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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists
Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.
At Draper Fisher Jurvetson, we look for disruptive businesses run by entrepreneurs who want to change the world (our logo is the scientist's delta symbol for change with an overlay of the world). To be successful as early stage VCs, we have to identify technology waves early and act upon those beliefs.
We are seeing more innovation than ever before. And we are investing in more new companies than ever before. We have opened offices in most of the major tech centers of the U.S., and now internationally as well. We were early investors in the Internet wave, and by 1995, the Internet comprised 80% of our investments. Today, 30% of our investments are in the broad area of nanotech, MEMS and novel materials, and we have made more investments in this category than any other VC firm.
We are looking for entrepreneurs who have not been discovered by the mainstream and who are passionate about new ideas that are not universally regarded as good ideas. We find these entrepreneurs at the edge, at the frontiers of the unknown, and at the interstices between formal academic disciplines.
Just like the Internet cycle, we try to act as a magnet so the entrepreneurs to find us. This is an easier way to find the proverbial needle in the haystack of a new industry. The VCs that rely on classic “referral networks” for deal flow will not be not be early in discovering new industries, as those networks serve to perpetuate exclusionary stability in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
With nanotech, as with the Internet, we become active learners, visiting conferences and luminaries in the field. And then we become evangelists. We write articles, engage in the debate, and become active on the speaking circuit. Over the last year, I have spoken about nanotech at the NSF, Oak Ridge National Labs, NASA, FedEx Tech Institute, Merrill Lynch, NanoBusiness Alliance, universities from Rice to Berkeley, and keynoted numerous industry conferences, from Toronto to Singapore. I even co-taught a new class at Stanford with Larry Lessig entitled “The Code in Tiny Spaces” to explore the regulatory and intellectual property implications of digital matter becoming more like software, much as genes are like memes. There is nothing like teaching a class to terrify you into learning the subject matter!
Why Nanotech? At DFJ, we believe that nanotech is the next great technology wave, the next phase of Moore’s Law, and the nexus of scientific innovation that revolutionizes most industries and indirectly affects the fabric of society. Historians will look back on the upcoming epoch with no less portent than the Industrial Revolution.
We are entering a period of exponential growth in the impact of the learning-doing cycle where the power of biology, IT and nanotech compounds the advances in each formerly discrete domain. Nanotech strips the isolating systems vernacular and exposes the core areas of overlap in the fundamental sciences. Nanotech is the nexus of the sciences.
Given that much of the abstract potential of nanotech is a question of “when” not “if”, the challenge for the venture capitalist is one of market timing. When should we be investing, and in which sub-sectors? We need to pull the sea of possibilities through an intellectual chromatograph to tease apart the various segments into a timeline of probable progression, an iterative exercise of exploratory learning and pattern recognition.
Bottom line, we conclude that it is a great time to invest in startups. As in evolution and the Cambrian explosion, many will become extinct. But some will change the world. So we pursue the strategy of a diversified portfolio, or in other words, we try to make a broad bet on mammals.
Steve Jurvetson is a Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. He was the founding VC investor in Hotmail (MSFT), Interwoven (IWOV), and Kana (KANA). He also led the firm's investments in Tradex and Cyras (acquired by Ariba and Ciena for $8B), and most recently, in pioneering companies in nanotechnology and molecular electronics.
Previously, Mr. Jurvetson was an R&D Engineer at Hewlett-Packard, where seven of his communications chip designs were fabricated. His prior technical experience also includes programming, materials science research (TEM atomic imaging of GaAs), and computer design at HP's PC Division, the Center for Materials Research, and Mostek. He has also worked in product marketing at Apple and NeXT Software. As a Consultant with Bain & Company, Mr. Jurvetson developed executive marketing, sales, engineering and business strategies for a wide range of companies in the software, networking and semiconductor industries.
At Stanford University, he finished his BSEE in 2.5 years and graduated #1 in his class, as the Henry Ford Scholar. Mr. Jurvetson also holds an MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. He received his MBA from the Stanford Business School, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.
Mr. Jurvetson also serves on the CNSI, Stanford Engineering Venture Fund, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and Merrill Lynch Technical Advisory Boards and is Co-Chair of the NanoBusiness Alliance.
He was recently honored as "The Valley's Sharpest VC" on the cover of Business 2.0 and chosen by the SF Chronicle and SF Examiner as one of "the ten people expected to have the greatest impact on the Bay Area in the early part of the 21st Century." He was profiled in the New York Times Magazine and featured on the cover of Worth and Fortune Magazines. Steve was chosen by Forbes as one of "Tech's Best Venture Investors", by the VC Journal as one of the "Ten Most Influential VCs", and by FORTUNE as part of their "Brain Trust of Top Ten Minds". He was also honored with the "Advocate of the Year Award" by Small Times and chosen as one of "Nanotech's Power Elite" by the Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report. Steve has written several columns on nanotech and other developing technologies.
“Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson is known for his knowledge, visionary zeal, outspoken support and willingness to invest in small tech. Unlike many investors, Jurvetson takes an active role as an industry proponent, speaking at conferences and authoring articles." - Small Times, 11/10/03 (nanotech industry magazine)
"If you want to know where nanotech investing is headed, look no further than Jurvetson. His voice has carried through industry conferences, television appearances and university labs. And he's not just talk: he was one of the first non-corporate investors to invest in the sector... With a wide net and a sea of followers, Jurvetson's evangelic drive into nanotech is risky for both him and DFJ... If he's right and nanotech will fuel the next wave of innovation, he may be crowned the patron saint of tiny technology." - VC Journal Cover Story, 2/02
"When the Internet burst on the scene, we turned to today’s speaker to clue us in. Even then, Steve Jurvetson was urging us to think across disciplines, which he’s done in becoming perhaps the leading investor in nanotech companies." - Merrill Lynch Industry Report, 2/10/04
"President Bush, who sat in the Oval Office flanked by venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson along with industry executives and a host of other nanotechnology supporters, sparked a huge frenzy last week when he signed off on the $3.7 billion National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)." - Private Equity Week, 12/8/03
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