Friday, March 29, 2013

A Steaming Pile Of Boldness

The Journal Sentinel is back pushing Walker's venture capital slush fund, Legislature Should Establish A Fund For Venture Capital.
Wisconsin politicians continue to argue about how many jobs have been created on Gov. Scott Walker's watch - and even how to count those jobs. This was inevitable, of course, given the governor's promise that 250,000 jobs would be created during his first term.
But rather than argue over numbers, how about focusing on policies that might make a difference?
Yes, just forget about Walker's (completely ridiculous) promise of 250,000 jobs, which undoubtedly helped win him the election. We don't want to actually evaluate politicians on the things they've said.

The whole article is a well-worn regurgitation of cliches regarding the magic that is venture capital.
With job growth and income sluggish in the state, we continue to believe the best answer is unleashing good ideas that could be turned into young companies that will employ people. Research by the Ewing and Marion Kauffman Foundation a couple of years ago found that between 1977 and 2005, existing companies lost about 1 million jobs a year while new companies added an average of 3 million jobs. Since 2008, the pace of hiring is stronger in companies that are two years or younger, Kauffman found. 
Simply put, we need more entrepreneurs, and we need to figure out how to mentor them and invest in their ideas.
Yes, we need more entrepreneurs. We need more jobs. Bold insight.

The pace of hiring may be strong in young companies, but what they also fail to mention is that the pace of firing is also higher amongst younger companies.

The article then (to supposedly support a venture capital fund) points to UW-Madison's Research Park, and UW-Milwaukee's and the Medical College's increased research, which has created jobs. Yet, this seems like more of a substantiation for investment in our universities. Is the Journal implying we should spend public dollars for private benefit? Should we continue the process whereby our public sector provides tax credits, other funding, university R&D, and a host of other giveaways, in which private entities get to reap the majority of the rewards? Here's a novel idea, how about public investment with public rewards.
But young companies need a continuum of support - from the early going when the entrepreneur mortgages her house to get started to the first "angel" investors who take notice to the point where larger infusions of money are needed from venture capitalists. And in Wisconsin, there long has been a gulf between the typical angel investor round and the venture capital round.
What did companies do before venture capital?
Despite a good fourth quarter, Wisconsin attracted only $95 million last year, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association. Nationwide, venture capitalists invested $26.5 billion.
What is the average amount states attract? Where does Wisconsin rank among the states in attracting capital?

Another article from the Journal notes, "State companies pulled in more than $95 million during the full year, up 31% from 2011, when they raised about $73 million of venture capital...Nationally, venture capital investment declined for the first time in three years. Venture capitalists invested $26.5 billion in 3,698 deals in 2012, a 10% decrease in dollars from a year earlier."

So, nationally venture capital is declining, yet over the past year it increased 31% in Wisconsin. Seems like money has already decided Wisconsin is a decent investment, even without the State providing additional funding.

The Journal continued, "But while $25 million is a start, it's probably only a down payment. The state needs something closer to $150 million, perhaps funded over several budget cycles, to attract the interest of top venture capital funds. "If the state really wants to get to critical mass, then we're going to need more than $25 million," said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Innovation Network. The "Be Bold Wisconsin Prosperity Strategy" report, which grew out of a series of economic summits around the state in 2010, called for an even larger commitment."

We need to put up at least $25 million and also some type of continuing commitment? If we applied the same amount to public works - infrastructure, green buildings, energy grid, sewage and water systems, etc. - wouldn't that just as efficiently and effectively ignite the economy and put people back to work? And, we wouldn't have to worry about the speculative nature and the whims of the private sector. Not to mention, we could actually ensure these were good paying jobs.

Finally, it seems rather odd that the Journal Sentinel and the Republican class-war criminals were so quick to talk about a Wisconsin's (phony) budget crisis, how we were broke, how public workers had bankrupted us and caused the recession. Yet, in their next breath, they cackle about spending on sport stadiums, venture capital, and numerous other ways of funneling public dollars to obscure private sector schemes. Yes, we're broke, until the power-brokers whom are already garnering most of society's gains decide they want more.

For Further Reading:
Casino Capitalism
Cut Out The (Private Sector) Middle Man
Deja Vu
Fund Fail
Haplessly Venturing
Risky Business
Something Venture, (Virtually) Nothing Gained
Venturing Aimlessly
Venturing Wisconsin's Money

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