John Doerr: Cleantech’s Netscape Moment Could Arrive Next Year

The IPO that captures the public imagination and sets off a stampede for freshly issued cleantech stock could arrive next year, says cleantech investor John Doerr.

The so-called Netscape moment is on its way, Doerr said Thursday at the GreenBeat 2010 conference. “I think we’re very likely to see that next year,” said the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner.

Cleantech investors have been hoping for such a moment for several years as they poured large sums of money into solar and other companies and have yet to see a financial return.

Netscape’s 1995 IPO proved the starting gun for the Internet era of investor exuberance and, ultimately, the bubble.

The importance of a Netscape-like reception for cleantech in the public markets can’t be understated. Venture capitalists have invested more than $7 billion in cleantech startups over the last three years alone at a time when venture returns have slumped.

In the past quarter, cleantech venture investing was down 30%, partly due to the lack of a payback. Doerr said he was not alarmed by the pull back. “We’re entering one of these rare periods of normalcy,” he said. It should not reflect a dip in the quality of investments or innovation, he said.