Since 1985, DFJ’s core funds have raised $5 billion to fuel entrepreneurial companies around the world. As a principal of the venture capital firm, Steve Jurvetson is recognized for an uncanny knack for seeing “around the corner” to discover the next truly disruptive technology. His investments in atypical sectors for venture capitalists such as automotive, satellite technology and industrial automation reflect his optimism about the power of technical innovation to transform industries and lives in many ways.Among DFJ's many, many investments is Nervana, recently purchased by Intel to take on NVIDIA:
I recently talked with Steve about the philosophy behind his investment strategy and his vision for collaborative robotics.
Q: You’re well-known as an early investor in some of the most innovative companies of our time, most recently in Tesla and SpaceX. Why do you choose the companies you do?
A: It comes down to the question of how I can live a purposeful life. I believe that technology has the potential to change the fate of nations, industries and companies, as well as the context of our lives. I want to help build the companies that take the risks needed to make those kinds of real changes in the world.
The entrepreneurs at the helms of the kinds of companies I look for are pursuing a greater mission than profit arbitrage. Elon Musk has said that as long as he is CEO of Tesla, profits are not the priority; it’s sustainable energy. That kind of leadership attracts the best and brightest employees, cultivates customers who are extremely loyal and partners who want to help – all critical to achieving the core mission. Profits are a byproduct of the mission, not the mission itself. Financial success follows. The companies we invest in are doing things that extend beyond the moment and will have long-term implications for how we live, work and play.
Q: You talk about disruptive technology – how do you define it?
A: I’m glad you asked that question. There’s a lot of hype around the label, and it’s important to be clear. Here’s an example of non-disruptive innovation: in the oil industry if someone increases the efficiency of extraction by 10%, they will generate billions of dollars. But ask yourself: will history books ever tell that story? No. That’s an incremental improvement on the status quo – it doesn’t really change anything about the industry, how oil is consumed, or what the process does to the environment.
On the other hand, take Planet Labs, one of our portfolio companies. They are launching hundreds of satellites built with cell-phone components to achieve a 100x cost advantage. These satellites image the entire Earth every day – not just a predefined region – making it possible to discover, observe and take action in real-time....MORE
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