Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
US VCs euphoric; UK VCs gloomy. Why?
While the UK VCs talk about a constipated investment cycle due to lack of IPOs, the US VCs are talking boom-time again.
“The investment cycle is constipated at the moment,” said Jamie Urquhart, at the recent Silicon2010 seminar in Bath, “there’s Icera, Picochip and Plastic Logic all with over $100 million of investment and we need an exit so that the money will come back into the industry.”
“There is a problem [with a lack of] European tech IPOs but in the US there’s been 40 this year and that’s three times the number last year,” said Rupert Baines, marketing vp of picoChip.
Over in San Francisco at a VC meeting, Fred Wilson, of Union Square Ventures said this week: “People are getting crazy. In the early stage market, two-, three-person teams are getting $30, $40, $50 million valuations.”
At the same meeting, John Doerr, partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Silicon Valley’s premier VC company, said: ” We’re in another bubble — or boom — and it’s an exciting time.”
The difference between US euphoria and UK constipation could be attributed to understanding market requirements.
“We don’t seem to have the blend of technology and product marketing – how you listen to customers and what their needs are – that was a problem 30 years ago and it’s a problem now,” said Jamie Urquhart.
That strikes home. After all:
1. MediaTek, with much inferior technology, made a vastly more successful assault on the Shenzai handset market than Icera;
2. PlasticLogic’s decision to go up against Amazon and Sony in the end-product e-reader market seems horribly misconceived;
3. And to focus picoChip’s widely applicable generic technology to just two areas – Wimax and femtocell – has denied it the freedom of opportunism.
The flexibility and freedom to pounce when a start-up sees a promising new emerging market area are advantages which start-ups should never relinquish.
They need those freedoms so they can take a ride on a super-growth new product area as and when it unexpectedly rears its head.
But VCs, in their wisdom, can insist on start-ups sticking rigidly to executing a pre-formed business plan – and that can prevent start-ups taking opportunistic advantage of an unexpected new growth area.
Tomorrow morning: The Ten Best Locations For R&DTags: inferior technology, investment cycle, mediatek, person teams, urquhart