Green:Net: Steve Jurvetson on the Future of Greentech From an IT Pioneer

Thanks to Moore’s Law, information technology revolutionizes more and more industries over time, and is currently creating trillion-dollar opportunities in the greentech industry said Steve Jurvetson, managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson today at the Green:Net conference in San Francisco, as he explained why his firm was focused on the sector. In order for startups to survive there has to be a disruption of some sort in the status quo. For green IT, that disruption is partly a cause of the advances in computational sciences and communications as well as changes in regulations. “Without disruptions startups can’t survive,” he said.

Those startups can be a new entrant into an existing market like Apple entering into the music market or a startup, he explained. “We believe strongly that all meaningful change comes from entrepreneurs,” Jurvetson said, adding that he currently he sees much of this change hitting industries that have largely been shielded from such disruptions.

That is reflected in the arc of DFJ’s investments in the last few years. It has shifted from initial forays into IT-related fields such as solar panels which are similar in structure to semiconductor manufacturing and energy management software to new fuels and materials as well as efficiency and lighting. As an example of bringing efficiency to IT, he compared the current centralized server model to a P2P model. With 30,000 servers, a P2P network would mean 700,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide, which is like removing 35,000 cars from the road.

Jurvetson spent a considerable amount of time on data center efficiency, highlighting portfolio companies such as PowerAssure which has save one customer 57 percent on their energy costs simply by turning off servers hen they are not needed. Other investments include SeaMicro, a company redesigning servers using Atom chips, which can cut energy costs by 50 percent. Currently data centers use about 3 percent of the world’s total energy consumption.

He concluded the talk with a look ahead at how the advances in computation have helped push the life sciences to a point when companies can test and build synthetic chemicals and fuels that could be the disruption that takes on the trillion-dollar chemicals and petroleum industries. Scientists can now sequence genes very quickly and can use the genetic code to build new organisms  via simulation rather than in the lab. “Biotech 1.0 is slow, like a  lab science, and Version 2.0 is more like computational sciences,” Jurvetson said.

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