Question: what's more important than $400 million in capital?
Answer: having some of it come from Kleiner Perkins. Last week's coming out party for Bloom Energyexemplifies Kleiner's power to annoint kings. I'll let others debate whether Bloom's technology is the real deal and truly disruptive. I'm more fascinated at the skill and expertise with which Bloom's formation and public launch were handled. It was so well done that it should be featured in a Harvard Business School Case Study on how top-shelf VCs create value in ways other than just writing big checks.
Kleiner's expertise was apparent from the beginning. Bloom was formed in 2001 but was kept in quasi stealth mode until its official launch. There was just enough information about Bloom drip fed into the market across the years to build mystery and buzz but not so much information that Bloom's story became yesterday's news. In raising $400M of funding (which is about how much Bloom has supposedly raised -- more mystery, nobody knows for sure) only a select few were invited to the party so as to keep the capital structure clean and governance streamlined. Joining Kleiner were the other A-Listers New Enterprise Associates , Morgan Stanley and Northgate Capital.
Let's take a look at Bloom's Board of Directors. General Colin Powell? John Doerr, himself, from Kleiner? T.J. Harkins, the Founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor? Impressive. The only management member is KR Sridhar, Bloom's Co-Founder and CEO. With Scott Sandell from NEA and Eddy Zervigon of Morgan Stanley occupying the other seats at the table, rest assured that Bloom gets access.
Speaking of access, Bloom's initial customers have been selected very carefully. Here's the official list: Google, eBay, Wal Mart, Fed Ex, Bank of America, The Coca Cola Company, Cox Enterprises and Staples. Salespeople in any industry would kill to have those companies as reference customers. Bloom was able to leapfrog over the quintessential streetfighting experience of trying to get somebody -- anybody -- to be the first adopter.
The Bloom Energy Server? Brilliant product branding. Bloom is playing in the distributed energy space and what better analogy to call forth than computer networking. Again, exceptional execution and attention to detail.
The icing on the cake is the actual launch of Bloom Energy as a company and the Bloom Energy Server product. The official launch on February 24th was preceeded on February 21st by a glowing segment on CBS's 60 Minutes featuring the company and Sridhar. What company wouldn't kill for such exposure? What would it cost to replicate that exposure via paid advertising? The launch event itself on the 24th was orchestrated beautifully. It was hosted at eBay's headquarters, where 15% of the corporate campus' power is provided by an array of Energy Servers. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, General Colin Powell and Larry Page, Google's co-founder, highlighted Bloom's merits. John Donahoe, eBay's CEO, was quoted as calling Bloom's techonology "disruptive." John Doerr was on record as saying that Bloom's launch was "as big as Google's IPO." Most major news outlets picked up the launch and the online community was onfire with commentary.
(Meanwhile, FuelCell Energy (Nasdaq: FCEL) based in Connecticut, ClearEdge Powerout of Oregon and UTC Power, a division of United Technologies, are just shaking their heads and wondering what all the excitement is about -- they've been doing essentially the same thing as Bloom for a while.)
Now that Bloom has been successfully unveiled, the next order of business will be scaling-up. This will be where the rubber meets the road but I am fairly confident that Kleiner et al. will ensure that they deliver the goods. Too much good work has already taken place to drop the ball at the point where the real money will be made.