Steve Jurvetson on How a Scientific Renaissance is Breeding Innovation

Steve Jurvetson likes to play in the early-stage venture capital space, where he and his firm try to spot promising young companies with ideas that are little more than twinkles in their founders' eyes.

With a track record that includes being the founding VC investor in companies such as Hotmail, Interwoven and Kana, many look to Jurvetson and his firm, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, for a glimpse of the next big thing.

As part of wide-ranging interview with Executive Editor Joel Makower, Jurvetson discussed how scientific innovations are feeding new technology arenas and revealed the types of start-ups he finds to be the most exciting at the moment. SOGB badge

A renaissance in biology, chemistry and nanotechnology is fueling innovations in technologies that can serve to address environmental problems, such as efficiency or recycling, Jurvetson said. A123 Systems, for example, was founded as a nanotech company but is now developing and manufacturing advanced lithium-ion batteries.

Jurvetson views LED lighting technologies in the near-term as promising, in addition to breakthroughs that allow us to more efficiently reuse materials. He also singled out energy cleantech, with its broad umbrella that includes generation and distribution to smart grid and storage.

Water purification, Jurvetson noted, represents a potential opportunity for innovations, particularly in the coming years.

"California spends almost 20 percent of its electricity budget on moving water across the state," Jurvetson said. "In the Middle East, half of all domestic oil consumption is to purify water, desal plants."

He cited Oasys Water, a Boston-based company that uses a desalination process that reportedly uses less energy than existing methods, according to the Boston Business Journal.

"So if you put one of these in L.A.," Jurvetson said, "it would be cheaper to desalinate water than to just pump fresh water as they do today."

The video below is a short clip from the panel; the full video is available online from


Photo by Goodwin Ogbuehi,