Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

SDForum Garden Party Notes: Vinod Khosla is the Antichrist; Jim Clark has a size problem; Silicon Valley Trophies - Hot women and large yachts...

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 26, 2009

The SDForum Visionary Awards are my favorite event of the year because there are tons of great stories and contacts to make.robert_hof.jpg rebeccabuckman.jpgIt was good to see BusinessWeek's bureau chief Rob Hof, and also Rebecca Buckman from Forbes, but apart from them, there was very little media there -- which was great for me because it gives me more chance to get exclusive stories, which I did. I'll be publishing more stories and video over the next few days.

Here is a taste of what's to come and also some notes from the evening:

- Jim Clark, ex-Silicon Graphics, and Netscape, was honored with a Visionary Award. He was on very good form and looking very tanned, relaxed and dapper in a blue sports coat. He gave an excellent acceptance speech, talking about how he was always looking to get out, to get out of home, to get out of school, to get out of the navy, etc. I had a quick chat with him afterwards, and told him how much I liked his stories. He laughed when I said it seemed he was always looking for an exit strategy--a good skill to have in Silicon Valley.

JimClarkHyperion.jpg - Jim Clark was introduced by Forest Baskett. He mentioned Mr Clark's love of sailing and that he was into sailing before Jim Clark. Mr Clark told him he was thinking of building a sail boat. Mr Baskett asked how large it would be. Mr Clark replied, "I don't know. How tall is the Golden Gate bridge?" The result was the 156 foot long Hyperion (image from Monacoeye - the dots on the deck are people). Someone standing next to me whispered, "How small must Jim Clark's penis be?"

- Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and probably Silicon Valley's most successful venture capitalist was introduced by KR Sridhar, in a brown-nosing speech of epic proportions.

-Vinod Khosla gave a great and very humble acceptance speech. I'll be posting it soon. Afterwards, I was chatting with a valley veteran and I mentioned it was interesting that Mr Khosla hadn't yet received his Visionary Award. He said it was probably because Mr Khosla is the anti-christ. And he wasn't joking. I've probably heard more stories about Mr Khosla and his VC activities than about any other venture capitalist. They are not pleasant stories.

- It was great to see Judy Estrin and congratulate her on her Visionary Award. I'm a huge fan of Ms Estrin. She berated Silicon Valley for not taking intelligent risks and that there was serious problems with the process of innovation that needed to be fixed but that everyone was blaming someone else.

- Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Network also received a Visionary Award. She spoke out for more women in technology "open your hearts" she extolled. Silicon Valley veterans are quite happy to welcome more women (please see next item). She is credited with changing TV and creating the first satellite based TV networks. One little known fact that she shared: It was the Mohammed Ali versus George Frazer fight in Manilla, Philippines that she used as part of a demo to Congress to show satellite TV in action - that event is what persuaded US politicians to give the regulatory go-ahead. It's interesting that here is another example of African-American's helping to launch major new entertainment businesses. Michael Jackson did the same with MTV.

- It was good to see Microsoft's Dan'l Lewin and his significant other, Doug Free. (They aren't, but it sometimes seems that way, Mr Lewin's PR handler is always close by :)

- Kay Koplovitz was looking great. Success is very sexy.

- There were a lot of other Silicon Valley luminaries around. There were also several older gentlemen who had brought their attractive young nieces, or quite possibly their trophy wives. Years ago, a former English soccer player, George Best, was asked what he did with all his money once he retired. He said he spent most of it on women and drink - "the rest I squandered."

It's interesting to see similar use of good fortune in Silicon Valley. Women and extremely large yachts seem to be our local choices.

I had excellent conversations with:

Ed Niehaus, CEO of Cooper, one of the top digital products consultancy firms.

Allison van Diggelen from media publisher Fresh Dialogues. Please see some her interviews with business leaders.

Kevin Holmes, who teaches entrepreneurs at Santa Clara University.

Karen Rohde, Chief Talent Officer at Sun Microsystems.

Lafe Vittitoe, Director, Entrepreneur Services Group at Silicon Valley Bank.

Jim Atwell, partner in the Technology, Media and Telecommunications group at Deloitte & Touche.

Brian Sathianathan, founder of Avot Media.

Check back for more stories (how Vinod Khosla tried to save the newspaper industry), and great videos.

(Oh, and Charlotte Moore's Catering was very good, including the bar staff.)

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