The 2011 NVCA Annual Meeting kicks off in just 16 days in Boston! This post serves as an invitation for all venture capitalists to join us for what is always an exciting and vaulable time together. For those VCs who haven't yet registered, here are three reasons why you should take care of this today:
1. It's a celebration! This year marks the 65th Anniversary of the formation of the first modern venture capital firm, American Research and Development, and the 150th Anniversary of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both milestones have had a profound impact on innovation and we are planning to celebrate the collaboration between leading research institutions, entrepreneurs, cutting edge technology and venture investors. Join NVCA along with Xconomy and the MIT Museum on the afternoon of April 6th for an opportunity to reflect on all that has been created -- and all that will be -- thanks to venture capital and entrepreneurship.
2. It's just for investors. Attendance at our meeting is limited to venture investors, select conference sponsors and invited press. Every year, attendees return to the NVCA Annual Meeting because it is a unique chance to connect and share ideas with peers that have similar challenges and objectives.
3. Fascinating speakers talking both big picture and important nuances. With industry track sessions on the morning of April 6th followed by big picture perspectives from many of the most well known investors, academics and political players in the country, the NVCA Annual Meeting will cover the most important issues faced by venture capitalists.. Our keynote speakers include serial entrepreneur, Desh Deshpande, and MIT President, Susan Hockfield. They will be joined by luminaries such as HBS professor Bill Sahlman, Robotics expert Rodney Brooks, MIT’s Dr. Ernie Moniz, CMS’ Drs. Richard Gilfillan and Louis Jacques, and DOE’s Dr. Steven Koonin. Check out the agenda here.
If you are a venture capitalist, we hope you will join the hundreds of VCs already registered and sign up today.
I look forward to seeing you in Boston on April 6 & 7.
Today's Monday meeting is with Micah Myers of Claremont Creek Ventures. Micah joined Claremont Creek Ventures in 2009. Prior to joining Claremont Creek Ventures, Micah worked as an Analyst with the energy team at Passport Capital where he focused on both public and private investments in the renewable energy sector and as a Product Manager at Clean Power Finance, a residential solar finance start up. He has been in operational roles for over 15 years, and has experience in renewable energy, software and finance. Micah served more than eleven years active duty in the United States Marine Corps as a fighter pilot flying the F/A-18 Hornet and continues to serve as a reserve officer in the select reserves. HIs investment protfolio includes Alphabet Energy, Inc.and Clean Power Finance, Inc.
Q. From which industry sector do you think we will see the most innovation in the next 2 years?
A. Competition over global resources is becoming more readily noticeable everyday, and it's creating an imperative for innovation across several sectors that have traditionally been sleepy and quiet. Simultaneous advancements in material science along with innovative applications of information and wireless communications technologies have made disruption possible. Economic pressures are quickly amassing to make it feasible. Sectors to watch:
Utilities: Electric Utilities and Water Utilities
Consumer Goods: Automotive
Industrial Goods: Building Materials, Pollution & Treatment Controls, Waste Management
Q.2011 is the year of ...
Q.The biggest threat to the US venture capital industry is
A. Anti-business legislation, tax, and regulation that hamstrings U.S. industry and thwarts our ability to be competitive on a global stage. Lack of [political] commitment to develop consistent, predictable policy that promotes investment and long term value creation in energy and resource technologies.
Q.What is your favorite book of the last year?
A. ELECTRIC POWER SYSTEMS – Alexandra von Meier - A technical overview of the complexities of our electrical grid infrastructure written for non-EE-PhD's.
Q.Name a venture-backed company you are not invested in but wish you were.
Q.Name a practicing VC from another firm who you admire and why?
A. Dan Oros (KPCB Greentech Team) is rising star who rolls up his sleeves and contributes to real value creation and operational success in the portfolio companies with whom he works. He brings perspective from a hedge fund background and has investment experience in some of the early, pioneering renewable energy technologies and developments. He's one to watch.
Yesterday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the current global investment trends in clean energy technologies and the impact of domestic policies on that investment. NVCA member, Will Coleman of Mohr Davidow Ventures, was invited to be a witness at the hearing. A copy of his written testimony is available here. Also testifying were Neil Auerbach of Hudson Clean Energy Partners; Kelly Sims Gallagher, Director, Energy, Climate, and Innovation Program and Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy, The Fletcher School, Tufts University; and Ethan Zindler, Head of Policy Analysis, Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Senator Bingaman has stated his commitment to passing an energy bill with this Congress. His recent announcement that he will not run for re-election in 2012 places some urgency on getting that legislation signed into law. This hearing was to prepare for the development of a comprehensive energy bill that will protect the U.S. from falling behind in the growing global energy market.
At the hearing, there was a great deal of discussion about China. Specific focus was on their significant levels of investment in energy ($ billions) and their luring of US companies to locate there by offering significant tax incentives, streamlined permitting processes, and a promise to purchase a company’s product or service. It was agreed that while we can’t compete with the Chinese dollar-for-dollar, we can compete against them and win with our innovation. And if we get a national energy policy in place that will create the demand and certainty that companies need, we will lead in this sector.
