Warburg Pincus invests in new 'green-black' venture capital firm

By Bryan Sims | December 13, 2011

Global private equity firm Warburg Pincus has committed $355 million to the formation of a new investment company called First Green Partners, which will focus on commercializing early-stage companies that develop methods to convert renewable carbon, such as nonfood-based biomass and carbon dioxide, into fuels and chemicals.

According to a statement released by First Green Partners, the newly created venture capital firm intends to focus investments in “green-black” technologies, which are the convergence of new biorefining applications that substitute or enhance industrial processes. The firm will make initial investments of $500,000 to $10 million in each emerging technology and up to $100 million in a single business as it commercializes.

First Green Partners is led by co-presidents Doug Cameron and Tom Erickson.

From 2006 to 2008, Cameron was formerly the chief science officer at Khosla Ventures. While at Khosla, he served on the board of directors for Gevo Inc., LS9, Mascoma, Segetis, Lanzatech and KiOR Inc., and also held senior management roles in several of these companies serving as acting CEO of Gevo, LS9 and Segetis. Cameron continues to serve on the scientific advisory boards of Mascoma and Segetis.

“There is a mismatch in the marketplace between the advanced technologies and innovations related to the carbon value chain that can change the energy landscape and the lack of capital to help commercialize them,” Cameron said. “We believe now is the perfect time to provide First Green’s capital and expertise to make these emerging technologies a commercial reality.”

Erickson is a co-founder and general partner of BlueStream Ventures, a venture capital partnership focused on technology companies and a former research director and technology analyst at Dain Rauscher Wessels, a Minneapolis-based brokerage and investment banking firm.

“Warburg Pincus has deep domain expertise in the energy industry and a broad network of relationships in both conventional and unconventional energy,” Erickson said. “The partnership with Warburg Pincus validates our business plan and strengthens our ability to participate in an increasingly capital-intensive industry.”