Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id NAA19005 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Mon, 4 Mar 2002 13:57:08 GMT Subject: Fwd: Interview with Mitch Kapor Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 08:51:04 -0500 x-sender: firstname.lastname@example.org x-mailer: Claris Emailer 2.0v3, Claritas Est Veritas From: "Wade T.Smith" <email@example.com> To: "memetics list" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-transfer-encoding: quoted-printable Message-Id: <20020304135145.0B7571FD45@camail.harvard.edu> Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
By Globe Staff, 3/4/2002
Mitch Kapor, 51, founded Lotus Development Corp. and designed the Lotus
1-2-3 spreadsheet software that propelled the desktop computer boom. He
has been a leading figure in the technology revolution for a generation
as entrepreneur, investor, activist, and philanthropist. Kapor, who
divides his time between San Francisco and Boston, stepped down last year
as a partner at Accel Partners, a Palo Alto, Calif., venture capital
firm, but continues as an angel investor and director at several software
and Internet companies. He spoke in his Cambridge office recently with
Globe technology editor Robert Weisman.
Q. Where is the Internet heading? Do you still think it has a potential
to foster community and improve society, or will it just be another
A. It's sort of like the automobile. It's such an integral part of
everything that it will touch every aspect of life. So it's certainly
changing, and has changed, how business is done. It's had big effects on
community, but it hasn't had any real impact towards the utopian ends
that people, including myself, were looking toward five or 10 years ago.
Q. It hasn't had any impact? Or it just hasn't realized its potential?
A. I don't think any technology by itself is going to create social
change. I think it has to do with what people do with it. I mean
obviously some technologies are better for some things than others. But
if we're going to have a better society for whatever definition of better
you have it will be brought about by people, not by technology. Certainly
not by technology as an autonomous force, which was sort of the idea back
then (in the mid-1990s). Any more than a better society would be achieved
by the invention and popularization of the automobile or of television.
I think the effects of the Internet are a lot more subtle than that. Some
things are easier, some things are harder, some things are a function of
the laws and regulation under which the Internet operates.
So in terms of community, the idea that there would be some kind of
Jeffersonian revolution - which I will take some credit and
responsibility for promoting - what I'm saying is that hasn't happened
and isn't going to happen. And I think, knowing what I know now, I
wouldn't have predicted it because I don't think that technology by
itself is an autonomous force that can just change society.
That said, there are many ways in which geographically scattered groups
of people have been highly empowered by the Internet in ways that have
changed the world. For instance, cancer patients and other people
suffering life-threatening diseases. The communications network among,
for instance, people in test protocols is so good now that there's such
demand for anything that appears effective it's actually bringing drugs
to market faster. I mean, you could cite dozens of examples.
Q. There was a time, in the mid-1990s, when people thought the Internet
could transform or even displace the traditional retail, banking, and
publishing industries. Now those ideas seem almost embarrassing.
A. Right. Now fortunately I don't have to take any responsibility for
saying those things because I wasn't in that crowd. Those things seemed
foolish at the time, and have proven to be foolish.
People were very enthusiastic. And I think, in a funny kind of way, there
is huge potential for e-commerce. But, again, it is not some kind of new
thing that is going to sweep away the old. It's a new thing that's going
to be added to what already has existed. And it will change some things
and not change lots of other things.
Q. Why did you leave the venture capital world?
A. It turned out that I just have too much emotional attachment to the
entrepreneur's point of view, regardless of how well or poorly the
entrepreneur is performing. That's who I identified with, because I am
one. And so it became very unnatural to play the role that you really
have to play as a VC. I found it was just too hard to do ...
You know, if the entrepreneur screws up, you have to take the corrective
action to protect the investment. I'm such a softie. My attitude was: Oh,
give him one more chance. Even when I knew that that at a rational level
wasn't the right strategy, I wasn't the one who wanted to be in the
position of being the disciplinarian. I recognize that it's a necessary
role, and it needs to be done, but it was just emotionally too difficult
for me. I'm not good at playing the heavy.
And also I found that I like the very early stage, seed stage of
companies, even before you begin to seriously worry about the business
model, when you're trying to invent something new. I'm better at that. I
like it better.
And so, with no hard feelings, I just shifted back to doing some angel
investing, which is of course what I was doing before.
This story ran on page C1 of the Boston Globe on 3/4/2002. © Copyright
2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
===============================This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Mar 04 2002 - 14:07:13 GMT