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Gates, Bezos, others launch energy tech VC fund

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son are investors in a new clean energy technology venture firm launched Monday.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a US$1 billion venture capital fund, will focus on "next generation technologies to provide reliable, affordable, zero-carbon energy, food, and products to the world," according to its website.

Other investors include Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Chairman John Doerr.

The new VC firm was started to "address the challenges in investing in new energy technologies while taking advantage of a huge investment opportunity," its website said.

The global energy market is now worth $6 trillion, and energy demand is expected to grow by a third by 2040, the firm said. "In addition, the urgency of climate change and the commitment of countries around the world to limit emissions requires an aggressive global push for zero-emission energy innovation," the firm added.

The firm's investments will be based on four criteria: 

--Technologies that have the potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least half a gigaton;

-- Companies with potential to attract funding from other sources;

-- Technologies with an existing scientific proof of concept that also can be advanced;

-- Companies that need the "unique" attributes of the VC firm, including patience, judgment by scientific milestones, flexible investment capabilities, and a large global network.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures is an arm of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a large group of people and organization committed to investing in new energy technologies. Breakthrough Energy Ventures is one of the investment efforts of the coalition.

The coalition also advocates for government investment in clean energy technologies.

"Collaboration between the public and private sector leads to meaningful innovations," its website said. "We have seen big successes in the past, with government-funded research programs in space, defense, technology, and medical research spurring private creativity to produce many of the innovations that define our current way of life."

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