Early Tesla investors close $400 million fund for startups with a social cause

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FREMONT, CA - AUGUST 16: A row of new Tesla Superchargers are seen outside of the Tesla Factory on August 16, 2013 in Fremont, California. Tesla Motors opened a new Supercharger station with four stalls for public use at their factory in Fremont, California. The Superchargers allow owners of the Tesla Model S to charge their vehicles in 20 to 30 minutes for free. There are now 18 charging stations in the U.S. with plans to open more in the near future. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Two early backers of Tesla have officially closed on a $400 million fund to invest in startups that have an environmental and social good component, sometimes called impact investing. DBL Partners, with investors Nancy Pfund and Ira Ehrenpreis, closed part of the funds last December.

DBL Partners stands for “Double Bottom Line” and it describes a style of investing: invest in companies that create monetary value and also value for society. The firm was originally spun-out of JPMorgan’s Bay Area Equity Fund I and founded by Pfund.

This is the third fund from DBL and it’s the largest. DBL’s second fund of $150 million is almost fully invested now with at least 23 companies.

DBL has been one of the most successful investors out of the cleantech era, where most venture capitalists ended up losing money. At least five of the 18 companies in Pfund’s first fund went public, including Tesla, SolarCity and Pandora.

Ehrenpreis had been a General Partner with Technology Partners and had headed up its cleantech practice. He, along with Technology Partners’ General Partner Marc van den Berg, have teamed up with DBL for this new fund.

Ehreinpreis, like Pfund, was an early investor in Tesla. In addition to Tesla and SolarCity, DBL also invested in SpaceX. The duo have been successful backing entrepreneur Elon Musk in his early (and difficult) days.

Double bottom line investing tends to take a relatively loose approach to what constitutes as social good. Pandora, the Internet streaming music company, is based in Oakland and through its growth created hundreds of jobs in that city.

DBL Partners says in a release on Tuesday morning, that the latest fund has already invested in five new companies. Areas of interest include “sustainable energy, products and services, digital media and imaging, health care, and IT.”

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