Nanotech, Steve Jobs, and the Trouble with Hard-drives

There is a typically cross, contrarian, and insightful interview with venture capital patriarch Don Valentine over at In it he argues correctly that nanotechnology is an overhyped technology in search of a problem, but he goes on to make some interesting comments on other matters.

On why Steve Jobs is the CEO he most respects:

Steve has managed to simultaneously run two entirely dissimilar companies–Pixar, and he is also running the resurging Apple Computer. I’ve long been a great admirer of his.

On why hard-drives are underrated:

I’ve always been mystified by the critically important disc drive industry, without which the PC is a useless device. You have to be brilliant in electronics, you have to be brilliant in magnetics and you have to be brilliant in mechanics to get all that memory capacity in a very little place and do it for next to nothing. That market has never been rewarded financially for its brilliance. Yet the contribution is huge. Cell phones, handheld products, PCs…they all go nowhere without that fundamental storage capability.

On why he likes Oracle and founder Ellison, despite disagreeing with the latter’s gloomy outlook for IT:

Because we financed [Oracle]  and made a lot of money. But also, I’m a great admirer of the kind of the raw-boned entrepreneur that Larry Ellison is. He is willing to speak out even if he’s wrong occasionally.

You get a nice sense of Valentine from these comments. He likes two proud Valentine-like iconoclasts, Ellison and Jobs, and he doesn’t have any patience for would-be techno-revolutionaries. Is he right? Well, on the former point, let’s merely agree that Jobs isn’t anywhere near the best technology CEO in America, but I take Valentine’s point — running two high-profile public companies at the same time is an outrageously difficult high-wire act. And on his latter point? He’s singing straight from my “What me, disruptive?” songbook.