The future of solar, water and greentech: Talking with A-list VC guy Brian Hinman

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On a recent trip down to Silicon Valley from San Francisco, I got a chance to sit down for an extended discussion with Brian Hinman. He is one of a growing number of A-list venture capitalists who have jumped the fence from IT into alternative energy and greentech ventures. Oak Investment Partners is one of the most venerable venture capital firms in the country, and Hinman is the firm's point man on greentech. He's the kind of guy that you have to listen to based on his track record -- co-founder of a two successful companies and a former CEO of a third. Hinman founded Picturetel, which was later acquired by telecom equipment company PolyCom (PLCM). Hinman then founded 2Wire, another telecom equipment company that ended up with revenues greater than $300 million.

So this is a guy with no Internet fluff in his pillow. Hinman is a hard-core engineer with 12 patents to his name. Hinman also loves to talk ideas about greentech innovations and sits on the boards of seven different Oak greentech portfolio companies. He has a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of the industry. Our talk ranged widely, so I've edited heavily. Here are some brief excerpts from our conversation: