I read a piece in Pando about the restart at Kleiner Perkins, which was, when I was an active entrepreneur, the leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Now John Doerr, who was the leader of KP back in the day, at age 62, is coming back to lead the restart.
What I would I do if I were JD? I love puzzles like this. How would I zig to the zag of Andreessen or Union Square or Spark, the new premier brands in tech VC?
I may come up with other ideas, and I’d be interested in hearing what you guys think (other than negativism, which is totally uninteresting to me).
Go back to universities
- If you’re doing a restart, go back to the roots, where VC got started in the first place.
- It grew out of the boiling cauldron of post-war tech, Stanford University. This was the original keiretsu. And it happened again in the boom of the late 90s, though not so much in the current boom.
- Tech needs a farm system. Teachers who guide young minds in thinking creatively about the raw materials of progress.
And open source
- Remember where Bill Joy came from, and the legacy he took with him. Three letters: B, S and D. This process works. So why did we stop?
- A university should be home to at least one special open source project that goes on for years, decades, generations. Every class adds something to the project. One year it’s documentation. Next year it’s test suites. Evangelism. Porting to new platforms. Developing a new format or protocol.
- Software is a process. Let the structure of the project reflect that.
- Software is also art. It’s not first and foremost about returns for VC. But that comes soon, when the first class graduates. Some of them will have ideas about commercializing the project. That’s when we turn to the investors who generously funded the project initially. And of course the companies they start contribute back into the process that they were founded in. Five companies, then fifty, all feeding off the same flow of innovation.
- The role of the VC is to be the opportunists, and feed back proceeds into the the project, and to tithe a certain portion of their profits back into refreshing the portfolio of new tech to be opportunized. (A new word, one a VC would like!)
Do it differently
- You wouldn’t not leave a tip for good service when you go out to eat at a fine restaurant. Now why wouldn’t you do the same for great open source projects that make your ventures fly? Of course you would! This is the brilliant idea, imho, that has escaped all previous generations of investors. You want to buy a presence with the next generation of up-and-comers. This is your goodwill. Where your great PE ratio comes from. Who will they want to finance their startup? The one that’s famous for funding the leading new open source platforms of the day. That means planting lots of seeds over long periods of time.
That’s where I would start
- Look for successful entrepreneurs who are ready to start their academic careers and teach what they know to bright-eyed, young, eager, optimistic genius students, with their whole lives ahead of them and everything to prove.
- Silicon Valley seems to think that academia is obsolete. They’re wrong. Bet contrarian.
The farm system
- VCs like to eat the seed corn. That’s where I’d zig to the zag of VC. Where others eat, you invest. And reap the profits with the generations to come of great tech leaders.