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Venture capital firm seeks clean-tech opportunities in Greenville

By Liz Segrist
Published Nov. 8, 2012

A Silicon Valley venture capital firm has made two investments in Greenville companies in as many years — before they were located in Greenville.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers now seeks more opportunities to invest in sustainable technology companies in the area.

The firm invested an undisclosed amount in Friedola Tech, a recycled plastics processing and products company, when it was based in Germany in 2010. Friedola Tech’s subsidiary, Con-Pearl North America, a maker of lightweight recycled plastic boards, announced plans to establish its first North American production facility in Greenville in September.

“When we made that investment in early 2010, it was a tough time for the automotive sector where lots of companies were looking to raise capital. It made for interesting opportunities,” Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Investment Partner Ryan Popple said. “Had we not been in the middle of a recession, we might not have been able to have had access to them.”

Previous coverage

Proterra bus passes federal tests
German company to open S.C. plant
Proterra, city of Seneca sign contract for 4 electric buses
California transit to use Proterra buses
Proterra targets transit agencies nationwide
Seneca to buy five Proterra electric buses
Proterra secures $15 million credit facility
Proterra’s new CEO develops business plan
Proterra completing move to Greenville

The firm also invested $30 million in Greenville-based Proterra last year when it was based in Colorado. Proterra now manufactures electric, zero-emissions buses in Greenville, which are being deployed in cities across the country. GM Ventures, Mitsui & Co., Vision Ridge Partners and 88 Green Ventures LLC also invested with the firm.

South Carolina traditionally has struggled to garner as much venture capital as other densely urban, high-tech areas, such as Austin, Texas; Boston, Chicago, New York City or Silicon Valley.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers continues to look for opportunities where companies’ technologies and innovations can make a global impact, said Popple, who specializes in green-tech investments.

The firm searches for investment opportunities beyond its regular hot spots to find companies focused on sustainable technologies.

Greenville’s global manufacturing base, skilled executives and vibrant business culture could attract future investments, Popple said at the InnoMobility conference Wednesday in Greenville.

Companies must have a strong business plan and an effective team of entrepreneurs and business people, in addition to its technology, to be considered for an investment.

“The technology alone doesn’t make a great product. You need a great team of entrepreneurs and an ecosystem for growth, that’s why we invested here, for the talent pool, business leaders, manufacturers and entrepreneurs,” Popple said. “The teams matter as much as the technology.”

When considering a new investment in Greenville, recruitment could be an obstacle, but the quality of life and business success helps combat that, Popple said, noting the number of international business executives that have moved to the area.

“We’re proud of our portfolio and investments in the Greenville area and we’re looking to add more to the portfolio,” Popple said.

Subscribe to GSA Business to read more about venture capital in South Carolina and the InnoMobility conference in the Nov. 19 print issue.

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