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Jan 09

This week in the Valley

This week was a real treat. Pervez Musharraf came to talk yesterday about “Extremism and Terrorism”. His actual speech, imploring for a “holistic” approach to tackling terrorism by addressing the “root causes” which lead to extremism, was nothing special. The Q&A session that followed was a cracker though. The first audience member came out swinging: “Given that you seized power illegally, given that you suspended the constitution twice, given that you have engaged in gross human rights violations…” The moderator had to stop him and ask him whether he was there to ask a question. “Yes, this is a question,” he said before rattling off another list of accusations ending with, “why should we believe anything you had to say today?”

The audience applauded. But Musharraf is, of course, a seasoned hand. He has been in world politics for many years now and has fended off numerous assassination attempts. This was nothing. His reply shut his accuser down quickly and Musharraf in turn received applause. The questioners were disproportionately from the subcontinent (India, I’d wager) and predominantly confrontational, but for the most part things were civil.

One of the courses I’m taking this semester is Internet Business Law and Policy. The course syllabus was designed in partnership with Google’s Deputy General Counsel, and each week someone comes in to talk to us about a particular topic. Surprisingly, there are only about 12 people taking the class, so it’s a reasonably intimate environment. On Wednesday, Vint Cerf came to talk about trends in internet architecture development and related policy implications. I was stoked. Most people wouldn’t have heard of him, but he’s one of the designers of TCP/IP, the protocol on which the net runs, and is considered to be one of the net’s founding fathers. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts (our ex-PM John Howard just received one too).

Finally, I’m taking a course at the business school which teaches about starting up a start-up. Our team mentor is a venture capitalist and we had a meeting at his office which is located on the fabled Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park. There are only about three blocks of relatively non-descript buildings in which the who’s who of the venture capital industry are located (including Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia, and the VC firm that Bono is a partner of – yes, Bono from U2) as well as some private equity firms like KKR and TPG. It’s a highly concentrated area, and it’s somewhat peculiar that such a small zone comprises the core of the Valley’s VC powerhouse. The area is unique – 80% of America’s start-ups originate from the Valley – and there certainly isn’t anything even close to resembling it in Australia. There are expensive cars in the parking lot interspersed with Priuses, and financiers whose net worths are equivalent to the GDPs of small Pacific islands interspersed with hopeful entrepreneurs in their early twenties sitting in meeting rooms waiting to make their pitch…

  1:14pm (GMT -8.00)  •  Law  •   •  Tweet This  •  Comments (4)