Wednesday, November 05, 2008

NYTimes: John Doerr’s Advice for Barack Obama: Hire Bill Joy

"At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco Wednesday, billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr was interviewed by John Heilemann, a contributing editor at New York magazine who came in from Chicago, fresh off the Obama campaign trail. He had a few questions for Mr. Doerr that, he said, came directly from the president-elect.

First, Barack Obama wanted to know whom Mr. Doerr would recommend for chief technology officer of the United States, a position that Mr. Obama has promised to create. Mr. Doerr’s first choice was Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in which Mr. Doerr invested early on. Mr. Joy is now a partner at Mr. Doerr’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mr. Doerr said it would be a sacrifice to lose him to the Obama administration, but that “there is no greater cause.”

The next question from the president-elect was what single policy issue he could focus on that would most help entrepreneurs.

“The most important thing he’s got to do is kick-start a huge amount of research and innovation in energy,” said Mr. Doerr, who backed Google and and has invested heavily in clean technology for the last few years.

The nation now invests less than $1 billion a year in renewable energy versus $32 billion a year in health care, Mr. Doerr said. “I think we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of clean ways to use energy, to produce energy. It’s the challenge of our generation.”

How to do that? Double the number of engineers who graduate from American universities each year to 60,000, Mr. Doerr said. Bring more women into the field, and encourage foreigners who study engineering here to stay here.

“What we do is bring foreign nationals to the world’s greatest universities. We train them, invest in them and make them go home,” he said. “What kind of national strategy is that? So I would staple a green card to the diploma.”

Not content to stop with one piece of policy advice for the new president, he added another: Restore the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research and development arm of the Department of Defense, “to its former glory and autonomy.” DARPA was a key player in the development of the Internet. Now, he said, it has “started making robots that will run up caves. We are starving for fundamental research.”

He applauded Mr. Obama’s plan to invest $150 billion over 10 years into green energy research. “It’s the mother of all markets,” Mr. Doerr said. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because Mr. Doerr uses the phrase so often that he’s practically trademarked it.)

Kleiner has a history of recruiting former politicians to the firm, such as former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Continuing in that tradition, Mr. Heilemann asked, would Mr. Doerr prefer to ask Senator John McCain or Governor Sarah Palin to join? Mr. Doerr, a politically active Democrat, responded: “If you put lipstick on that, it still won’t work at Kleiner.”"

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