The Real VCs of Silicon Valley?

Sramana continues to make a very valid point about the disruption in Silicon Valley is increasingly less about the technology innovations and more about how these companies are financed.

Venturebeat reports that Foundation Capital has raised a $750 Million new fund. The firm’s last fund was $525 million, closed two years ago. Goes back to my question: Who are the real VCs of Silicon Valley? How can you practice true venture capital if you have to put so much money to work?

[From The Real VCs of Silicon Valley? - Sramana Mitra on Strategy]

I moderated a panel on venture capital at Defrag last year with Jeff Clavier, Brad Feld, and Albert Wenger. Clavier, who is referred to in Sramana’s Forbes post, has been a very active angel here in the Valley, so I posed the question to him first. I asked what he was doing differently from institutional VCs to not only put a good amount of capital to work but also generate a considerable number of exits in a very short period of time. Jeff’s answer was typically understated.

My premise to the question is Brad and Jeff in particular (I don’t know Albert well) are smart investors who don’t follow trends. They invest in people and with a premise about what is happening to shift behaviors and spend, they don’t invest with any foresight about what Google or Microsoft is going to buy. This is the thing about angels that has always intrigued me, they are not lacking in imagination and have a much higher risk threshold than venture capital firms despite the fact that they are literally investing their own money.

I wrote about this a few years ago, there has been a big shift in the role and influence that angel investors have in this tech economy.

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Powerpoint and the Spoken Word

Read this on the SAP Plexus blogs:

Client: “Should I have a PowerPoint?”

Pistachio: “Why?”

Client: “I don’t want them to be bored.”

Pistachio: “Then don’t.”

Pistachio: “Is there anything you need to tell them that you cannot do with your body or your voice?”

Client: “No.”

Pistachio: “There you go.”

Pistachio: “Uh, do you mind if I write this down for a blog post?”

[From Plexus Beta: Killer Presentations: I don't want them to be bored.]

Made me think of something I read today from the late Charlton Heston. In a letter to the editor of The Weekly Standard about a book review dealing with the works of Shakespeare, a body of work that Heston knew more intimately than any other American actor:

Being a writer, Sobran misreads Shakespeare as academics do: He treats him as a writer. I know, there he is on the page, but that’s not where he or his plays live. Shakespeare leaps alive in air, in the spoken sound of his words. Only actors really understand this, though audiences sense it subliminally, in performance. When you’re redacting the plays in rehearsal, you make the changes in terms of the sound as much as the meaning. Also the pauses.

I’m no great communicator it doesn’t take one to know that the way most people butcher a message with Powerpoint does neither them nor their audience any favors. The art of business communication is not forever lost, but it has quite often never been acquired largely because we have confused the medium with the message.

Heston writes about the spoken sound of words versus the written word, and I think that most great presentations come alive through the spoken word and not through the coldness that is a slide. Great presentations put the actor at the front and powerpoint in merely a supporting role.

Absolute-ly Screwed

Interesting firestorm about an Absolut vodka ad that ran in Mexico… probably not the “conversation” that Absolut was hoping to engage in, check out the number of comments on their apology post. BTW, I don’t subscribe to the notion that all press is good press so while Absolut may be benefiting from heightened name recognition, it’s just not for the right reasons… my next martini will be Chopin or Skyy vodka, but it usually is so that’s not big news.

At any rate, put this in your “world is flat” file as exhibit A for the argument that pandering to local markets at the expense of much bigger markets is not a good strategy.


[From IN AN ABSOLUT WORLD]

This particular ad, which ran in Mexico, was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility. In no way was this meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues. Instead, it hearkens to a time which the population of Mexico may feel was more ideal.

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