First Solar Co-Founder Launches $300M Cleantech Venture Fund

In January, we reported Michael Ahearn, the co-founder of solar titan First Solar, was more than halfway through raising a $300 million cleantech venture capital fund.

It seems he has crossed the finish line (though no filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission is available).

In a press release out of Chicago, Ahearn announced the launch of True North Venture Partners and said the $300 million seed-to-growth-stage fund has begun operations. It expects to be fully staffed by the end of the year, though no detail on the number of anticipated partners was released.

True North expects to invest primarily in early-stage companies in the energy, water, agriculture and waste industries, with deals ranging from $100,000 to $25 million.

“We are focused on sectors where the global problems are pressing, the need for disruptive innovation is great and the challenges faced by early-stage entrepreneurs and investors are particularly daunting,” Ahearn said in a statement. (Sounds indeed like cleantech.)

In January, True North Venture Partners, with an address in Tempe, Ariz., where First Solar is headquartered, reported raising $192 million. Its goal was to sell another $108 million, according to an SEC filing.

Ahearn is no stranger to investing. Prior to forming First Solar, one of the world’s largest solar module manufacturers, he was a partner and the president of equity investment firm JWMA, formerly called True North Partners. Ahearn formed the outfit with the late John Watson, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. JWMA remains a large shareholder in First Solar.

Ahearn, who remains First Solar chairman, served as its CEO from 2000 to 2009. Before JWMA, he was a partner at the law firm Gallagher & Kennedy. Here is his bio can be found on this page.