John Doerr: Venture Capitalist Pushes Green Technology

For using his influence to tackle the climate crisis, he is one of America's Best Leaders.

By + More

In 2007, venture capitalist John Doerr gave a speech to a group of entrepreneurs in which he recounted a dinner conversation with his family and a group of friends. The topic was global warming. His teenage daughter, he recalled, turned to him angrily and said, "Your generation created this problem. You've got to fix it." Doerr was stunned. "All the conversation stopped," he said. "All the eyes turned to me. I didn't know what to say."

Over the past three decades, Doerr, 58, has become one of the country's most successful—and legendary—venture capitalists, amassing a personal wealth of $1.2 billion while playing a critical role in funding the public launch of Amazon, Netscape, and Google, among many others.

But Doerr, citing his daughter and his research and travels as a businessman, is now putting his considerable influence to work on the climate crisis. He has pushed Kleiner Perkins, his Silicon Valley firm, into the clean energy industry by launching a $500 million Green Growth Fund to support new technologies, with plans to invest more than $1.1 billion in the future. Clean energy, he has said, is the "largest economic opportunity of the 21st century."

In February, Doerr was tapped by the Obama administration for its Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and now he is calling on the administration and Congress to be much more aggressive in addressing climate issues. He has consistently called for a cap on carbon emissions and greatly increased funding for research. The biggest obstacle, he has argued, is not too much government but rather the lack of a clear signal for the market that the government actually cares about green energy.