
majority stake in California solar panel maker SunPower Corp
"Big guys from two completely different worlds are both
kind of converging on cleantech," Westly said.
His group aims to invest in second and third rounds of
fundraising and offer help navigating the world of government,
which can be a major buyer of clean technology, as well as
backer with loans and grants.
The National Venture Capital Association characterized a 26
percent rise to $1.0 billion in clean technology VC investments
in the first quarter versus the fourth as evidence of a
"reasonable, rational" pace in the VC industry.
"Two things I know for sure -- (it's) clearly tougher to
raise money now than it was, you know, three or five or ten or
fifteen years ago, but I can just feel out there, it is getting
easier every month because the economy is coming back, people
are feeling more optimistic," Westly said.
(for more environmental news see our Environment blog at
(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)