Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some more comments, SRI meeting

As the previos written for my students.
This is the second part of my report from Emil Wang’s presentation about SRI international, venture capitalists and start ups.
Before we continue let me review some basics. First venture web definition is: venture is a speculation, an investment that is very risky but could yield great profits. This is what venture capitalists (VC) do, they invest to startups. Venture is for them a process of a value creation. Alas, venture is very risky, only few of the startups turn to be prosperous companies. The trick is to invest to the right companies.
Here we continue.
Emil suggested that venture is not driven by technology. Universities have created lot of intellectual property (IP) but did not create the jobs; therefore professors will never get funded. They are too technology driven. SRI recruits experts to run the venture, company. Who is most likely to be funded? SRI and VC’s in general are focusing on successful entrepreneurs who have already been funded. VCs invest to people, they trust people with good judgment. They trust the people not the technology.
Bad news 1: Location, location, location
The only way you will be funded is if you stay no more than 20 miles from Menlo Park, where all the major VCs are located. If you are not here you will be at least 6 months behind the market, research and technology. Second, you have to stay in touch. The major (Google, HP, Oracle, …) companies are next door and this means you can network to know what is going on.
Bad news 2: The idea for venture is in market and competitive research
Researchers, geeks and technologists ask how cool is their technology. The better thing is to ask: what is your market, who is your customer, what is the value for your customer. SRI answer is methodically guided innovation process five disciplines of innovation 5DoI. The advice: the researcher needs to understand what his market is, what the value is for the customer. This should be a starting point.
Good news: Cooperate
Emil and many other think that the best single model to start bio tech, clean tech, IT or high tech companies in general is starting to cooperate. Emil’s advice is do not compete leverage. This is the process SRI is proposing, network with people, work together, develop relations, and collaborate.
I would like to finish with the Emil’s formulation of the SRI mission: There are lots of research institutes and they have different goals. SRIs main purpose is to help the society and boost the economic development.
Great, it was an exciting presentation summarizing modern view on creating the technology and innovation to impact our society. We must learn from his words and start acting.


  1. Jan, Thank you so much for the excellent summary. Although I was there with you, I certainly could not have put to it so clearly and succintly myself. Regarding the location issue - having been in the Valley for 18 months, I have asked the questions "do the entrepreneurs need to be in Silicon Valley?" many times. There have been a few voices that claimed that we lived in a globalised world and the number of Silicon Valley VCs represented in all sorts of locations was rising everyday. There are also corporate VC arms that are scattered all over the globe - look at Intel's funding activity in the CEE region (I would imagine mainly due to their manufacturing and R&D in Poland). And of course there are more "local" VC funds that bring a lot of value too such as Enterprise Investors or Benson Oak. To sum up - to be in the Valley just because of the highest concentration of venture capital in the world may not be the best reason in itself. It is however undeniable that the ecosystem that is created by the massive concentration of capital, hi-tech industries (and companies), entrepreneurs, geeks, consultants but also the ubiquitous open, thirsty for innovation and ok-to-to-fail culture is unique and sadly I dare say by and large untransferable (many countries have tried to immitate it without a great deal of success). So what can we do? Silicon Valley is an extremely multicultural place - about 30% inhabitants were born abroad - many of those may settle here for good but many go eventually back to their home countries (such as the Indians and Chinese at the moment) with ideas of what will and will not work back home. They are also aware of the niches and expertise in their respective countries and with well applied lessons learnt in Silicon Valley (regarding the support of "smart" entrepreneurship focused on market needs in particular), world-class products can be created. Do not compete but leverage!