Jim Clark: “VCs Take Too Much Ownership for What They Bring to the Business”

As many readers already know, billionaire Jim Clark pretty much gave the Valley the heave-ho after cofounding Silicon Graphics, Netscape, MyCFO and Healtheon before and during the go-go dot.com years.

Clark first headed to Florida to develop luxury condos in Miami a decade ago, a move that  he “wouldn’t do again.” He now spends a fair amount of his time in Sydney, Australia, where among his newest properties is an $8 milliion waterfront apartment that he and his Australian supermodel wife Kristy Hinze closed on this week, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Recently, Clark, who’d returned to the Valley to accept an award, emailed with the San Jose Mercury News about his former life in California, as well as what’s right and not so right with the tech world today. He told reporter Scott Duke Harris that among the reasons he left the Bay Area in 1999 was that he’d “tired of starting companies,” as well as that he “didn’t want to be a conventional venture capitalist because I have always held that occupation in low regard, even though some of my very good friends are VCs.” The reason, he said: “They take too much ownership for what they bring to the business.”

Clark also called California “poorly managed” (hard to argue with that), and “too expensive,” including owing to its “ridiculous” taxes. (Presumably, Clark wasn’t talking about property taxes, whose rates were capped in a 1978 proposition that, 30 years later, has helped bring the state to its knees.)

As for that little detour into real-estate? Clark downplays the chapter, saying that Florida real estate “has collapsed no more than California’s. [Business partner] Tom Jermoluk [who was a former Netscape and Excite@Home executive, as well as a GP at Kleiner Perkins for about two seconds] and I made a very good profit in our development activities in Miami. I wouldn’t do it again, but we got out before most of the damage of the past year.”

Clark also speaks freely about his views on President Obama, saying that “Obama is an exceptionally gifted leader, but he’s spending too much money bailing out the financial world — who, along with the ‘regulators,’ got us into the mess — and not enough on higher education and research. Plus, paying off our debt is going to prove impossible without devaluing the dollar.”

Adds Clark, “U.S. government funding is essential to the health of places like Stanford, and without the vitality of such places, where else do we get a Google, Yahoo, SGI, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and the myriad other companies that sprang from there? I think we’re in pretty deep trouble, and those eight damaging years under ‘W’ will likely prove to be the turning point in the history of U.S. technological leadership.”

It’s a great interview, one I wish Clark had given me directly. (I’ve tried, alas.) To read the rest, click here.