3 thoughts on “John Doerr at Summit”

  1. Web 2.0 was an excellent conference and I salute John B. for all he did to make it work (the Farcebook love-fest was nauseating, but otherwise a really good event).

    I stuck around for John Doerr, the closing speaker because I am a venture-backed entrepreneur, an admirer of Doerr, a supporter of a Gore/Doerr ticket in 2000, and a former senior Clinton appointee.

    Extended post at JamSideDown, but I thought Doerr came off like a cheap shill, although others clearly were enthralled.

    The problem is transparency — Doerr has tens of millions of dollars riding on the outcome of his arguments yet he failed to acknowledge even once that he had an economic interest in the policy debates.

    When tobacco executives reassure me that smoking is fine for my health, I laugh at them. I know where their words come from. I don’t believe them for a moment. It frankly beggars belief that most of the audience looked at Doerr as anything different.

    Doerr claims to believe that there is a “climate emergency” and that we have ten years to replace the capital base of the planet. Nobody seriously believes the latter and fewer and fewer (even members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that got half a Nobel Prize) believe the former.

    Truthfully, I’m fine if Doerr believes in the tooth fairy — but I insist that he acknowledge his investment in toothfairy.com. As a huge investor in cleantech, he needs to disclose that he is arguing for his economic interests (even if he wants to claim to be investing behind his beliefs, he needs to not pretend to be arguing on behalf of the planet when he is also arguing on behalf of the portfolio.)

    He likewise made Google’s case for Net Neutrality and like many do, fudged the two parts of the debate (content censorship, which is universally held to be unconscionable, and segmented service, which is already permitted for customers and would be permitted for content providers except for Google’s continuous and misguided campaign against it). Again, Doerr has the right to argue anything he wants, but he has a duty to disclose his economic interests.

    Finally — and stop me if you have heard this one — he made the case for open access in the 700 Mhz auctions. Here again, Doerr has strong beliefs: he helped lead and finance the fight to get the FCC to open the C-block. But here again, he did so as a huge investor and board member of one of the major beneficiaries of that decision: Google. Who else can invest billions in spectrum and still have the capital to build billing systems and maintenance infrastructure without any need to control access? Google can, because they don’t sell phone service, they sell advertising. Doerr knows that better than anybody in the room, but cast his efforts as a crusade against the telcos and their demon lobbyists. Gimme a break.

    Look, I hope Google bids, wins, and builds. I will sing Doerr’s praise if they do. But the man needs to disclose that he is not a neutral observer in these debates: he has tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of his personal fortune riding on these outcomes.

    Many people were moved by Doerr — and I believe he meant everything he said. I would have been much more impressed however, had even a tiny bit of his talk not supported his personal economic interests.

    John, the man is a high tech tobacco executive and so long as he acts like one, he has no place at Web 2.0.

    Marty Manley

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