Sequoia Capital’s Greg McAdoo on Consumer Web and Cleantech Trends, Boston Vs. New York, and Recruiting at MIT

9/27/11Follow @gthuang

Is there anything worse than a Silicon Valley VC coming to Boston to poach talent from the startup ecosystem?

OK, that’s not really what Greg McAdoo is about. The Sequoia Capital partner was in town last weekend, in part for the Startup Bootcamp event at MIT (and related meetups), which featured talks by a number of founders backed by Sequoia, including Drew Houston of Dropbox (an MIT alum), Paul English from Kayak, and Nathan Blecharczyk of Airbnb.

McAdoo is a busy guy, serving on the boards of Airbnb, Bump Technologies, Clustrix, Greplin, Loopt, Achates Power, and other firms. He has been with Menlo Park, CA-based Sequoia since 2000 and is involved with the Y Combinator seed-stage startup program. He was also involved with Sequoia’s investment in Isilon Systems, now part of EMC, the whole story of which we know well.

We met for coffee on Saturday, and I got a download of McAdoo’s thoughts about the startup ecosystem and what he was hearing from local entrepreneurs—ideas on everything from smartphone security for enterprise to the prospects of nuclear fusion for energy production. I also took notes on his advice to entrepreneurs (which I found particularly insightful), and some important trends in consumer-tech and cleantech startups in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and beyond.

While Sequoia isn’t about to open an East Coast office, McAdoo says, there is certainly enough going on—think raw talent, ambitious entrepreneurs, and a few company investments—to draw its partners out here regularly.

Here are some highlights from our chat:

Xconomy: People talk about the consumer tech ecosystem, or lack thereof, in Boston and other cities vs. Silicon Valley. But you’re telling me there’s a bigger trend going on than whether or not we have enough role models here.

Greg McAdoo: There are a host of applications that appeal to folks that live in dense urban centers. The big shift is towards a startup community in urban centers. That, by the way, affects the San Francisco Bay Area every bit as much as the New York metropolitan area or the Chicago area. Whereas the suburbs of the Bay Area have a very well established startup community, I think everybody’s on equal footing to some degree in that major urban centers don’t really have that startup community. They used to many years ago.

If you wanted to get a consumer Internet startup off the ground in 1995 or ’96, you needed to have fabulous product sensibilities and a wonderful front end engineering and design team. But if you were building anything at scale you also had to have some hardcore technologists in the back end and be able to rack and stack servers. Fast forward to 2011, and much of that back end expertise is provided by service providers—cloud guys like Rackspace or Amazon. Also some of the hardcore back-end technology is open source software now. So you don’t have to worry about being in SoHo in New York and trying … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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