Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director at VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, spoke at Wednesday's GoingGreen event held at San Francisco City Hall.
He built upon yesterday's dialog with Vinod Khosla (which we covered here) during which Khosla said, "Only small companies do impressive things." Khosla challenged the audience to name the significant things that come out of large companies (with the exception of Apple). He added, "Big companies have process instead of vision."
Check out the Khosla article comment stream, where our readers provide a list of innovations from big companies. You be the judge if this is real or the exceptions that prove the rule.
Jurvetson said, "Only small companies innovate," adding, "We look for startups that can change the world."
Jurvetson defined innovation as "things that matter," and said, "It's always new entrants."
The investor clarified his point in an email, saying, "Large companies do not do meaningful or disruptive innovation in their core business. It’s always new entrants -- but when Apple took over the Sony Wlakman franchise, they were a new entrant. Apple had not innovated much in the past decade in their original core business (personal computers) and their main advance there came from a startup -- NeXT." He added, "Same story with HP and printers. They used to be the exception that proved the rule. HP innovated outside their computing core (with printers) but now that they have become huge in printers, we see no major innovations from them in those businesses. The focus has moved to Apple as the new “exception”. But again, in both cases, the disruptive innovation occurred in markets where they were new entrants."
And a cause for optimism -- as well as caution -- is his prediction that, "The most important company in the next 30 years has not yet been founded. The future belongs to the inventor and it always has."
Jurvetson suggested that, "Every vehicle in the future will be electric," and, "Big companies won't lead that disruption." He added that "new entrants can thrive in down times," and starting an auto company is much easier in a downturn. (See Tesla's acquisition of the Nummi automotive factory for pennies on the dollar.) He noted that there are 150 million electric vehicles in China -- they're two-wheelers from any of 1,300 manufacturers.
Jurvetson cited Ray Kurzweil's graph, shown below courtesy of Singularity University:
Jurvetson said that the slope of this 110-year-old trend "transcends substrates." He called it "the perpetual driver of innovation" and "a juggernaut of change." He noted World War I and World War II had no impact on technological progress. He said, "It's exogenous and decoupled from the economy. In fact, it is the economy."
And for a technology trajectory that makes the Moore's Law curve look flat, Jurvetson suggested a look at biology today -- the acceleration of the rate of gene mapping and the cost of sequencing DNA. The eventual outcome of this curve is "building genes from scratch," "enabling genetic alchemy," and "writing the poem of life." He sees us in a biology science renaissance.
And all of this progress doesn't happen alone, it comes from our standing on the shoulders of giants and, in Jurvetson's eloquent phrasing, "It is a co-evolutionary dance with our artifacts."
See Jurvetson speak about his rocket hobby here at TED.