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Thursday, October 03, 2002

VC Panel

We bloggers in the back of the room were too busy chatting when this panel started to pay too much attention to who's sitting where -- sorry! The general gestalt so far involves a hypothetical software startup. $10 million is too much in today's climate to invest in a software company, per Bjoern at Seimens $5 million may be too much. Appetite for investing at an early stage is low. Three million might make more sense in a partnership type scenario. The company needs to have a product. Not too interested in getting involved at the beta stage. What sort of patents are under your belt? Response from moderator: So you want to steal our IP? Collaborating on the IP is a pull. Question asked about the benefits of consulting with VC's: "You may get no cash, but you will achieve total consciousness." [Of potentially greater interest -- Dave just circulated a flyer for dinner tonight and has more on Scripting: "Ask for the Bloggers at the maitre d's desk. I'll try to explain what that means."] "I don't want to hear about the next really big thing. I'm very suspicious of the next really big thing." But, Bjoern says excellent opportunities for investment at early phases exist right now. Danny says Wells Fargo is less interested in the ground floor now, wants to know you are established and already funded first. Q&A: [Moderator: anyone have a business plan they want to pitch?] How do you grow the leaders of startup, so that when they're ready to go to the next level they're prepared to manage in a different environment? Bjoern says in their portfolio there is generally a change of guard. Requires maturity and ego sublimation on the part of the initial managers. Why aren't venture firms laying people off to the same extent as the investment candidates? Are they burning venture fuel to survive? If you look at the data over time and adjust for structural dynamics, this is an industry that will support $10 to $20 billion in investments per year. There are too over 8,000 vc professionals today; getting that number back to about 1,000 may be needed as well. The operating burn of the venture firms has not been adjusted to reflect a different environment. The general partners of these firms have all the power, and it will take awhile for the chaff to burn off. What does the typical portfolio really look like? Siemens has about 75 companies, as well as other investments. Thinks they have an abnormal percentage of very successful companies. They have aggressively whittled, done triage, to separate the survivors. This started as a business of hunter-gatherers; things look different now.

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