July 21, 2009 SDF PWC

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On July 21, 2009 at Pillsbury Winthrop in Palo Alto, SDForum held the Quarterly Venture Breakfast Series in collaboration with PWC. Allison Leopold Tilley of Pillsbury Winthrop moderated panelists Steve Bengston of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Matt Garratt of Battery Ventures, Mamoon Hamid of USVP, Dan Rubin of Alloy Ventures, Robert Walker of Sierra Ventures and Don Wood of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. They discussed trends in venture investments and how the economic landscape will change over the coming years.

The current investment picture is still flat or falling. Green or clean tech dropped from second to fourth place compared to other investment sectors. The problem is that clean tech is very much a physical infrastructure play, requiring more than what many venture capitalists are willing to invest. Startups are applying for government stimulus funds and some like electric vehicle maker Tesla are getting it, but it is a longer and more complicated process than VCs. While stimulus spending is growing, it is too early to see the impact in clean tech.

Private and government goals sometime are at odds for with each other. Public funds mean public interest. Governments like to incubate companies that create jobs. VCs like companies that create the value and not headcount.

Inside clean tech, the technologies to watch are smart grid and direct current inside the home. Almost every aspect of the smart grid needs to be developed. Historically utilities existed to provide power and encourage consumption. Entrepreneurs should not wait for utilities to change their spots but to push forward on opportunities that do not depend on them.Using an electric car as fuel cell for your home is one idea.

If few appliances require alternating current (AC) inside the home then perhaps a direct current (DC) grid to run them. It might use solid state or LED lighting, dramatically lowering costs. Your clothes dryer might need AC but your laptop computer probably does not.

All the VCs encouraged entrepreneurs to work on their pitches and why their ideas are unique and profitable. They want companies that will dominate their particular sector rather than fight for a percentage of a commodity industry. Be the biggest frog in your pond not the smallest shark  in the ocean.

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Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

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