Moderator: Scott Ellison, VP Mobility Wireless, IDC
Eric Zimits, Managing Director, Granite Ventures
Dev Khare, Vice President, Venrock
Tim Chang, Principal, Norwest Venture Partners
Scott Raney, Partner, Redpoint Ventures
I began live-tweeting the event, but TweetDeck on my iPhone informed me that I had no network connection, asking if I wanted to work in the background. (I did have several bars showing, implying a good signal, but no 3G, Edge or WiFi). Pretty ironic not having cell phone connectivity at a WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS event, which was held at Silicon Valley Bank (in a meeting room in the front of the building by the way). Hey AT&T... got a map for that?
Bottom line: I lost all my early comments thinking they were being cached, before I realized I was tweeting into a black hole. What follows are my recollections from the remaining notes that I took in the iPhone notepad app.
A wide-ranging number of topics were covered, and the panel of VCs were certainly not shy about their opinions. Here they are, along with my own comments.
This is a reference to the large number of fabless IC design startups in China. I believe that a bigger issue is that leading edge digital design in advanced process nodes is just too expensive for a startup. So it was interesting to hear this follow-up comment from another panelist:
"RF and analog are much better startup opportunities than digital. They only require small teams. "Innovation in silicon is in RF and analog. These are critical technologies needed for femto-cells."
Ahhh.. yes. How great to hear a VC recognize the value of understanding that The World is Analog.
Panelist, referring to what happened to semiconductors: "Hauwei is doing to systems now. This is a problem for Cisco."
One of the VCs described how Chinese banks will backup Hauwei if there is any risk of losing a deal, flying bank execs to a customer site to promise full financing at 0% if necessary.
I generally agree with this assessment, and Qualcomm's FLO TV strategy is one of the topics I cover in an upcoming report. Look for it at www.digdia.com
Two small semiconductor companies that are doing well in this space were highlighted: Maxlinear - which provides a tuner used for mobile TV in Japan, and Telegent - which has focused on chips for markets where free over-the-air analog TV is still available.
A lot has been written about the role of wireless technology in countries where many people will have a cellular handset as their first telephone. To gain a more accurate perspective on this topic, one of the panelists recommended the blog "future perfect" by Jan Chipchase, a Nokia researcher who has field experience observing firsthand the impact of wireless technology in emerging markets.
(check back for part II)