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June 01, 2005

Vinod Khosla beyond KPCB

Business Week's Deal Flow Blog has an article on what Vinod Khosla has been up to post his decision not to participate as a General Partner in KPCB's (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) latest fund.
The new schedule also lets him devote time to ventures that aim for maximum social impact rather than maximum profit. Khosla is especially interested in social ventures that use Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurship to create self-sustaining organizations. Two weeks ago at the TiECon 2005 conference, he moderated a panel with some of the organizations he has been working with: Share Microfin Ltd., Aravind Eye Hospital, and Institute for OneWorldHealth.

Investing solo lets Khosla fund pet projects that many VCs wouldn't touch. "I can invest in more seed and speculative ventures," he says. Khosla has always had an interest in pure research that promises to produce breakthrough technologies--the kind of initiatives that don't yet fit neatly into a business plan. He calls them "science projects."

For example, he recently teamed with MIT professor Srini Devdas on a project they're calling Puffco. Devdas is developing a tiny chip that can uniquely identify an object and, according to Khosla, can't be counterfeited. Applications for the invention aren't yet certain. It could be placed inside a Rolex watch to ensure authenticity. It could be incorporated into radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to uniquely identify each tagged item. It could ship inside every laptop to make sure only a rightful owner gains access to stored contents...

...Investing alone also lets Khosla explore industries VCs have rarely funded in the past. Recently, he has looked at investing in bio refineries, which use sustainable crops or agricultural waste to produce fuel. He has also considered synthetic biology, the creation of new life forms (or alteration of existing life forms) through genetic engineering. He's also interested in fuel cells and solar cells.

Arun Natarajan is the Editor of TSJ Media, which tracks venture capital activity in India and Indian-founded companies worldwide. View sample issues of TSJ Media's Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.