It was “earnest,” said David Jones of Chrysalis Ventures, who got himself invited to the DC meeting yesterday, and extremely well organized. It also appeared to be crash-proof — not like the state dinner for the Indian prime minister last month that was crashed by the couple from Virginia who wanted to meet President Obama. Jones said he was asked for his driver’s license at the gate to the White House and had no opportunity to try to talk his way in.
Jones found Obama “extremely impressive and magnetic,” projecting a sense of calm, competence and confidence, as he would expect a politician at that level to be. What will result from the summit, though, is hard to say.
Education and cash for caulking — rewarding people for having energy efficient homes — were popular topics, and Jones expects to see more programs to boost jobs, such as offering tax credits to small businesses that hire people.
But the concerns of the venture capital industry — excessive regulation on companies that go public, increased taxation of capital gains and immigration reform to help find people to fill all those new jobs — “are understood, but pretty small and far down in the stack of things being looked at,” Jones said. “We’re all going to need to work very hard to explain the importance of innovation and risk taking.”
One problem, according to Jones — and it’s reflected in the desire to tax carried interest at venture capital and private equity firms — is that “anger at the banks is still quite visceral. You get a bunch of politicos together like this and there’s a ton of anger — both a genuine voicing of populist anger and a real lack of appreciation of the uncertainty that results when (investors) don’t know what their tax rates are going to be and worry they may get penalized.
“That’s a big problem for the venture side. Everybody wants to talk about how to get banks lending again, but that has nothing to with the venture side of the economy. We’re focusing on companies that shouldn’t be and haven’t been bankable, companies that will lose money for several years while they’re building what they’re trying to build. Yes, you need credit, but don’t forget that you have to have equity and capital that does not have to be repaid to start novel and high-growth businesses.”
CBS News wasn’t impressed with the jobs summit. Here’s their coverage, which some wag on YouTube has called “Obama’s Jobs Summit PR Stunt.”
David, do you see yourself in the crowd?