Forbes has released its Midas List of top venture capitalists. New York-based investors make up 2 percent of the list, and that has the writers at Silicon Alley Insider confused. But since it's the same confusion that led Henry Blodget, the disgraced tech-stock analyst, to found the tech blog in the first place, one can hardly blame them.
Wall Street, the center of the traditional financial world, excels at the packaging and distribution of securities to Main Street investors. But the buyers and sellers of technology companies are a very different lot — which is why the VC industry is centered on Sand Hill Road, not lower Manhattan.
I've asked many VCs why East Coast investors don't prosper to the same degree as those based here, and the answer is consistent: Back east, VCs are too focused on the downside, on squeezing something out of a startup that has failed, on turfing out entrepreneurs when a young company hits a bump in the road. In the balmy clime of northern California, venture capitalists are a sunnier lot: They'd rather have a small piece of a large pie, or so they claim.
That patience is best demonstrated by John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, who unexpectedly made the top of Forbes' list. Google was a powerful factor in his ranking, as it was for Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, his longtime rival. But Doerr's ancient investment in Tellme paid off when Microsoft bought it for $800 million last year.
Tellme, a maker of voice-recognition software, is the kind of investment I reckon an East Coast VC would have dumped years ago. But Kleiner held on and kept its CEO, Mike McCue, in place, and profited in the end. Divorced from the daily gyrations of the stock market and the pressure of quarterly earnings, the venture capital industry can take its time with companies and worry more about the upside than the downside. The difference between the East Coast and the West Coast? Here, we've figured that out.