Business, New ZealandMahlon

Vinod Khosla Sees LanzaTech as a Role Model for Black Swans

Business, New ZealandMahlon

LanzaTech’s key investor Vinod Khosla has been in New Zealand meeting with the clean energy technology company’s team – and checking out other investment opportunities. Khosla Ventures, which the entrepreneur and tech visionary set up in 2004, focuses on both information technology investments and clean energy technology ventures. However, Mr Khosla listened to pitches from eight companies from a wider spectrum while he was in New Zealand.

Together with Sir Stephen Tindall, another LanzaTech investor through his New Zealand-based K1W1 fund, and Renee Kwan, co-founder of Greater China Assets, Mr Khosla first presented to members of the biotech, clean energy and IT sectors, entrepreneurs and the wider science community at a NZ Innovation Workshop in Auckland.

Mr Khosla told the workshop audience he invested in “global” companies, rather than focussing on single countries. And he said there was far more equity around the planet than good ideas.

LanzaTech was a role model and represents “black swan” ideas Mr Khosla said. Black swans are high-impact innovations that are beyond the realm of normal expectations.

“LanzaTech is a company started by people with zeal and skills and Sean (Dr Simpson) had the conversation to make me believe that what was in the test tube he showed me had the ability to use waste streams to create energy,” he said. “When we started we didn’t know about the four or five other products that LanzaTech is now able to produce and the fact that there is every possibility that in five years from now 80% of its profits will come from products we did not envisage at the start.”

Following the innovation workshop, the eight New Zealand companies - Carbonscape, Seatrol, Carvus Traction System, Windflow, Biomimetics Lab, Near Field Communications, Rex Bionics and Yike Bike- made their pitches. They will not know for a couple of months if they have successfully attracted Mr Khosla’s further interest.

Mr Khosla also toured the LanzaTech pilot plant at the Bluescope steel mill at Glenbrook in south Auckland, which has been producing fuel ethanol from gases the steel mill flues for the past two years.