Tipping Over Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell may have a large fan base, large hair and a long list of best-selling titles. But one thing the quick-read, non-fiction author is not getting a lot of lately is much admiration from VCs.

Surveying the blogosphere, prolific members of the venture community have been rather critical of Gladwell, whose latest piece in The New Yorker last month explores the nature of entrepreneurship. While VCs may still be buying and reading his books, they remain skeptical of his hypotheses.

“For years, I’ve felt quite alone in my opinion that Malcolm Gladwell is a fake,” writes David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners, perhaps the author’s most outspoken critic in the venture community. Of Gladwell’s book, “Blink,” Cowan says it “attacks reason itself, threatening to sap our collective intelligence for years to come.”

Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners admits to enjoying “Blink,” but says he was less enthusiastic about Gladwell’s next book, “Outliers,” which delves into the nature of success.

“I confess this book did not resonate with me or strike me as relevant for the VC-entrepreneur dance,” Bussgang writes. “It was intellectually interesting, but not professionally illuminating.”

Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures is also critical of Gladwell’s persuasive skills, especially after the autor debated fellow writer Chris Anderson over the latter’s “Free: The Future of Radical Price.” “The debate was entertaining but not very satisfying,” Burnham writes. “Malcolm’s examples were too narrow and not compelling.”

Still, criticisms aren’t showing any discernable effect in lessening Gladwell’s staying power on best-seller lists. “Outliers” and “What the Dog Saw,” a collection of essays, are among the top 10 on the New York Times’ Best Seller List.

Maybe He Was Put Off by ‘Jersey Shore’

From public service to private equity and back again. That was the tidy career path recently offered to Bob Grady, who once worked in the Office of Management and Budget under Bush 41 and then spent more than nine years as a venture capitalist and growth stage investor with The Carlyle Group.

Grady recently declined an offer by newly elected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to serve as the Garden State’s next treasurer, an appointed position.

Grady is a Jersey boy, having grown up in the same town as Christie, and he began his career in state politics. More recently, he agreed to co-chair a budgetary task force for Christie, and could eventually serve on some sort of economic advisory council.

So why did Grady turn down a chance to help salvage his home state’s financial woes? One reason is that Grady last October agreed to serve as a managing director with Cheyenne Capital Fund, a Jackson Hole, Wyo.-based private equity firm whose $350 million debut vehicle is designed to make direct and fund-of-funds investments.

Another rumor floating around is that Grady, who once served as chair of the National Venture Capital Association, will soon take on a venture partner role in Silicon Valley and a senior advisor role with a private equity firm.

Another explanation points to location. Grady might be from New Jersey, but that was a long time ago. While working at Carlyle, he was based in San Francisco and kept a vacation home in Jackson Hole. He’s now switched primary residences and perhaps both are more appealing than Trenton, N.J.

Our wild theory: Grady didn’t want to be associated with a state that has recently gained notoriety because of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and the antics of cast members with nicknames like “Snooki,” “The Situation” and “JWoww.”

Grady declined to comment.

Sequoia Partner Insults Graying Entrepreneurs

Is there an age bias against the elderly in Silicon Valley?

Doug Leone, managing partner of Sequoia Capital, recently noted that his firm “focuses on younger entrepreneurs because people over 30 aren’t innovative.” But don’t worry if you’re a so-called senior citizen. You still might make a decent manager, Leone added.

Leone, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was speaking at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., for MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Annually, the school sponsors a trek out west for students and alum to visit Silicon Valley.

Leone later tried clarifying his remarks to the San Jose Mercury News, saying he was “trying to light a fire” under the students in the audience.

“We’re seeing younger and younger people in the social media spaces,” Leone told the newspaper. “But if you’re building a brand new combustion engine, chances are you’re not going to be 19 and doing that.”

We have a feeling the AARP isn’t going to buy Leone’s explanation when if he ever applies for membership.