Senators are keenly interested in learning what can be done legislatively to help keep innovation here in the US and ensure that we don’t lose out in the race to manufacture and advance new energy technologies. Still, they cautioned that there will be little appetite to spend additional monies on these initiatives. Instead, we will look to make improvements to programs like Section 48C of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Credit, which was a popular program but which was difficult for small, VC-backed companies to access due to the fact that they lacked the balance sheet to take advantage of this credit. ARPA-E was roundly praised for the important role it plays in the innovation ecosystem and for how well the nascent program has been run.
The austere budget environment does not bode well for the creation of a CEDA, but several Senators and some of the witnesses did agree that some funding mechanism was necessary to bridge the gap for the deployment of large scale, innovative novel technologies.
One new idea that was discussed at the hearing is the creation of a reverse-auction that uses a market-based approach to incentivize renewable development at the lowest cost and would promote the development of a national REC market, transitioning the industry away from federal support. We will be working with those in the industry who are pushing for the reverse auction and with the Senators on this new idea.
The venture capital and biotechnology industries lost a great man this week. Yesterday Jean Deleage, co-founder of three venture capital firms -- Sofinnova Ventures in 1971; Burr, Egan, Deleage in 1979 and Alta Partners in 1996 - passed away from complications from cancer, leaving a legacy of life saving innovations that have made our world a better place. His investments in companies such as Genentech, Chiron and Cephalon benefited millions of patients who suffered from diseases such as epilepsy, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
In addition to being well known as an investor, Jean was also highly regarded as a mentor to young venture capitalists. One such young VC was Terry McGuire, Co-Founder of Polaris Venture Partners who upon entering the venture industry worked under Jean's guidance. As NVCA chairman, Terry honored Jean with the NVCA Lifetime Achievement award in 2009. In toasting him alongside of other life sciences pioneers and friends - Brook Byers, Grant Heidrich, Jim Blair and Tony Evnin -- Terry shared the following words:
Jean, you came to the United states to be a pioneer. You came to venture capital to be a builder. You came to biotechnology to make a difference during an important revolution. Without question you will leave a legacy as a pioneer, a builder and a revolutionary....Known to your peers as a courageous, loyal, patient and instinctive investor, we recognize you today for your contributions... When beginning his career...(Jean) could have chosen from many paths to pursue. I, for one, feel extremely fortunate that (he) chose venture capital.
On behalf of the entire venture capital industry, we feel the same way too.
To continue Jean’s life work in life science research and innovation, donations in his memory can be made for Oncology Research at UCSF Medical Center. To make a donation on-line please follow this link and select the “other” designation and insert “Fund #B0831 IN MEMORY OF JEAN DELEAGE”
This past Tuesday, several NVCA members were invited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to participate in a day-long workshop to discuss the implementation of the recently proposed Medical Device Innovation Initiative (MDII). As you may recall, this initiative is aimed at improving the regulatory review process for novel technologies. The NVCA long advocated for such a program and we were pleased to be asked to join the conversation regarding its implementation.
Representing NVCA and the venture industry were members Jack Lasersohn from the Vertical Group; Ross Jaffe from Versant Ventures; Jonathan Leff from Warburg Pincus and Lou Bock from Scale Venture Partners.
The day was a very positive step forward in terms of the level of collaboration regarding how best to implement this new initiative most effectively. In addition to the venture industry, many other stakeholders were represented including patient groups, large and small companies and the academic community. All were committed to the program’s success and shared ways in which that success could be attained. While some panelists raised concerns that the MDII would be limited to very few applications and will take precious resources away from other parts of the device center, we believe FDA is well positioned to leverage the positive lessons learned with this initiative across other areas. Having access to senior FDA officials as we explore new regulatory paths will give us a “laboratory” for testing new processes which can then be expanded beyond the novel technology initiative.
For our part, the NVCA focused on areas specific to bringing the investor risk-reward equation back into equilibrium. For example, we shared with the group the need for transparency with device sponsors, allowing companies to play a role in selecting the experts who review their products. As the devices that participate in the new program are, by definition, extremely cutting edge, there are few individual qualified to adequately assess their efficacy and safety. Often the company participating is best suited to identify these experts. We believe it is critical that the sponsor be involved in all such interactions to avoid misunderstandings or mistakes regarding the review process early on.
The program has only just begun and the FDA is committed to making the necessary adjustments to ensure that it succeeds in its intention which is to improve the approval process for groundbreaking technologies. If this program is successful, we believe it will have a positive impact on the entire FDA approval process as there is much to learn by this inaugural effort. Ultimately the success of the program will be measured by the number of companies that apply. The NVCA looks forward to working with the FDA to ensure that number is meaningful.
NVCA is pleased to report that a new bi-partisan bill has been introduced in the Senate that is aimed at bringing and keeping the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world here in the United States. Introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Mark Udall (D-CO), the StartUp Visa Act of 2011 will permit entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. or to remain here after completing university studies if they meet certain criteria, including receiving investment in their businesses from a qualified U.S. investor. This would include venture capital dollars.
Several NVCA members helped craft this legislation and we will work to gain co-sponsors for the bill in the Senate. Two supporting pieces of legislation are expected to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks. The first is a companion bill to the Kerry-Lugar legislation which is scheduled to be introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney (R-NY); the second is a separate bill expected by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO). NVCA has been working with Lofgren and Polis on their bill and we will see if these two bills can be merged together to best serve the interests of the start-up and entrepreneurial communities. In the coming weeks and months, if the Administration and Congressional leadership attempt to move immigration legislation we will reach out to the NVCA membership to help drive support for these initiatives.