I just picked up USA as a Restart on Early Stage VC. Very well done. Provocative.
“The USA looks like a classic Restart ‘opportunity.’ What happens in a restart? First, existing stakeholders get wiped out; The $7T of ‘new money’ is accomplishing that. Second, management gets changed. November 4 did that. We now have new managers who have a four year ‘vest’ and, probably, a ~100 day cliff. They don’t have a new incentive model – that’s a problem – and we have a tier of managers, called Congress, closely resembling the old group, except for some changes at the edges among the most junior members.
“Managing this as a VC Restart is more than just throwing money and new executives at the situation and hoping it gets better. Success requires that you have a point of view of about how to rig the situation to win. Winning here means more than growth. It also means productivity. Productivity is the profit margin in an economy. A VC restart wouldn’t invest to do more of the same. It would invest to grow the kernel of value. I won’t get into what’s the ‘kernel of value’ in USA, Inc. That’s a debate unto itself. I simply point out that capital allocation should follow a market mechanism, like an auction, rather than a budgeting process like a bailout.
“A VC Restart would also look for alliance partners to strengthen the offering. Perhaps a merger with another competitor with complementary skills, e.g. China? Merging with China might resemble YHOO+ MSFT – distance and culture conspiring against success. We might also argue about valuation, as there are dramatic differences in growth rates between enterprises. Perhaps a more logical partner would be Canada. Proximity, history, and language work in our combined favor. Canada brings natural resources and we bring ‘value-added processing.’ (We may have to spinoff Quebec to make this work.)
“Above all, a VC restart would begin with a re-definition of the core competencies of the Enterprise. What they once were or might have been is irrelevant. What is paramount is what they are now and how they can be organized to create value in a larger competitive environment. A ‘Green Manhattan Project or Green Marshall Plan’ might be one such initiative. Another might be an initiative to reinvigorate biological research to find a genomic equivalent of Moore’s Law and become a dominant and low cost producer of therapeutics as the world ages. I am sure there are several more big ideas out there.
“The current discussions (December 2008) in Congress and the Press resemble the discussions original investors have about failing companies. How big should the bridge loans be? What are the terms? How deep are the cuts? Are they deep enough? Who’s fault is this?
“Like it or not, we are all now VCs. We have a stake in the Restart of the USA. The discussion has to turn to What is the Affirmative Plan of Record and How will we know if the Plan is working? Let’s start asking these questions from our new executive team. “
That’s by Peter Rip, a partner in Crosslink Capital, on Early Stage VC.