I’m sitting at TiEcon 2009 and reading the Do Web Entrepreneurs Still Need Venture Capitalists? debate on TechMeme. There’s no short answer to it, my two cent is that a lot has changed, especially in software there is a lot you can build and market today without major investment, and if you can pull it off, you are better off without VC investment. That said there are still areas in software that are more capital intensive, and it’s espcially so in many other areas, think biotech, cleantech, chips, material sciences..etc. So VC’s are not exactly an endangered species.
But they are not the Center of the Universe either – and this is why I find it ironic to read this debate @ TiEcon. This conference is supposed to cater for Entrepreneurs, and there are a number of very good sessions, there’s even a Business Bootcamp. Let’s peek in some of the sessions.
High Growth Strategies for Companies – you’d think you get to hear successful startup CEO’s who made it big, perhaps took their company public, perhaps you’d even hear God Benioff speak … but you get two VC Partners, HP and KPMG on the Panel. Nothing wrong with these guys, but I think the Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur approach would have been more credible here.
Beginner’s Guide to Marketing: Critical Tools for Young Companies in the Art of Viral Marketing – hm … the only panelist is a VC Partner. Couldn’t TiE have found a great Marketing VP?
Best Practices In Cash Flow Management – you’d think it’s about bootstrapping, being frugal, so you’d expect startup CEO’s who have survived and thrived on a shoe-string (I know a few…). But why are the two panelists from Visa and Intuit?
Getting Your First Few Customers and Building Your Sales Organization – great, this will likely be war stories from a succesful VP of Sales. Wait: Panelist from UC Berkeley? (yawn…)
Starting a Company in this Economy: Yes, You Can! The Lean Startup Guide. You’ve probably guessed by now – yes, the one Panelist (btw, it’s not a Panel is all you have is one speaker) is from HaaS /Stanford.
Anyway, the session here is over, time to mingle in the crowd, so let’s wrap it up… my point is: TiE, SVASE and all these “entrepreneur-focused” organizations should wake up, realize how times have changed, and engage the entrepreneurs themselves, instead of deliver VC, Corporate Management and Academia style speeches at these events. They better do it before they become obsolete.