Quips and Tips: Panel Searches for Signs of Recovery

10/22/09Follow @bvbigelow

A breakfast discussion on “Getting Ready for the Rebound” held yesterday by the San Diego Venture Group might have been more aptly billed as “Waiting for the Rebound: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts.” But then again, with San Diego News Network CEO Neil Senturia serving as moderator, there really can only be one act.

The irrepressible Senturia was in his element (which is to say he was on stage) as he delivered one-liners while leading a panel of local experts through a conversation about the rebound that ranged from the venture capital outlook in San Diego to Wall Street ethics and the overall U.S. economy.

So, for example, as UC San Diego Economist Allan Timmermann talked about government spending and the prospects of inflation, Senturia interjected, “Inflation is what allows you to live in a more expensive neighborhood without moving.” And when Mission Ventures managing partner Leo Spiegel talked about the strength of character he looks for in startup entrepreneurs, saying, “I want to see that they went to the wall,” Senturia quipped, “You mean the wailing wall.”

As the only economist on the panel, Timmermann was an obvious target for such Senturian gibes as, “If you put 10 economists in a room, you get 11 opinions.” But a riposte from the UCSD economist got one of the biggest laughs when Senturia indignantly denounced the outrageous pay and bonus demands of disgraced Wall Street executives, the corruption of Bernie Madoff, the alleged corruption of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam—and demanded the panelists explain what has happened to American ethics. Timmermann answered, “It’s only when the tide retreats that you see who’s swimming naked.” The audience roared.

But seriously folks, the conversation about preparing for a rebound led to a number of interesting points and observations:

—The outlook for venture-backed companies is clearly improving, according to Mission Ventures’ Spiegel. Following what he describes as a “brutal” period last winter, in which a third of the employees were laid off across Mission Ventures’ 30 portfolio companies, Spiegel says two of those ventures are now responding to buyout offers and a third is … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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