SXSW: Something Ventured Directors Talk Venture Capital Early Days
CREDIT: Geller/Goldfine Productions
AUSTIN, Texas Through their gambles on Apple, Intel, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and a raft of other high-tech companies, venture capitalists have changed America's economic landscape. Of course, this wasn't always been the case. Before the early 1960s, innovators had almost no sources of money to bridge that critical gap between basic research and developing a consumer product. The new documentary Something Ventured looks back at the early days of venture capital and explores how this radically new kind of funding built the titans of Silicon Valley.
Before the premiere of their movie at the South by Southwest film, music and interactive technology conference, co-directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine sat down with InnovationNewsDaily to discuss the challenges in tackling a dry-sounding subject like venture capital and what they learned in the process.
InnovationNewsDaily: Coming off a movie about ballet ("Ballets Russes"), venture capital seems like an odd choice. What made you guys decide to take on such a seemingly dry subject?
Daniel Geller: Well, we were asked to do it by the producer, Paul Holland. But we soon found how interesting the topic was. Some of these old companies that created the technological world , they almost didn't get off the ground.
Dayna Goldfine: When Paul came to us, our first assignment was to interview these guys and see if it was interesting. It was. It was interesting that venture capital didn't always exist. And it was shocking that some of the biggest companies in the world almost didn't happen.
INO: How did you put together a movie about economics in a way that would appeal to a lay audience but also ring true with the people who actually know the subject?
Geller: After the first couple of interviews, I knew it wasn't dry. We concentrated on the symbiotic relationship between VC and the entrepreneurs. In some cases, it felt like we were making a buddy movie.
Goldfine: When I was in college we didn't have personal computers, and the first time I saw an Apple, it was strange. This brought me back to that, and I brought that wonder to the film.
INO: What has changed the most since the early days of VC and the present?
Geller: The scale. When VC began, there was $50 million in the whole U.S. for VC. Now there are single funds worth billions of dollars.
INO: What did you discover during the filming of the movie that surprised you the most?
Geller: The one thing that really took me by surprise was that Mike Markkula was the third man at Apple. He wrote the business plan because the two Steves [Wozniak and Jobs] didn't get around to that. How is that not common knowledge?
Goldfine: For me, it was shocking when Moore [Intel founder Gordon Moore] looked into the camera and said, You just didn't start your own company in those days. Also, there were no stock options given out. These standard business practices were so unimaginable.
INO: Many people, from the president on down, have claimed that America faces an innovation crisis. Did you learn anything from making this movie or from the early days of VC that could help solve that problem?
Geller: We may be back in a hardware phase for innovation and VC. When you're talking about green energy or medical technology, you need things that need to be built. That means you need a lot more money than you need for software. To innovate, we need more money and to risk more with that money.
Goldfine: You can't have innovation without education. All of the venture capitalists we interviewed, to a person, said they wanted this film to inspire the next entrepreneur, not the next venture capitalist. Now many of the people we interviewed are giving their money to education initiatives.
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