links for 2009-11-12

  • The Department of Energy has billions in loan guarantees to hand out to alternative energy firms and automakers. But the highly competitive process has been criticized as slow, unmoving even.
    What is a government agency to do? Hire a venture capitalist, of course.
    The DOE announced Wednesday the appointment of Jonathan Silver, a former managing general partner at Washington D.C.-based venture capitalist firm Core Capital Partners, to head its loan guarantee and green auto programs. Core Capital invests in alternative energy, software, telecommunications and advanced manufacturing technology.
    Silver will report directly to DOE Secretary Steven Chu and has been hired to accelerate the application review process for both programs, according to the agency.
  • Back in March, as the first draft of the Obama administration’s massive green energy investment program began to emerge, we asked if the Department of the Treasury was poised to become cleantech’s new venture capital fund (The Treasury: clean energy’s new VC).
    It turns out that we were wrong. Treasury only administers the Obama administration’s green energy funds. The Department of Energy is where the power is, since it actually decides who gets the money. For confirmation of DOE’s growing power, look no further than this press release announcing the appointment of Jonathan Silver, a Washington-based venture capitalist, as the executive director of the DOE’s loan program office. DOE (not Treasury) is clean energy’s new VC. The appointment is yet another indication of the agency’s transformation as one of Washington’s leading funding sources.

  • Analytics, whatever that means, has emerged as the hot topic all over our industry. Gartner seems to have bolted from Business Intelligence and placed “Advanced Analytics” in the firmament of must-have technologies for 2010 (I guess everyone followed their lead and implemented BI last year so there is nothing else to talk about). The problem with analytics is, who can do it? Numerate people in organizations are as scarce as hen’s teeth. According to the conventional wisdom, very special experts, quants we’ll call them, are needed because mere mortals can’t handle this stuff. But you can’t buy quants like muskmelons on the road to Bettendorf in July, and even if you could, a muskmelon would be less troublesome.
    One of the often-cited problems with quants is that they tend to be condescending towards those who lack quantitative skills. This is the reason Tom Davenport often uses the term “PhDs with personalities,” a phrase I find quite distasteful.
    (tags: analytics hr)
  • This week we met Motorola’s Droid, the first handset with Android 2.0. To an outsider, it just looks like another Google smartphone, but 2.0 is more than that: it’s proof that Android is finally going to take over the world.
    So Wait, What Is Android, Exactly?
    In Google’s words, it’s “the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices.” That doesn’t mean much, so here’s a breakdown: It’s a Linux-based, open-source mobile OS, complete with a custom window manager, modified Linux 2.6 kernel, WebKit-based browser and built-in camera, calendar, messaging, dialer, calculator, media player and album apps. If that sounds a little sparse, that’s because it is: Android on its own doesn’t amount to a whole lot; in fact, a phone with plain vanilla Android wouldn’t feel like a smartphone at all. Thankfully, these phones don’t exist.
  • Jonathan Silver has been named executive director of the Department of Energy’s loan program. He had been a co-founding managing director of Core Capital Partners, before leaving in 2008.
    Underscoring his commitment to strengthen and streamline the Department of Energy’s operations, Secretary Steven Chu today named Jonathan Silver Executive Director of the Department’s loan program office. In this role, Silver will oversee the Department’s Loan Guarantee Program as well as the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.
    Silver will report directly to Secretary Chu, helping accelerate the application review process for both programs. As Executive Director, Silver will be responsible for staffing the programs and leading origination, analysis, and negotiation, as well as managing the full range of the Department’s alternative energy investments.
  • The Obama administration has hired a Washington-based venture capitalist to speed its efforts to choose alternative-energy companies and car makers that will win loan money and loan guarantees from the federal government.
    The appointment of Jonathan Silver — managing general partner of Core Capital Partners, an investor in alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, telecommunications and software companies — makes him the latest in a growing roster of venture capitalists in positions of influence at the Department of Energy.
    The agency has become a potentially huge source of capital for companies in the renewable-energy industry, many of them relatively small companies that have been battered by the recent turmoil in the credit and private-equity markets. Some renewable-energy trade groups have complained the Energy Department isn’t moving fast enough to fund projects.
  • Venture capital (VC) funds like to invest in disruptive change, but what they really love is the stable, change-resistant nature of their own business. That is about to change. “Bits of destruction” spare no one. (The term bits of destruction was coined by Fred Wilson, of Union Square Ventures, a top-tier venture capitalist who has not been afraid to criticize his own industry and who always innovates.)
    Risk capital, of which VC is sometimes a part, is critical to innovation, which is critical to healthy economies. Therefore, this does matter to all of us. In this part 1 of a series, we will look at the four big secular waves of change hitting the VC business.
    (tags: vc)
  • Nowadays, it’s easy for developers to build fully fledged applications that run inside the browser. Keeping these applications safe from hackers is another matter.
    With this in mind, scientists at Microsoft research have unveiled a new way to secure complex Web applications by effectively cloning the user’s browser and running it remotely.
    Many of the latest Web applications split their executable code between the server and the client. The problem is detecting whether the code running on the user’s home PC has been compromised in some way. The new Microsoft solution, known as Ripley, was announced today at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Computer and Communications Security Conference in Chicago.
  • Software-as-a-service pioneer and salesforce.com (CRM) co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff credits storytelling as one of the primary reasons for his company’s rapid success. “Communication is probably the most essential part of my job,” Benioff told me in an recent interview about his new book, Behind the Cloud. The book describes how salesforce went from idea to $1 billion company in less than a decade. Whether you own a small business, run a large company, or have a great idea for The Next Big Thing, consider these seven tips from Benioff about how to shape and articulate your vision.
  • Venture capitalists and chief executives of venture-backed companies don’t exactly see eye-to-eye when it comes to their respective roles as board members. But they do generally agree on the strategic objectives for the companies they’re building, according to a new study due out today that offers a revealing look inside the boardroom.
    The “A Seat at the Table Study,” a follow-up to the 2006 survey conducted by the National Venture Capital Association and venture-capital research firm Dow Jones VentureSource, also shows that VCs and CEOs are spending more time these days in the boardroom as they weigh heavy issues in the face of a punishing economy.
    The survey (see charts below) was sent out in October and the results are based on 317 replies from venture capitalists and 211 responses from CEOs of venture-backed companies.
  • We continue to work our way through wind downs in the third part of the series from Roger Glovsky. Roger, you have the floor…
    The primary responsibility for shutting down operations and liquidating assets falls on the managers and/or owners of the business, at least until or unless the creditors or court system takes over. This could come as a nasty shock to some investors. Many angel investors or even venture capitalists enter a transaction with the intent of just contributing money. They may be surprised to learn some day that the management team for the company they invested in have all resigned and that no one is remaining to wind down the business, sell off the assets, or pay down the liabilities. Suddenly, one day the investor or owner receives a call (most likely from a creditor) asking what they plan to do with their company and how they plan to address the outstanding liabilities. Not a happy call for the investor or owner.

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