Zynga, Groupon to the rescue for cleantech bets

The future of clean power and greener transportation is being carried by FarmVille and online coupons — at least in terms of venture capital portfolios.

Earlier this month, I wondered if huge returns for VCs from social media IPOs could help make up for large bets on capital-intensive greentech companies that haven’t (yet?) delivered returns. My example was NEA and its potentially massive Groupon win (NEA’s Groupon share could be worth $2 billion on paper, or a 135 x multiple), in contrast to some of its capital-intensive green investments like fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, solar company HelioVolt, smart grid company GridPoint, and solar firm Konarka.

Connie Loizos at peHUB digs into this theme, too, in a column Tuesday night pointing out how a potentially giant return for Kleiner Perkins from an IPO for game startup Zynga could help make up for its tied-up greentech investments.

“[T]here’s no question that Kleiner was losing its footing, and that it’s about to be saved by Zynga,” writes Loizos.

Zynga reportedly could raise up to $2 billion in an IPO as soon as this week, valuing the company as high as $20 billion. That’s twice Zynga’s valuation when it raised its most recent round of $300 million last Summer. If Kleiner owns even 3 percent of Zynga, its stake could be valued at $600 million, writes Loizos.

Kleiner’s previous return that was that solid was its nameplate Google (s GOOG) win where Kleiner put in $25 million in 1999 for a 20-percent stake. And we all know the end of that story, or the start of Kleiner’s fame: an eventual $2 billion return for Kleiner’s investors.

Kleiner has some weak, some OK, and some decent greentech bets. Smart grid company Silver Spring Networks was supposed to IPO last year, but still hasn’t, though I’ve been hearing that it might go sometime soon. Electric car maker Fisker Automotive is also supposed to IPO shortly, though hasn’t yet started selling its first car, the Karma. Kleiner made money on biofuel company Amyris’ (s amrs) IPO, and will make money on the IPO of solar inverter maker Enphase Energy.

Oh, those were some of the more promising ones. Bloom Energy is one of the most capital-intensive companies in the Valley and recently started offering an Energy-as-a-Service model, which seems like it would require more money raised (from banks likely) for installations. Alta Rock has struggled with its geothermal projects, and I haven’t heard anything from carbon capture and recycling company GreatPoint Energy in a couple of years. Biofuel company Mascoma delayed its commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant, though finally got an investment from Valero (s vlo).

As Loizos puts it:

“The reality is that Zynga represents the first — and potentially only — tangible opportunity for Kleiner to hit the cover off the ball as it did with Google.”