Late today the venture folks at Kleiner announced a new $200mm venture fund, the awkwardly named “KPCB Pandemic and Bio Defense Fund”. It had been rumored that something was coming from Kleiner, and this is apparently it. And so, what is it? Well:
[The goal is] to accelerate innovations for worldwide pandemic preparedness and global health over the next three years, with a focus on surveillance and detection, diagnostics, vaccines and drugs.
“We will invest in companies developing fundamentally new platforms for detection, prevention and treatment of global, pathogenic infectious diseases,” said Brook Byers. “More than 15 million people worldwide die each year from infectious diseases. Over one third of the world’s population lacks access to essential drugs.This new fund addresses the immediate requirement for the science, pharmaceutical, and government sectors to close significant gaps in global public health preparedness.”
John Doerr added, “We will invest to accelerate innovation, and we’re in a hurry. We hope even a mild pandemic never recurs. But we must prepare for the worst. Everyone should have access to these innovations. They must be offered at universally affordable prices to the developing world.”
Cool. Despite the awkward name, and despite the straight from a focus group over-precise targeting, the fund sounds really noble, I mean really noble. Kleiner is Trying To Do Good.
It’s risky too, and not just because Kleiner is Trying To Do Good. Why? Because it is Java-fund style sectorally targeted, and because it is aimed (according to the Financial Times) more at established companies, not startups. How’s that for stepping outside your venture investing comfort zone?
You have to give Kleiner credit. Where most of their VC counterparts are busy re-enacting The Shining in the hallways of the Shanghai Hilton, KPCB is making a high-concept later stage pseudo-domestic bet. Do I think it will work? I’m somewhat skeptical, but I have no idea. The one thing I do know for sure is that Kleiner has just rung the bell for a new round of fund-raising for high-concept venture funds — and that can’t help but be entertaining.