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Wealthy Families Unite at White House for Clean-Tech Push

Rob Day wants to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in clean technology on behalf of a wealthy family without relying on Silicon Valley.
That’s why his firm co-founded Cleantech Syndicate in 2010, a network of like-minded family offices, to find deals and share ideas. It’s expanded to a dozen families who’ve invested about $1.2 billion. That’s not enough for Day and the syndicate, who want to spend an additional $1.4 billion in the next five years on alternative energy.
To reach their target, Day’s group is merging with the CREO Network -- whose participants include billionaire Jeff Skoll’s investment firm and the foundation of money manager Jeremy Grantham. The combined organization, dubbed the CREO Syndicate, will have 100 participants representing more than $80 billion of investable capital, according to a statement Tuesday.
“To find deals different than those that Sand Hill Road was showing us, we realized that we needed to network in order to know about deals and for other people to know what we were doing,” said Day, referring to the street in California that houses many of the venture capital firms. “It’s tough to generate good deal flow as a family office.”
Day, a partner at Boston-based Black Coral Capital, declined to name the family he works for because of privacy reasons.

White House

Members of the new group are scheduled to attend an event at the White House in Washington today to promote climate change solutions. The Obama administration said Tuesday it has secured at least $4 billion in commitments from companies including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., foundations and family offices to invest in clean energy technology.
Family offices, which manage the finances and affairs of a single wealthy family, are increasingly teaming up to find deals and funnel enough capital to tackle problems like climate change, water infrastructure and sustainable agriculture.
The effects of changes in climate and natural resources present investment opportunities and create industries with the potential for returns, according to Day.
“Families that come care about people and the planet -- as well as investment returns,” said Martin Whittaker, a co-founder of CREO and chief executive officer of JUST Capital, a nonprofit started by hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones.
Bloomberg Philanthropies -- the charitable vehicle for Michael Bloomberg -- has supported CREO. Bloomberg is the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, which is the parent company for Bloomberg News. He’s also a co-chair of the Risky Business Project, an effort to highlight the economic costs of runaway climate change.

Committed Capital

Last year members of CREO -- which stands for clean technology, renewables and environmental opportunities -- committed $300 million over the next five years to energy and environmental investments. CREO Syndicate is looking to invest $2 billion over the next five years, according to today’s statement.
Family offices have the long-term capital and flexibility to take risks that can help plug the gap in funding or financing environmental investments, said Whittaker.
The new network is invitation only and includes family offices and foundations, as well as some sovereign wealth funds. Participants take different approaches to investing in the space. Some seek early-stage, breakthrough companies while others arrange project financing and take stakes in established companies, said Day.
“I liken it to a super duper angel group,” he said.