by Brian Solis
During day one of The Web 2.0 Summit, we were treated to an incredibly eye-opening conversation between billionaire investor John Doerr and John Heilemann, a contributing editor at New York magazine. Heilemann had just flown in from Chicago where he spent time with Barack Obama. Believe it or not, Obama had a couple of questions for Doerr that he channeled through Heilemann.
This is where the conversations begins.
Obama requested Doerr’s recommendation for chief technology officer of the United States. Within seconds, Doerr replied with ease.
“Bill Joy,” he said quickly.
Joy is the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in which Doerr was an early investor and is now a partner Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Doerr added, “It would be a sacrifice to lose him to the Obama administration, but there is no greater cause.”
Obama’s second question sought Doerr’s guidance on which single policy issue would most help entrepreneurs.
Again, with a prompt and convincing response Doerr jumped, “Kickstart research and innovation in the energy sector.”
He then focused on the fact that the US also needs to invest in graduating a greater number of capable professionals. His goal is to double it from 30,000 to 60,000 graduating in physical sciences and engineering. Doerr highlighted the fact that a majority of students are studying from foreign countries. After they graduate, we send them back home, “what kind of foreign policy is that?” he quipped. His advice, “Staple a green card to each diploma!”
The conversation traversed a multitude of subject matter. One such discussion focused on the financial crisis.
His observation is that Silicon Valley and technology is a big part of the economy. But that venture capital investments and startup performance are not to blame this time. He also said that the mortgage industry is not solely responsible either. We’re enthralled in a “crises economy” according to Doerr.
“People lost faith in our government, leaders, and they lost faith in their money,” Doerr believes.
Doerr continued, “Wall Street and Main Street are intertwined. Kicking people out of their homes makes no sense at all. What lenders should do is revalue their homes, issue a new 30 year mortgage and have them restart their lives in their existing house.”
Mr. John Doerr also discussed the startup market.
“There’s been a lot of activity that doesn’t deserve to be funded,” Doerr exclaimed. “Good ideas will still get funded, but it’s a buyers market, not a sellers market, so terms are going to be different.”
His main concern nowadays is how can his team get those companies to produce a return.
“Google is just not going to buy a lot of these startups, so who else will?” he asked.
He warned startup founders to get ready for a longer haul than most anticipate. To help startups survive the financial crisis, he offered the following 11 tips:
1. Act now
2. Cut once, cut deeper than you need. You only want to do this once – use a scalpel, not an axe
3. Have or secure 18 months of cash
4. Defer facilities expansion and expenses on technology infrastructure
5. Evaluate R&D priorities and focus on what truly is necessary and important
6. Renegotiate all contacts – you’d be surprised that everything, right now, is negotiable
7. Everybody in the company ought to be selling
8. Pay people in equity in addition to reduced cash
9. Secure cash – treasuries. security backed agency loans
10. Figure out the leading indicators of your business dynamics so you can react quickly
11. Over communicate without sugarcoating
“Most importantly,” he added, “do not cut hope. We will emerge much stronger.”
Pictures from the Web 2.0 Summit Day One are available in my album on Flickr.
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