Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Views on Goverment subsidies from Vinod and UK

from Library House latest newsletter:

Keep an open mind on subsidies 

For many entrepreneurs, the mere mention of subsidies has them shaking their heads in disbelief. Vinod Khosla, a founder of Sun Microsystems and a serial entrepreneur, said he viewed companies that rely on government backing with great suspicion. But Mr Khosla, speaking at Library House’s Essential Cleantech conference last month, did entertain the possibility of limited subsidies for very new industries.

The fact is, like it or not, governments are getting increasingly involved in venture capital. They recognise the positive effect that well-directed investment can have on jobs, GDP growth and, importantly on public morale.

For this reason the most prolific European investors, according to VenturePedia, are High-Tech Gründerfonds Management, which partners with the German government, and funds run by Scottish Enterprise, which are also state-backed. High-Tech Gründerfonds Management has made 49 investments in the last year while Scottish Enterprise funds have made 45. The average deal size involving these organisations is less than €1m, indicating they are operating at a micro level, targeting companies that are below the radar of most venture capitalists.

There are also a number of hybrid investment companies, that are ostensibly privately-owned but whose funds are swelled by government money. One of these, Bridges Ventures, the venture capital group set up by Sir Ronald Cohen to invest in deprived parts of the UK, will this week make its 27th investment, lifting to £26.5m the amount of capital it has spent since being set up in 2002.

Bridges raised £40m for its first fund, including £20m from the UK government, with capital also provided by Sir Ronald's charitable trust, as well as private equity executives Jeremy Coller, Nigel Doughty and Jon Moulton, retailer Tom Singh, and listed private equity group 3i. But its second fund of £50m had no government money.

Although micro financing may look unattractive to many VCs given the amount of due diligence that is required to complete a deal, this may be a false impression. Phil Newborough, the chief executive of Bridges claims his funds are outperforming the rest of the VC market. That should, at the very least, give the sceptics food for thought.

I'll comment some more as I write about goverment involvment/support on the Irish scene and startup eco-system.


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