Chopra Addresses Exit Concerns at TIA Conference

Tech companies face daunting challenges in the slumping economy from tightened credit markets. So what’s a young startup to do?

How about going after some of the more than $800 billion in President Obama’s stimulus package. That is at least one option that many VCs and startup entrepreneurs are wondering about, says Ajay Chopra, general partner of Trinity Ventures.

Chopra spoke this morning at TIA’s Winter Small Business Symposium held at Cisco Systems headquarters in San Jose, Calif. Chopra was part of a panel called “Raising Capital in Tough Economic Times for Small-Mid Size Tech Businesses.” Joining him on the panel was Eric Zimits, managing director of Granite Ventures, and Michel Wendell, general partner of Nexit Ventures. The panel was moderated by Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat.

Speaking on the side of the conference, Chopra said whether startups can access the stimulus package is big question that no one has the answer to right now.

But he says it would be a great help if venture firms can have some of that cash funneled to the startups since startups are what “help drive the economy.”

For now, he admits that because the capital markets are drid up, VCs are having to be cautious and having to evaluate different funding opportunities and liquidity options.

“We’re looking for capital efficient startups that will ride this thing out,” he says.

SIDENOTE #1: Just so happens that the TIA Winter Small Business Symposium is being held at the headquarters of Cisco. The company is expected to release it earnings later today and there’s a buzz about that among some of the conference attendees. As one person said to me: “As Cisco goes, so goes the economy.”

SIDENOTE # 2: Speaking of Cisco, I was worried about accessing a Wi-Fi network and whether I should even bother bringing my laptop. But it was a no-brainer and I’m online as I write this. I guess it was just wishful thinking that I’d have to do a blog post at a nearby Starbucks instead.

SIDENOTE # 3: Cisco is based here on Tasman Drive in San Jose, Calif. In around 1992, I did some work for the American Electronics Association, which is located down the street in the TechMart building. Back then, this area was dotted with mustard grass meadows, but then Cisco expanded in the mid-1990s and many other tech companies began to sprawl and pave over the fields. In a sign of the times, today, on my drive in, I saw a few vacant buildings and lots of unused parking lots. The “For Lease” banners seemed to outnumber the street signs.