Something Ventured; The venture capitalists who made America
Something Ventured directed by Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller
Auckland International Film Festival
July 16th, 19th, 21st & 24th
We all know that Steve Jobs is the brains behind Apple but we don’t get to hear much about the brains behind Steve Jobs.
Back in the late 1976 Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak were a couple of smelly nerds wanting some money for their idea but banks weren’t interested, just as they hadn’t been interested in Tandem Computers a couple of years before. Jobs and Wozniak needed private money and they got it through three venture capitalists that turned their original investment of $350,000 (Mike Markkula, $142,000, Arthur Rock, $57,000, and Don Valentine, $150,000) into the $200 billion that the company is worth today.
This is one of the stories which are linked together in Something Ventured a documentary by Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller (Ballet Russes) which is a brief history of venture capitalists from the late 1950’s to the early 1980’s.
Most of it is talking heads but they are great talking heads, some of the unrecognised smart brains of the late twentieth century who made a lot of money doing smart business by investing in innovation and creativity.
These are the guys who transformed America. The names keep re-appearing and not just as men who get together lots of money to support new companies. These guys seem to understand that they are investing in things which have huge risks but also huge financial and social potential.
Central to many of these stories is Arthur Rock who says he first coined the term “venture capitalist”. It was Rock who persuaded Sherman Fairchild to put up $1.5 million to start Fairchild Semiconductor which was the beginnings of Silicon Valley.
We see Arthur Rock reading the original typo ridden one page business plan which the founders of Intel wrote for their investment of $2.5million “Not a profound document but kinda cute”
And there is Tom Perkins who along with Kleiner Perkins invested just $250,000 in Genentech in 1976 for experiments into the unknown and untested field of gene splicing. They sold Genentech to Roche for $47 billion in 2009.
The documentary is full of great stories and quotes; Tom Perkins who “went to the school for nerds – MIT” and Rock who says that “writing the cheque is easy”.
These men all now in their seventies and eighties are interviewed about their successes, their relationships with nerds and scientists, with academics and bankers in a fascinating account of how entrepreneurial business people make things happen.