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Vinod Khosla rebukes CBS's "60 Minutes" on cleantech segment

January 15
12:01 AM 2014

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla rebuked a cleantech segment on "60 Minutes" which aired on January 5 which said that Silicon Valley firms and the government only have little to show for their clean technology investments, Reuters reported. Khosla issued an open letter to the news magazine TV show and its network CBS saying that the broadcast was a gross misrepresentation of the state of the sustainable energy industry. Khosla was interviewed for that segment.

The letter was posted on the website of Khosla Ventures, the venture capitalist's firm based in Menlo Park, California. It featured a list of what Khosla calles numerous reporting errors in the segment, the report said.

According to "60 Minutes," Kior Inc, the biofuels manufacturer funded by Khosla, was fraught with delays. The news magazine's advanced energy or cleantech report also featured Robert Rapier, a specialist on biofuels, who was quoted as saying that Khosla "overpromised and under-delivered" on his investments.

The segment brought up the issue of the US Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. Billions of dollars were spent by the DOE to finance firms that have advanced energy technologies. However, several firms that obtained those loan guarantees failed. These include Solyndra, a solar panel maker and A123, a battery maker, the report said.

Khosla said in his letter that his cleantech portfolio remains profitable and that returns exceed the venture capital average. Khosla added, "We invest in companies that have high failure probabilities, but the wins far outweigh the losses."

There are three funds from Khosla Ventures that accept investments from external investors. Calpers data showed that the internal rate of return of Khosla Seed is 10.7% while that of Khosla Ventures III is 17.5%.Khosla IV's returns are seen as too young to be meaningful because it was raised only late in 2011, the report said.

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