Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kleiner Perkins' Latest Energy Investment EEStor Inc

VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in July led a $3 million preferred stock investment in EEStor Inc., a Cedar Park, Texas startup that is developing breakthrough battery technology.

The company was founded in 2001 by Richard D. Weir, Carl Nelson, and Richard S. Weir, who have backgrounds as senior managers in disk-storage technology at such companies as IBM and Xerox PARC. They previously co-founded disk-storage startup Tulip Memory Systems, where they won 16 U.S. patents.

According to a May, 2004 edition of Utility Federal Technology Opportunities, an obscure trade newsletter, EEStor claims to make a battery at half the cost per kilowatt-hour and one-tenth the weight of lead-acid batteries. Specifically, the product weighs 400 pounds and delivers 52 kilowatt-hours. (For battery geeks: "The technology is basically a parallel plate capacitor with barium titanate as the dielectric," UFTO says.) No hazardous or dangerous materials are used in manufacturing the ceramic-based unit, which means it qualifies as what Silicon Valley types call "cleantech."

As of last year, EEStor planned to build its own assembly line to prove the battery can work and then license the technology to manufacturers for volume production, UFTO says. Selling price would start at $3,200 and fall to $2,100 in high-volume production. Of course, all of this may have changed since KPCB got involved.

KPCB's investments are closely watched because the firm has made some of the most successful bets in VC history (Google,, Netscape, AOL, etc.). Energy investments carry a little extra risk for the firm since it is relatively new to the sector. Speaking at Stanford University in February, KPCB general partner John Doerr said the firm had made four energy investments so far, including fuel-cell maker Ion America. It will be interesting to watch how these companies develop.

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