Sunday, May 13, 2007

Venture capitalist stresses management; ideas are a dime a dozen

A Boston Globe interview with venture capitalist Bob Metcalf includes the text: There is a limiting factor that prevents us from putting more money to work than we would otherwise, and that's a shortage of CEOs, of entrepreneurial teams. The ideas and technologies, they're a dime a dozen.

Metcalf is also quoted:

Despite my whining, I think it's good that we have a patent system.

I can see the patent system working here. Our job is to allocate capital to promising technologies. So someone shows up and says, "I'd like to build a company that does X," and we say, "What protections do you have from competition? The day after we put our money in your company, are you not going to be put out of business by somebody else?"

from Getting the Patent Reform Wars on Track:

The basic Edison light bulb patent is US 223,898 (filed Nov. 4, 1879, issued January 27, 1880) The patent text, reflecting Edison's state of knowledge on November 4, 1879, does NOT mention bamboo as a material, or filaments made of bamboo.
Note that it was the use of filaments made from bamboo, which knowledge was not obtained until AFTER Edison's patent issued, that allowed a long lasting light bulb and commercialization of the light bulb. Of great significance, Edison formed the Edison Electric Light Company in New York City in 1878 with the backing of several financiers, including J. P. Morgan and the members of the Vanderbilt family, BEFORE Edison filed for the '898 patent, BEFORE the '898 patent issued, and BEFORE the key breakthrough of the bamboo material occurred.
The game plan for Edison's innovation was in place BEFORE the patent had been filed and BEFORE the important discovery had been made (or likely even contemplated). Edison's invention of an improvement in incandescent lighting was a small part of a bigger theme.

See also Edison as a Patent Troll, or Where is California Going in Stem Cell Research?
Work criticizing classic paper by Merges/Nelson in Columbia Law Rev. 90, 839 (1990)

Not surprisingly, the venture capitalists of the present have strategies not dissimilar from those of J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts of 120 years ago. They view the man and the plan as more important to innovation than patents.

[Other relevant posts on IPBiz-->]

"Patents are not why we are investing"
Are patents a key feature for venture capitalist investment?
What do venture capitalists really think about patents?


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