Bill Joy's green investing ideas
February 12, 2009, 2:26pm PST | Length: 00:03:31
At a Churchill Club event in Santa Clara, Calif., Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, explains how his company came up with 26 "grand challenge areas"--areas where the company, along with Al Gore and his staff, can make the biggest impact on the environment. Joy says for an idea to excite him, it has to be able to make a significant change in the world, but it also has to have been researched enough to prove it viable. Moderator: Brent Schlender, Writer/Editor/Consultant, former FORTUNE Editor at Large.
Speaker 1: But can you talk in just general terms about kinds of ideas that get you excited personally.
Speaker 2: Sure. I think what we tend to do is -- first of all, we looked at this green tech problem -- and talking to Al Gore and some of his staff, and all the things, and just watching the ventures -- what we did is we made a list of, like, 26 grand challenge areas, areas where we saw that there was some base technology, and it was at some level, so there's some amount of research where we could identify that what was possible was far enough better than that, that there would be, possibly, a venture opportunity. So for --
Speaker 1: 26?
Speaker 2: 26 different areas --
Speaker 1: Whoa.
Speaker 2: You know, like one of them -- I mean here's -- like one of the -- probably craziest one was find a way to reduce the albedo, and you know, basically make the US whiter rather than blacker, right, so that it reflects more heat. You know, that would be an opportunity. I mean, inexpensively, you can't paint the roads white; they just get dark, you know? But more seriously, things like thermoelectric materials. There -- 60 percent of the -- if you take these charts, 60 percent of the primary energy in the US ends up as waste heat because it mostly go -- it mostly is, you know, from burning something. And most of that waste -- the heat is wasted, so the attractiveness of the thermoelectric materials because they're solid state, they're modular, and they're small could allow you to recover a lot. But that and other methods, so go get --that's kind of free -- almost free energy, right? Another example would be take air conditioners. You know, they have this thing called the coefficient of performance, which is, you know, which is, like, two or three, which means you're getting twice as much cooling energy, kilowatts of cooling measured in some way, as you are using kilowatts of electricity. So it's -- that's cool. You get twice as much. But the thermodynamic limit's like 30. So, you know, if I say two to one, that's an advantage, but if I look at it as 2 out of 30, that's not very exciting. You know, you look at lighting. If those are incandescents, they're at 10 lumens a watt. The black body, white light is 300, so they're at 10 out of 30. You know, so we're only three percent efficient, or something, there. So, you know, we now have LEDs on the roadmap that are 130, 150. You hear about these kinds of things. So we have a chance to improve that by the kind of 10X I was looking for. But those -- those -- you know, a venture that can do those things, especially if they can do them at low cost. We can have LEDs at 150 lumens a watt, but they -- the bulbs will cost 30 bucks, and they also will overheat when they're in the enclosures because the -- they're a very heat-sensitive device. So something that was -- I would love to have something that was -- there's -- I don't think know any reason in physics -- converts electrons to photons, you know, in nearly 100 percent efficiency and isn't going to overheat with the -- with whatever's left, so I can stick it anywhere. So I can replace all the bulbs.