Explaining Southern California's economy

DeBord Report Live: Felix Salmon edition

A sign announcing Facebook IPO is flashe


The Facebook IPO announced on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Did it's inability to live up to the hype doom the IPO revival?

We welcomed Reuters finance blogger — and recent Loeb Award winner — Felix Salmon to the Crawford Family Forum last Thursday to talk IPOs, as part of my "DeBord Report Live" series. Specifically, whether the IPO is D-E-A-D. Felix has lately been making a very strong case against the traditional IPO, in Wired and elsewhere. He's outlined an alternative model, of sorts. So we got to engage in some lively conversation on the topic, and we enjoyed some excellent contributions and questions from the audience.

We also got more mileage out of the three terrible slides I grabbed to contribute to the conversation than I ever thought possible.

An interesting product of the evening's discussion was our kind of shared realization that the business of Silicon Valley (broadly defined, but basically the Bay Area tech scene) isn't necessarily the creation of new companies — it's the creation of venture capitalists. 


Why big venture capital is failing badly

Paul Sakuma/AP

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg poses at Facebook headquarters in 2007. The company has since become a rare great investment for big-time venture capital.

The Kauffman Foundation has released a new paper about the state of its own considerable historic investment in venture capital funds. The title, "We Have Met the Enemy...and He Is Us," says it all about the key revelation: that as an investor, Kauffman has made a terrible, terrible mistake putting money into VC. The foundation, which is endowed to the tune of $1.85 billion, is blaming itself for the sorry state of its VC returns, which have fallen off significantly from their 1990s highs. And it's demanding changes in the way that investors approach VC:

The data we’ve reviewed in this paper demonstrate that VCs are good capitalists. They act in ways that are consistent with maximizing their economic profits. [Investors] seem to be less-good capitalists, because they repeatedly fail to negotiate key economic terms that have a significant impact on their investment returns.