Spiky Palo Alto and other VC reflections

Palo Alto is one of those spiky places that Richard Florida writes about—an extraordinary caldron of talent and money. My wife and I attended a reception on tree lined University Avenue in a building where a hot data company now occupied space that once had been leased by Google, Facebook, and PayPal—a place where ideas turn into giant companies. Across El Camino is the entrance to Stanford. Four blocks west is the end of Sand Hill Road, the address for the center of the venture capital universe.

A couple random VC cocktail observations:

· Most folks don’t understand how important venture capital is to economic growth. Venture backed companies employ12 million people and contribute $3 trillion to the economy (Venture Impact, NVCA). These guys are creating jobs while big companies are cutting.

· While the valley may still be center of the VC world, it’s a hub a spoke model with a healthy VC communities in NY, Seattle, Boston, San Diego, Austin and increasingly Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mumbai.

· There must be 3-4 dozen VC shops that will look at education deals now—up from 3-4 a year ago.

· There are a growing number of social venture funds like City Light seeking to do good while doing well. You can put most of the clean tech funds in this category.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment


It is true that VCs have increased their attention to education. We can only hope that the recalibration therearound will bring thoughtful, capital efficient rounds of financing. Also, one of the U.S.'s knowledge bases of education venture investing is in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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