Virgin Green scores more than $180M

Virgin Green Fund, a multi-stage venture capital firm focused on energy and resource efficiency investing and affiliated with celebrity English billionaire Richard Branson, has raised more than $181 million from 10 investors toward its first fund, according to a regulatory filing.

The firm, which has offices in San Francisco and London, has raised in excess of $81 million from limited partners, including Corvina Holdings Limited, PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund, Wolverhampton City Council and Macquarie Clean Technology Fund, according to the filing. Last year, the firm closed $100 million from the Virgin Group, which the firm calls the anchor investor The firm would not disclose the target of the fund, but it is believed to be in excess of $400 million. The firm is raising funds on a rolling basis and may be doing so for some time to come.

The firm is run by Managing Partner Shai Weiss. Weiss previously was with cable operator ntl:Telewest (now known as Virgin Media). Prior to that, he set up the European office of Jerusalem Venture Partners.

Virgin Green Fund is targeting growth stage companies in the United States and Europe with investments that range between $15 million and $20 million.

The firm has already made eight investments from the fund, only four of which have previously been made public.

It syndicated an investment in biofuel maker Gevo with Khosla Ventures last July; backed lighting company Metrolight with a $9 million investment alongside Gemini Israel Funds and Israel Cleantech Ventures last August. It also backed a thin-film solar company based in California last year that remains in stealth mode. It backed Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a materials science company and a stealth water desalinization business operating out of the Caribbean. Both investments were made during 2007.

Virgin Green Fund’s pace so far in 2008 has been aggressive. It worked with Benchmark Capital and Balderton Capital in late January to finance a $14.5 million development round for GreenRoad Technologies, a company that uses computers to ensure drivers stay safe (see story in Feb. 4, 2008 issue of PE Week).

It also joined a consortium of private equity firms to invest in a $90 million Series B for thin-film solar company Odersun to help the startup finance construction of a manufacturing plant in February. The firm also backed a Texas-based waste oil recycling company. —Alexander Haislip