A leading venture capitalist, Vinod Khosla is the co-founder of Daisy Systems and founding Chief Executive Officer of Sun Microsystems. Khosla pioneered open systems and commercial RISC processors. He became a general partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in 1986 and has mentored many entrepreneurs in building technology-based businesses. In 2004, he started his own firm, Khosla Ventures. He is an advocate of clean energy and supported the campaign to pass California's Proposition 87. Born in 1955 in India, Khosla was determined to pursue technology as a career since his early teens. Khosla was educated at the IIT Delhi, Carnegie Mellon University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Question: Whose responsibility is it to fix the environment?
Vinod Khosla: You know our system doesn’t rely on individual responsibility. It relies on individual interests. Lots of venture capitalists, and startups, and entrepreneurs, and technologists, and university researchers have a lot to gain by breaking the mold here, so to speak. Once you crack the problem, there is economic gain to be had, whether you are a professor at Howard or an entrepreneur in Texas. And that’s where the responsibility in some sense lies – it’s to enable the system of experimentation, and success and failure for these entrepreneurs. Big companies will do the same thing, and they should participate just as much as anybody else. But I suspect they are less prone to innovation, especially in the energy business. The responsibility, if there is any, lies with policymakers to make sure the environment allows these new ideas to emerge.Well not everybody is qualified to participate, but there are lots of people who can contribute to R&D and technical breakthroughs. I believe today that is the key to progress. And once we have those breakthroughs, then we need to wrap them with management and manage execution talent. And those are all entrepreneurial opportunities pretty much for anybody who can contribute to those key skill sets that are required.
Question: Will buying Prius instead of an SUV solve the problem?
Vinod Khosla: I believe environmentalists like to talk about that. I don’t believe that is the key to solving this problem. Clearly it helps if people are using less fuel. Clearly it helps if they are using less energy; but I think technical breakthroughs will be the key to cracking the oil and coal problems. Now we should spend some time on coal.
Recorded on: September 26, 2007.