VC stunner: Nothing is overhyped

Jul 23, 2010

Adam Lashinsky joined Fortune in 2001 and is the author of the 2012 bestseller Inside Apple. He is editorial director of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference and a co-chair of Fortune Global Forum. He also appears regularly on the Fox News Channel.

Enterprise, mobile, China, storage and social -- so many places to deploy cash.

Fortune's Michael Copleand opened his venture-capital panel at Fortune Brainstorm Tech Friday afternoon with a fun round-robin question: Name one sector that is overhyped or underhyped.  Shockingly, the six-member panel found nothing whatsoever that is overhyped. Only the opposite. VCs, after all, are congenital optimists.

Jerry Murdock of Insight Ventures, and investor in Twitter, thinks social media is underhyped. He likened the field to a tsunami that hasn't yet hit the beach. Aydin Senkut, an early Google (goog) employee who now runs Felicis Ventures, fingered mobile investments. Gordon Ritter, whose Emergence firm invested early in Salesforce.com (crm) and Success Factors (sfsf), unsurprisingly thinks enterprise software has more room to run.  Mike Maples of Floodgate like social commerce. Ex-Cisco (csco) guy Charles Giancarlo, now at Silver Lake, is high on storage. And Jim Breyer, who leads Accel's lucrative investment in Facebook, flagged Chinese Internet companies, particularly Tencent, as a huge opportunity.

Breyer went so far as to say that in five years Tencent would challenge the likes of Google and Amazon (amzn) as one of the world's great Internet companies.<!-- more -->

VCs come in different shapes and sizes. Floodgate and Felicis follow the "angel" model. Accel and Silver Lake are megafunds with varying strategies. You wouldn't know from listening to this group speak that the last decade has been a horrible one for venture capital, perhaps because these were some of the beleaguered industry's biggest successes.

Happy for their own hands, at least one VC was willing to bash the hand held by others. Breyer said there's no chance that big media companies, including Time Warner (twx) and News Corp. (nwsa), would be able to expand their digital businesses in a way that will adequately recoup revenues they are losing to the types of digital startups he is funding.

Ouch, Jim.

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