Start-Up Your Engines!

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TIME: There has been much concern this year about technology jobs and sources of innovation moving abroad. How has globalization changed the venture community?

HEESEN: You can't find a venture-capital community like the one we have in America anywhere in the world, except for, some people would argue, Israel. It's important to look at basically how American this industry is. You cannot duplicate this. Other countries have tried. That said, a number of European pension funds have just gained the right to invest in these kinds of funds, and there is great interest in Scandinavia, Australia and Singapore.

RIESCHEL: On the other hand, you can't take for granted that the next round of technological leadership is going to come from the United States. Intel is one of our strongest companies, but other than that, semiconductor manufacturing pretty much now resides outside the United States. In terms of manufacturing complex products, the new Chinese companies have a leadership stake.

Governments overseas are just now starting to favor a very, very strong set of policies that I believe will ripen the environment for venture-backed start-ups. Until about a year ago, Japan outlawed stock options, which is a significant means of compensation in many young companies. They weren't legal. Pension plans could not invest in private equity in Japan.

HEESEN: By contrast, in the U.S. public and private pension funds make up about 43% of our investors.

PRESTON: There are cultural differences in play all over. Many of the reasons Europe lags the U.S. in venture investment are cultural. The average American works about 1,978 hours a year, vs. 1,525 for a European. Europe is trying to protect jobs by lowering hours. But reducing hours to create new jobs is a different approach than we have in America, where there is a rich tradition of taking on risk and trying to build new job-producing companies from scratch.

GAVIN: One unique thing about the U.S. is the $27 billion National Institutes of Health budget, which funds incredible amounts of creativity. That's one thing other countries don't have.

TIME: What kind of technology companies do you see on the horizon?

GAVIN: We are swimming in technologies. There are more technologies, more potential things to fund than anyone could possibly fund. Health care makes up 15% of the gross domestic product, and it's growing. I've sometimes wondered how long will it be until every person in the country works in the health-care industry and spends every dollar on health care. What keeps me awake at night is that we have to find somebody who can and will pay for the wonderful things we can create.

WOODWARD: In 1850 we spent 80% of GDP on food. Puts things in perspective. It is under 20% now. Is it impossible that we get to where we put 80% on health care? No, not at all.

PRESTON: M.I.T. is generating two inventions every day. We are licensing two a week. That is pretty impressive. But we do have more inventory than we know what to do with, than we could reasonably part with.

GAVIN: Our limitation on company formation is not technology, and I am not even sure it is capital, though there are some stages of companies that are probably short on capital. It is really a shortage of management.

RIESCHEL: A lot of investment overseas is based on technology that is way ahead of the laptops or desktops that we use. I don't travel with a laptop anymore. My shoulder is two inches lower than the other one after 15 years of traveling with it, but it is not necessary anymore. I carry a device made by Danger that has e-mail, a keyboard, phone, camera, calendar, games and instant messaging. Only a venture-backed company could be named Danger.

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