Government Doesn’t have to Lead, but Align

The Wall Street Journal had a nice story today about the shift in mindset in the Venture Capital sector from investing in startup companies dealing wit the Internet to those dealing with clean energy. It came in the form of an interview with two top Kleiner Perkins partners, the legendary John Doerr, and Ray Lane.

What’s interesting from the political perspective is that it shows that many actors in the private sector and the world outside of politics already are moving headlong towards 21st century solutions to our problems. Like the smart money of Silicon Valley.

Smart progressive government needs to help catalyze those efforts and align them. It needs to draw them together, and highlight the best of them, building popular consensus around a clear way forward. Government also needs to fill in the gaps, stimulate efforts and solutions where none exist now.

What we don’t need is some one candidate to step forth with all the answers. That can’t happen, and waiting for it paralyzes our politics and government. Washington and old style politics in general is so caught up in commander-in-chief mode. Look to the president for all the answers. Wait for the guy at the apex of the hierarchy to give orders. That is so 20th century. The future is all about enabling and coordinating many, many actors.

Anyhow, back to  the WSJ story, which you can read in full here (they generously opened up the link to those without an online subscription). Here is a choice section to pull you in:

WSJ: Why is there so much interest in clean tech now?

Mr. Lane: We have always said that we do well by focusing on sectors, not companies. So when we saw changes happening in the semiconductor and microprocessor industry, and when we saw changes happening around the Internet, [we knew] these were major sectoral changes that occurred that would essentially displace the economics that were in place at the time.

The Internet is an example. Billions were made, billions were lost. You take that cataclysmic change that occurred over the last 10 years and you say, 'This looks like it could occur in energy.' Now we are dealing not with a sector of billions, but we're dealing with a sector of trillions. The venture business does well if it gets involved early because we're willing to take the risk.

It's a natural thing for Silicon Valley. We like very large markets. It doesn't make sense to go into small markets. It is huge sectoral change in one of the biggest industries on Earth, if not the biggest, and then it's being driven by technology, hot technology change.

Does this look to be bigger than the Internet or as big?

Mr. Lane: This is bigger than the Internet, I think by an order of magnitude. Maybe two.

If you thought the 1990s was a ride, hold on for this one….

Peter Leyden