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Posted on Tue, Sep 1, 2009 : 1:34 p.m.

Alternative energy investor's Michigan connections could prove vital

By Nathan Bomey

The role of risk takers in boosting Michigan’s entrepreneurial economy cannot be understated.

Without risk, our economic turnaround efforts could stagnate or falter. Thus why outside investors such as renowned clean tech venture capitalist Vinod Khosla can have a significant impact on Michigan's economy.

The Silicon Valley-based Khosla, one of the key investors in Ann Arbor-based vehicle battery startup Sakti3, is pooling $1.1 billion into two new investment funds to boost alternative energy technology and information technology companies, the New York Times reported today.

The first of the two funds will invest $800 million in spurts ranging from $5 million to $15 million. The second fund will direct $275 million toward “very early-stage ideas” via comparably small amounts of about $2 million. (That's reportedly how much Khosla has invested in Sakti3.)


The legendary investor’s VC firm, Khosla Ventures, is admittedly based in California - and investors are always inclined to look for opportunities in their back yard before hopping on a plane to visit prospective investments.

But Khosla’s existing connections to University of Michigan professor Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3 and a major proponent of Michigan technology, should illuminate the region’s intrinsic value as laboratory for revolutionary energy technologies.

His recognition of Sakti3's potential could be a notable marketing tool for economic development officials struggling to convince investors to fund Michigan companies. The pitch goes like this: "Khosla believes in us. Why not you?"

(Photo: Sakti3 CEO and University of Michigan professor Ann Marie Sastry speaks to reporters at the North American International Auto Show in January. Photo by Robert Ramey)

Contact's Nathan Bomey at or (734) 623-2587 or follow him on Twitter.