Intel CEO Paul Otellini today announced an ambitious $3.5 billion plan that, ideally, will lead to more technical jobs and start-ups in the U.S.
The Invest in America Alliance can essentially be split into two parts. The first part consists of an alliance between the chip maker and 24 venture firms like Mohr Davidow Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurveston to invest $3.5 billion into start-ups over the next two years. The investments will be made in a variety of fields, but green and clean tech are at the top of the list. As part of the push, Intel Capital will create a $200 million fund-within-a-fund to bolster the effort.
Second, a group of 17 companies--Accenture, Google, Dell, eBay, Marvell Semiconductor--will try to increase the hiring of college graduates (or NCGs, or "new college graduates" in Intel speak). Ideally, these companies will double the number of graduates. In 2010 alone, that could mean 10,500 more jobs.
"It would be a long-term mistake to let our future scientists and engineers sit idle after graduation. Today's announcements are both an investment in the country's innovators and a signal to the global marketplace about America's commitment to innovation and future competitiveness," Otellini said in a prepared statement.
It's a great idea, particularly the part about hiring new college graduates. The question now is to see how it plays out in reality and what impact it might have. First, the VC part. Intel has created speciality funds in the past. It had a fund that invested in companies to support its push into communications, another one to build an ecosystem around its Itanium chip (there's a name you probably haven't heard of since the middle 90s.) and others for fostering investment in Russia and the Middle East. Some work, some don't. The Invest in America Alliance draws in other VC firms so it has a better chance of success. VCs and Intel Capital, however, are already investing somewhat heavily into start-ups. Thus, this represents probably an incremental, but not revolutionary, boost.
Hiring? It is always controlled by budgets, but an effort like this helps remind companies about their greater obligations to grow the economies where their executives live. There is a strong possibility that they will lobby state and federal officials for tax credits (Governor Conan in California has already outlined tax credits for manufacturers who train and hire new employees) but who isn't getting tax credits these days? Another factor that could aid this push is the fact that a lot of these companies are run by people who still vividly remember being struggling students. Marvell was founded by grad students at UC Berkeley from Asia. They now contribute heavily to the school.
Elsewhere, Luminus Devices, which makes a large format LED, has raised $19 million more. The company right now sells LEDs to display makers like Acer and Samsung. How much has the MIT-spin out raised to date? $172 million. That's about as much as any LED company ever. Our guess: Luminus will get bought in a few years. Philips, General Electric, Osram and others want to increase their share in the LED market.
Meanwhile, General Compression, which makes equipment for compressed air energy storage, raised $17 from, among others, Duke Energy. It is currently building a 2 megawatt facility.