John Doerr on fixing climate change: ‘Execution is everything’

In 2006, I hosted a dinner after a screening of An Inconvenient Reality, former vice chairman Al Gore’s seminal documentary on the climate disaster. We went across the desk for everybody’s response to the movie’s pressing message. When it got here to my 15-year-old daughter, Mary, she declared together with her typical candor: “I’m scared, and I’m indignant.” Then she added, “Dad, your era created this drawback. You higher repair it.”

The dialog stopped chilly. All eyes turned to me. I didn’t know what to say.

As a enterprise capitalist, my job is to search out massive alternatives, goal massive challenges, and put money into massive options. I used to be finest identified for backing corporations like Google and Amazon early on. However the environmental disaster dwarfed any problem I’d ever seen. Eugene Kleiner, the late cofounder of Kleiner Perkins, the Silicon Valley agency I’ve been with for 40 years, left behind a set of 12 legal guidelines which have stood the check of time. The primary goes as follows: Regardless of how groundbreaking a brand new expertise could appear, make certain clients truly need it. And this drawback led me to invoke a lesser-known Kleiner regulation: There is a time when panic is the suitable response.

That point has come. We might not afford to underestimate our climate emergency. To avert catastrophic, even presumably irreversible, penalties, we would have liked to behave urgently and decisively. For me, that night modified every thing.


My companions and I made climate a prime precedence. We acquired critical about investing in clear and sustainable applied sciences—or “cleantech,” as they’re identified in Silicon Valley. We even introduced in Al Gore because the agency’s latest accomplice. However regardless of Al’s glorious firm, my journey into the world of zero-emissions investing was fairly lonely at first. After the iPhone debuted in 2007, Steve Jobs invited us to launch our iFund for cell apps from Apple’s headquarters. We had been listening to nice pitches from cell app startups; I might see alternatives left and proper.

So why commit a bit of capital to the uncharted territory of photo voltaic panels, electrical automotive batteries, and meatless proteins? As a result of it appeared like the proper factor to do, for the agency and the planet. I assumed the cleantech market was a monster within the making. I believed we might do nicely by doing good.

We pursued cell apps and climate ventures on the similar time, regardless of doubters on each fronts. Our cell app investments gave us a burst of fast wins. Our climate investments had been slower out of the gate, and plenty of of them failed. It’s laborious to construct a sturdy firm underneath any circumstances, and doubly laborious to construct one to take on the climate disaster.

Kleiner Perkins acquired overwhelmed up within the press. However with persistence and persistence, we stood by our founders. By 2019, our surviving cleantech investments had begun to hit one dwelling run after the subsequent. Our $1 billion in inexperienced enterprise investments is now value $3 billion. However we’ve no time for a victory lap. Because the years roll by, the climate clock retains ticking. Atmospheric carbon already exceeds the higher restrict for climate stability. At our present tempo, we are going to blow previous the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7-degree Fahrenheit) goal restrict over the Earth’s preindustrial imply temperatures—the brink, scientists say, for extreme planetary harm. The results of runaway international warming are already plain to see: devastating hurricanes, biblical-esque flooding, uncontrollable wildfires, killer warmth waves, and excessive droughts.

I need to warn you up-front: We’re not chopping our emissions quick sufficient to outrun the harm on our doorstep. I mentioned this in 2007, and I say it at present: What we’re doing is not practically sufficient. Except we course-correct with pressing velocity and at huge scale, we’ll be looking at a doomsday state of affairs. The melting polar ice caps will drown coastal cities. Failed crops will result in widespread famine. By mid century, a billion souls worldwide may very well be climate refugees.

Fortuitously, we’ve a robust ally on this combat: innovation. Over the previous 15 years, costs for photo voltaic and wind energy have plunged 90%. Clear-energy sources are rising sooner than anybody anticipated. Batteries are increasing the vary of electrified autos at an ever decrease value. Larger power effectivity has sharply lowered greenhouse gasoline emissions.

Whereas a great many options are in hand, their deployment is nowhere close to the place it must be. We’ll want huge funding and strong coverage to make these improvements extra reasonably priced. We have to scale those we’ve—instantly—and invent those we nonetheless want. In brief, we’d like each the now and the brand new.


So, the place’s the plan for getting the job finished? Frankly, that’s what’s been lacking: an actionable plan. Positive, there are many methods on paper to get to net-zero carbon emissions, the purpose the place we don’t add extra greenhouse gasoline into the environment than we are able to take away. However lists of objectives usually are not plans. An extended menu of choices, nevertheless glorious they is likely to be, is not a plan. Anger and despair aren’t plans; neither are hopes and goals.

Greater than something, we’d like a transparent plan of action. But, a plan is solely pretty much as good as its implementation. To attain this monumental mission, we’ll want to carry ourselves accountable each step of the best way. That’s the good lesson I realized from my mentor, Andy Grove, the legendary CEO of Intel. It’s a mantra I’ve seen confirmed over and once more: Concepts are simple. Execution is every thing.

To execute a plan, we’d like the proper instruments. In my earlier ebook, Measure What Issues, I outlined a easy however highly effective goal-setting protocol that Andy Grove had invented at Intel. Referred to as OKRs, or Goals and Key Outcomes, they information organizations to focus on just a few important targets, to align at each stage, to stretch for formidable outcomes, and to trace their progress as they go—to measure what issues.

Now I’m proposing we apply OKRs to resolve the climate disaster, the best problem of our lifetime.

Velocity & Scale: An Motion Plan for Fixing Our Climate Disaster Now

The information is clear. The second is now. I’m dedicated to utilizing my time, my sources, and no matter data I’ve to work with you to construct a net-zero future.

I’m not right here to prod customers to alter their conduct. Particular person actions are each wanted and anticipated, however they received’t be practically sufficient to succeed in this large aim. Solely concerted, collective, international motion can get us previous the end line in time.

Entrepreneurs are these hardy people who do extra with lower than anybody thinks doable—and do it sooner than anybody thinks possible. In the present day, daring risk-takers are innovating like mad as they rewrite the foundations to avert a climate apocalypse. We have to bottle their entrepreneurial power and distribute it as extensively as we are able to—to governments, corporations, and communities worldwide.

A plan is not a assure. A well timed transition to a net-zero future is no certain factor. And although I could also be much less optimistic than some, think about me hopeful—however impatient. With the proper instruments and expertise, with precision-honed insurance policies—and most of all with science on our aspect—we nonetheless have a combating probability. However the time is now.

John Doerr is an engineer, enterprise capitalist, and the chair of Kleiner Perkins.

This excerpt was tailored from Velocity & Scale: An Motion Plan for Fixing Our Climate Disaster Now, by John Doerr, revealed on November ninth by Portfolio, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random Home, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Beringin Group, LLC.