Home' Technology Review : May June 2009 Contents Q&A 37
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JP: When you have too much money, you
can fund every crazy idea. Can having too
little money be a salutary discipline?
SJ: We were trying to find out what
correlates with success or failure in a
portfolio. The one correlation [with fail-
ure] that held through up and down was
the size of the series A---the first round
of funding. The bigger it was, the more
likely the company was going to fail.
SL: I think the economy has done every
entrepreneur a big favor, by making you
focus, making you know what you want.
The point is to go do something. It's not
the exit, it's not the money---it's to do the
thing that's there for you to do.
JP: Entrepreneurs: the disinterested
artists of the business world! None of the
entrepreneurs [here] took angel funding.
Did any of you consider it?
KS: Angel funding is definitely some-
thing we are very interested in, especially
in this market where we are able to take a
smaller amount of angel funding, where
the exit size might not be as large as it
might have been five years ago. A lot of
the professional angels do come with
contacts, and open a lot of doors.
LC: The ones who have the big pocket-
books in good times tend to be keeping
their money close now.
JP: If it s true that recessions are often
periods when great ideas are turned into
lasting enterprises, what are those ideas?
SJ: I don't think there's one elephant
in the room---there are a lot of mammals,
and I'd bet on the whole field.
DG: We are marginally through the
transition of the media business from the
physical to the digital. Obviously, people
see that the first thing to go away is the
physical newspaper. ... We are still very
early on, and video is probably the big-
gest part of that.
LC: Omigosh. Phones: make them
smaller, get there faster. Please hurry
up. I want to watch videos on the phone.
I want to check in with friends on my
phone, I don't want to own any other
device. Just get there, please.
JP: In the developing and poor world
there are a whole host of problems
calling out for elegant solutions. There are
real markets and money to be made, but
they are also places where technology
can truly improve human lives. Are any of
you interested in creating technologies for
India, China, or Africa?
SJ: There are so many needs on the
planet. A subset of that is water purifica-
tion---probably the biggest mismatch
between a screaming, enormous market
and a lack of technology innovation I've
ever seen. This is a trillion-dollar
opportunity, and that's just water
The U.S. government s stimulus package
(see "Can Technology Save the Economy?"
p. 44) means that a lot of money is about
to pour into Silicon Valley and places like
it. Will people know what to do with it?
SJ: Some of Obama's e orts are going
to funnel a lot of money into startups. A
lot: several hundred million dollars. And I
don't think it's entirely a good thing.
Audience: But will you leverage capital
with government stimulation capital?
SJ: Yes, in certain companies. There
are some companies involved with solar
thermal and solar installation that used
to rely on tax-equity investment [in
which state or federal governments pro-
vide tax incentives for funding renew-
Now there is a new plan in place that
is even better than we'd dreamed of. We
didn't lobby for it, we never asked for it,
but from our perspective it will create a
boom in solar installations of all sorts. We
don't invest in companies with the hope
of a handout, or the hope that the govern-
ment will swoop in and create a regula-
tory regime that is noncompetitive.
But when it happens, then it's a wind-
fall, and it's not like we're going to turn
it away. The only problem is that you
can't predict the next one. Moore's Law
doesn't pay any attention to a recession or
depression. ... So you have all this pent-up
innovation that will find a way to revolu-
Startups and new-company forma-
tion are the economic juggernaut of
the future---always have been, always
Watch highlights of the Churchill
DOESN'T PAY ANY
ATTENTION TO A
SO YOU HAVE ALL
THIS PENT UP
WILL FIND A WAY
IS THE ECONOMIC
STEVE JU RVETSON
"I THINK THE
A BIG FAVOR, BY
MAKING YOU FOCUS,
MAKING YOU KNOW
WHAT YOU WANT.
THE POINT IS TO GO
DO SOMETHING. IT'S
NOT THE EXIT, IT'S
NOT THE MONEY
IT'S TO DO THE THING
THAT'S THERE FOR
YOU TO DO."
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