Remember when “60 Minutes” was lauded as one of the most esteemed newsmagazines on American television?
Well, Vinod Khosla is not buying that.
Last month, Khosla wrote a 2,000-word open letter to “60 Minutes” in response to their recent “Cleantech Crash” report, which featured lengthy interviews with the VC as well as a tour of one of his cleantech portfolio companies. In the report, which aired on CBS on Jan. 5, correspondent Lesley Stahl described how after billions of dollars in losses and government subsidies, the cleantech sector has became a “dirty word.” The report quotes a former Energy Department researcher who says that Silicon Valley investors and Internet geniuses, like Khosla, underestimated the complexity of the industry, and came at the problem with arrogance.
Khosla said that there are numerous errors in the piece, that the journalists who made it were practicing “agenda-driven bastardization of news reporting,” and that the story “grossly misrepresented the state of the sustainable energy industry.”
The letter is posted on the Khosla Ventures website. In it, Khosla tells CBS:
”You fundamentally do not understand how innovation works with platitudes like, ”for every 10 startups, nine go under”. At Khosla Ventures, we invest in companies that have high failure probabilities, but the wins far outweigh the losses. I clearly explained that we expect 50-percent of our portfolio companies to make money and today, our overall cleantech portfolio is profitable.”
A couple of weeks after the report initially ran on CBS, “60 Minutes” acknowledged that letters and comments were still coming in about it, but Kholsa said the show has ignored his letter. He said that ”60 Minutes” selectively chose what facts to present, and ignored successes, such as the cleantech company LightSail, which counts Khosla and Bill Gates as investors.
Khosla concludes his letter with a quotation from Robert F. Kennedy: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Suennen to exit Psilos Group
Lisa Suennen – a friend to VCJ and someone who likes to snap pics of her pets and inanimate objects on Instagram, as do we – told us last month that she has decided to leave Psilos Group after 15 years with the firm.
Suennen, who served as a partner at the healthcare-focused firm since its founding in 1998, headed up Psilos’ West Coast office in Corte Madera, Calif. She said she plans to next serve as a consultant to venture firms, startups and corporations as she evaluates new opportunities. She described her parting with Psilos as amicable.
Source: Photo courtesy of the Psilos Group
We also like Suennen because she’s willing to dispense her healthcare wisdom and comment on a multitude of VCJ stories in recent years, such as VC interest in cannabis-related startups, healthcare IT and Obamacare.
Last year, Suennen and David Shaywitz, a director of strategic and commercial planning at the biotech company Theravance, gathered together their blogs and articles into a book entitled: “Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology?”
Communication is key
In a long, but compelling Q&A interview featured in “The Guardian” last month, Maha Ibrahim, general partner of Canaan Partners, talked about what VCs look for when investing, entrepreneurship and why she doesn’t like the concept of stealth – because no company can be built in a vacuum.
Her advice for female entrepreneurs?
“What’s most important as a leader is that they are effective – communicating effectively, effective in getting people to follow their own vision,” Ibrahim told “The Guardian. ”And however someone chooses to communicate that in a way that makes them effective is what works for them.”
She added: “That said, in startups in particular, the dogmatic, autocratic leadership style happens not to work, because they tend to be much more collaborative. Also, as I mentioned before, you have to be nimble and you have to take input from outside. You have to be driven and have conviction. But at the same time, your effectiveness can come from being open-minded.”