Web 2.0 Summit: Roger McNamee and Ram Shriram

For me, the best session of the event was today, a panel with Roger McNamee and Ram Shriram. Roger represented the viewpoint of large, private-equity “transformation” funds such as Silver Lake Partners as well as his current venture, Elevation Partners. Ram represented the viewpoint of early-stage, small-investment angels, and is the founder of Sherpalo.

While both were very engaged, fun, and interesting, McNamee was a veritable soundbite machine, so by default I’ll quote him and indicate Ram’s comments with an -RS. The quotes are paraphrased from my handwritten notes.

  • “We connect content businesses directly to their audiences.”
  • “Which 2 of the 100 things in your inbox really matter … whoever can help solve that problem will get really rich.”
  • “The barriers to entry for Internet businesses have never been lower.” -RS
  • “If you take $5M when you only need $1M you will make mistakes.” -RS
  • “Traditional venture funds are pretty big, looking to invest $25M along a company’s lifecycle and they want to that in partnership with another venture firm as well … [so $50M invested in total] … that means investments get directed to companies who need that much money, not necessarily the most attractive ideas.”
  • “I think in the future it will be hard to get YouTube-like exits. I believe there will be fewer >$1B exits and many sub-$100M exits. That puts huge IRR pressure on the traditional VCs.” -RS
  • “There are two really cool opportunites going on right now: (1) user-generated content, and there’s not much servicing of that going on, and (2) time — if you have 100 things in your inbox and 3-4 inboxes, then helping people figure out what’s important will be critical.”
  • “The average newspaper has an operating profit of 24%. Newspapers could be growing faster if they were investing, but they’re not. They’re harvesting.”
  • “There have been only two [Internet] IPOs in the past 12 months: Shutterfly and e-Health-Insurance.” – RS
  • “What matters is the size of the pie, not the size of your slice. Each time I have created a business I have had a smaller slice and brought in more resources to help. At T. Rowe Price, it was just me, 1 partner. At Integral, it was 2 partners: me and Kleiner-Perkins. At Silver Lake, we had 4 partners. Now at Evolution, we have 5. Don’t worry about your slice and worry about the size of the pie.”
  • John Doerr did pen-based computing; he’s had bad days.”
  • “DRM means doesn’t really matter … fans, real fans, do not want to rip-off their favorite artists.”
  • “As an entrepreneur, if you have an idea that you’re so passionate about that all you can think about is that idea, then go do it, but if you have another idea that keeps distracting you from the first one, then go do it, instead … entrepreneurship is not for lightweights.”

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