The cofounder and former CEO of First Solar has launched a $300 million venture capital firm. Michael Ahearn's True North Venture Partners will invest primarily in early-stage companies in the energy, water, agriculture, and waste sectors, in amounts ranging from $100,000 to $25 million.

Other founding members of the True North management team include Matt Ahearn and Eugene Huang. The firm, which has offices in Chicago and Phoenix, has begun operations and said it expects to be fully staffed by the end of this year.

Ahearn helped found and then served as the CEO of First Solar until 2009, during which time the thin-film PV company became one of the leaders in the sector. Ahearn helped to build a number of other successful companies as an early stage investor.

“We are focused on sectors where the global problems are pressing, the need for disruptive innovation is great and the challenges faced by early-stage entrepreneurs and investors are particularly daunting,” said Ahearn. “Our goal is to identify exceptionally talented entrepreneurs with the vision, drive and business potential to significantly improve the world and help them realize their ambitions.”

“We are assembling a team of partners and advisors who combine successful investment experience with proven track records in developing start-up businesses into significant enterprises,” said Ahearn. “We can help entrepreneurs navigate the obstacles that they will inevitably face in fundamentally transforming global industries.”