Coachella for VCs: VentureScape 2014

Savvy investors, both at financial investment firms and corporate investment groups know that startups and fast-growth companies bring the most innovative ideas to the market, opening new sectors and creating thousands of new jobs annually.

It used to be that U.S.-based startups had this distinction to themselves.  Today the work has gone global, with Israel, India, Russia and China evolving into major centers of technology innovation and job growth.

Globalization hasn’t come without a cost, however. As the Internet brings low-cost technologies to billions of people, cybersecurity threats have increased exponentially. The opportunities for evildoers to disrupt commerce, expose holes in national security systems and threaten privacy has also grown at an unprecedented rate. Tech companies are responding to this development by ramping up their vigilance and even bringing in global security experts like Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who recently joined the board of Dropbox.

At the same time, many global corporations are stepping up their venture capital investing as well. That’s why General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt has made venture investing a top GE priority through initiatives like GE Ventures, the company’s VC arm, and Energy Technology Ventures (a joint effort between General Electric, NRG Energy, and ConocoPhillips).

These trends will be debated and discussed in-depth at the upcoming May NVCA VentureScape conference. As the chairperson for the event, I know that the venture industry has embraced the challenges – and opportunities – created by these changes.

It’s a good time to talk about these developments too, because the venture industry is exploding. In the U.S. alone, VCs raised more than $9.6 billion in new commitments from investors in the first quarter of 2014 to address these emerging markets.

At the same time, VCs invested almost $10 billion in startups in the first quarter of 2014. There are now 30 venture-backed private companies based in the U.S., Europe and China valued at more than $1 billion each, several of which are actually valued as high as $4 billion and many more to come in the next few months

Bringing together all these innovation-creating community members in one place is the mission of the NVCA’s VentureScape.  I think of it like venture capital’s “Coachella.” At this conference, entrepreneurs and VCs are meeting to discuss the latest opportunities for investing. This entire ecosystem including these entrepreneurs, marketers, human resources professionals and attorneys are playing increasingly vital roles. It’s exciting as these ecosystem members will join VCs, limited partners and corporate venture capitalists at VentureScape for two days of conversation and networking about the evolving world of innovation.

VentureScape attendees will also hear about cybersecurity threats and other pressing global issues from a former Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who will give the VentureScape keynote, and Jeffrey Immelt, who will talk about why GE is fast-tracking its innovation initiatives.

To break down barriers and speed innovation to the market, VentureScape will also include Office Hours sessions, during which 125 promising startups will meet with VCs to refine their visions and talk about how to get funded and into the marketplace as soon as possible. Claudia Munce, Managing Director of IBM’s Venture Capital Group, is hosting these sessions.  The aspiring Office Hours entrepreneurs are being flown to San Francisco by American Airlines.

Innovation can’t wait – and it doesn’t stop. For all the people involved in making innovation happen in the global venture world, the place to gather on May 13-14 in San Francisco at VentureScape. For the world to both benefit from these advances and make sure they don’t threaten security and safety, it’s essential that players throughout the startup ecosystem work together in a constructive manner.

http://venturescape.nvca.org/