Friday FeedBack

The sun is shining, the Israelis are escalating and at least one GOP chief executive (Schwarzenegger) understands the inanity of throwing out embryos when they could be used to further scientific research. In other words, it’s time for Friday Feedback. 

First up is an extended email from Gilman Louie, the founding CEO of In-Q-Tel who left last year to co-found a private venture capital firm. He is responding some earlier notes on In-Q-Tel, and to a corresponding article I wrote for the print edition of PE Week: 

“I ran In-Q-Tel for six years and never once had the board block a deal that I had recommended. Sixty-one investments later with 77 other venture funds (with a 26% five year IRR on equity and 88% of the investment companies still in business), In-Q-Tel continues to get support from the Intelligence Community and from the venture community.In-Q-Tel’s primary mission is to support the intelligence community.Its job is not to be a financial VC but to be a strategic VC…

Many [board members] serve on public boards and understand their responsibilities of board governance. They ask tough questions and expect that management has done their due diligence. They also expect that management understand the National Security priorities, and how a potential investment fits within those priorities.

The CEO job is not a job for everyone. It requires a CEO to be a technologist, a national security expert, and a good investor.The CEO must be able to invest taxpayer dollars into startup companies that serve the national interest, while at the same time being a good investor with other venture funds. He/she must operate within two very difference cultures: Silicon Valley and the Beltway, and always be aware of Washington’s political environment. Finally, the CEO must be prepared to put his/her personal life aside and fully commit to the job at hand.

After six years as CEO, I can say that In-Q-Tel has been a fantastic experience working with the best minds in government and technology. The board, together with the employees and the agency (CIA), took an idea that few had faith in, and turned into a model for how to do strategic investing.” 

Next up are two very different responses to my column on understaffing at the New York City Comptroller’s Office. Jeremy writes: “Thank goodness someone is holding them accountable. How could they have waited so long to begin trying to fill the empty positions?” 

An anonymous reader chimes in via the Top Secret button: “Why don’t you stop being a stool pigeon for Pacific Corporate Group. The article is obviously feed to you by PCG and PCG supporters.It is sad to see you move from the real reporting and commentary you did a year ago to feeding us stories with so obvious an agenda.” There was more (and another similar email), but it was similarly off-base. Someone did, indeed, spark my interest in NYC (isn’t there always…), but he/she wasn’t ever a part of PCG. I did speak with PCG before publishing, but only to get a better understanding of the firm’s role in the City’s fund selection process. 

Finally, Sheila asks: “Didn’t you write a column earlier this year about how smart the VC firms were who stuck it out in Israel during the late 1990s, because they’re being rewarded by relative peace and prosperity today? Changed your mind yet?” 

Yes Sheila, I did and I’m beginning to. I’m also thinking – on a separate note — that Israel is the exact opposite of China. The former has lots of innovative IP but no one to whom to sell it internally. The latter has a shocking paucity of innovative IP, but tons of potential buyers. Israel has war and China has (repressive) peace. So flip a coin VCs, when deciding where to put that overseas office…