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Two Thumbs Down for Green Tech

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PALO ALTO, Calif. — What’s the next big thing to drive the Silicon Valley innovation
engine? Don’t count on green tech any time soon, at least according to two prominent
investors here during a panel discussion focused on “Silicon Valley in the New

Two prominent Silicon Valley investors explain why green tech is over-hyped, and point out other opportunities elsewhere, including social media.

“I expect a lot of disappointment. Green tech is over-hyped and over-funded,” said
Norm Fogelsong, a general partner with Institutional Venture Partners. And it’s not like
IVP, an early investor in Twitter, isn’t used to taking some risk.

Fogelson sa

id he’s received about 50 solar proposals looking for investment but said
he’s waiting for one to show it has at least $10 million in revenue, a pittance by tech
investor standards.

Fred Wang, a general partner at Trinity Ventures, said he’s bullish on Silicon
Valley’s prospects.

“I think Silicon Valley will be a source of innovation and at the leading edge for
years to come,” said Wang on the panel Thursday at the AlwaysOn Summit. But he agreed
with some of Fogelson’s comments on green tech. “The hype preceded reality,” said Wang.
“There are some fundamentally new technologies that have come out of this space, like
renewables and how we use petroleum products. It even affects enterprise software.”

But Wang said breakthroughs in new materials science and chemistry aren’t clear. “You
don’t know if it’s going to take six months or six years. It feels a lot like biotech

Which is not to say Wang isn’t interested in long-term investments. He said most
people tend to overestimate the impact of new technology in a two-year time frame and
underestimate how well it might do over a ten-year period.

“We’re in the social media space where it’s the very early innings,” said Wang. “We’re
not near the end of the innovation curve we look pretty broadly across digital media and
internet services.”

Fogelson admitted it was a little hard for his firm to “get” Twitter’s value
initially. “It looked like it gave you friend to friend text messaging, but as we talked
more about it, we saw it as a very real time community … a new form of
journalism.” He mentioned how Twitterers were able to alert people in India to stay away
from certain streets during a terrorist attack.

Markets and disruption

Dan Scheinman, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Media Solutions
Group, discussed how the networking giant is expanding its product portfolio. “We’ve
always been about markets and disruptions,” said Scheinman.

Cisco is banking on one of those disruptive opportunities being video. In March, Cisco

bought Pure Digital Technologies
, makers of the Flip Video line of portable video
cameras, in a $590 million stock deal.

Scheinman took note of
the iPhone’s success
, but said there is plenty of opportunity in mobile.

“Content should lead the device. Someone has to figure out the content consumers want
and go from there. “We believe mobile video is part of the answer,” said Scheinman. “Our
bet is increasingly around video tied to the network and we’ll see what we can do.”

Adobe’s Chief Software Architect, Tom Malloy, said the company is looking deliver
content from the various social networks and other sources to a wide variety of

“What you really want is to access all that content on different screen sizes that
offer different ways for consumers to interact,” said Malloy. “And do it in a way that
makes it efficient for publishers who perhaps don’t even know what devices their content
is going to. It’s a really tough problem.”

Malloy noted ongoing advances Adobe is making with its PDF format and Flash

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