Cleantech VC Hemant Taneja Moves to Bay Area, Talks Investment Strategy at General Catalyst

2/17/11Follow @gthuang

A proverbial giant has left the cleantech stage here in Boston—though he probably wouldn’t admit any part of that statement.

Hemant Taneja, a managing director at General Catalyst Partners in Cambridge, MA, has moved to the San Francisco Bay Area this week. Taneja is one of the top venture capitalists in the energy sector. Beyond investing, he has been a champion of the local cleantech industry as a founder of the New England Clean Energy Council. He also helped write the Massachusetts Green Jobs Act of 2008 and serves on the board of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Reached by phone yesterday, Taneja said he has moved his family to the West Coast but is keeping a home in the Boston area as well. He joins fellow managing director Neil Sequeira (another recent Boston transplant) and a small team of associates at General Catalyst’s Palo Alto, CA, office, which opened in the past half-year. (You can read more about these VC moves here and here; in addition, Silicon Valley VC Jonathan Teo, formerly at Benchmark Capital, recently joined General Catalyst in New York.)

So, is Taneja’s departure a blow to the New England cleantech industry? “I hope not,” he says. “A, I’m not that big a deal. And B, we’re continuing to remain active on the East Coast. We’ll tag team.” Taneja says he’ll split his time between Boston and the Bay Area, as roughly half his investments are on each coast.

Some more background: Taneja is a recovering mobile software veteran who converted to cleantech about five years ago. Before joining General Catalyst in 2002, he was the founder and CEO of Boston mobile startup Isovia (acquired by JP Mobile). He co-founded JumpTap and also previously sat on the board of m-Qube. In the past few years, he has focused mostly on building energy companies, serving on the boards of ARC Energy, Mascoma, Modular Wind, Stion, and SunBorne Energy, among other firms.

I asked about his original move from software to cleantech, and about a more recent trend I’ve been hearing about—that software investors who dabbled in energy are now flocking back to software. “We saw a lot of entrepreneurs and academics moving into the [energy] sector, and our job is to follow the smartest people,” Taneja says. “A ton of people jumped into the sector, and some investors got burned because they were looking at technologies that were way too risky for venture capital. Some of those … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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