Somewhere right around the time you’re reading this, odds are a headline will be crowing, “Google’s $20 Billion IPO Ignites New Internet Boom.” Here we go again? From a certain point of view-say, that of young college grads and hopeful entrepreneurs bubbling over with bright ideas-let’s hope so.
But if we didn’t already know it, what Google’s epic launch surely shows is that venture capitalists are the consummate alchemists of the information age. Algorithms bubbling up from a university computer department don’t on their own transform into a household verb-much less into a company spewing profits. Increasing the (slim) odds of this happening is where VCs come in-and few do it as well as Michael Moritz.
Moritz is a general partner at Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, CA, where conference room walls are lined with mementos from three decades of fueling Silicon Valley startups-including infotech icons like Apple, Cisco, and Oracle. Together with another of the valley’s VC heroes-John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers-Moritz was tapped in June 1999 to join Google’s six-member board, which met around a Ping-Pong table. (Between them, the two-often rival-VC firms put up $25 million for an undisclosed share of the upstart search engine company, then still only six months out of a Menlo Park garage.) Doerr’s claims to fame included Compaq, Lotus, Netscape, and Amazon.com. Moritz was lower profile, but he had an ace in his hand: four years earlier, he had written a $1 million check to underwrite another quirky Internet “navigation” company with the curious name of Yahoo!
Will Google follow Yahoo! this spring with a spectacular Wall Street debut? Moritz and the rest of the company’s Mountain View, CA-based team aren’t saying. But the Welsh-born former journalist with a history degree from the University of Oxford and a Wharton MBA was happy to talk with Technology Review about the venture business, the perils of startups, and how to turn ideas into billion-dollar markets. I met him at Sequoia Capital’s offices off Menlo Park’s famous VC warren of Sand Hill Road, overlooking the Stanford University campus.