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Making Money Across America: San Francisco -- Video Roundup


“Power Lunch” is in San Francisco to focus on the world of venture capital – from alternative energy to biotech to new media – and talk to some major players. Here's what some of the guests on the program are saying.

Khosla Ventures Managing Partner Vinod Khosla

Clean Tech Bets

Khosla is passionate about alternative energy, petroleum independence and the environment.He touched on biorefineries, biofuels and companies like BCI.

Khosla pointed to cellulosic ethanol, made from "wood chips, grasses and other similar materials."

Unlike the corn-based version, it does not drive food inflation and is a lot cheaper to produce, he said.

"Cellulosic ethanol is available today...and will be commercially viable by 2009," he predicts.

Khosla said that next month, there will be an announcement of a cellulosic plant ground-breaking in Georgia.

Elevation Partners Co-Founder Roger McNamee

McNamee isn't about to give up his day job at Elevation Partners, the venture capital firm he co-founded, but he's not about to give up his night job either. McNamee's best known as the money man behind such companies as Electronic Arts, Intuit and Cerent (now Cisco), but he's also a lifelong musician.

Rocking the Deal World

He's speaking about the firm's current focus -- media and entertainment -- and how changes in technology and demographics have created new business opportunities for content owners and creators, many of which exist outside of traditional distribution channels.

McNamee is betting on troubled Palm, maker of the Treo handheld, which disappointed critics. But he says many of those critics -- and investors -- are being myopic.

"In the short run, [Research in Motion's] BlackBerry and Apple have essentially unassailable market positions," he concedes.

But McNamee maintains Palm has a "great position for the long-term," as "93 percent of cell phones -- which are now 'dumb' phones -- will become smart phones."

"This is a great time to patient and re-price risk," he says.

On a light note, McNamee, whose firm attracted U2's Bono as an investor, has a new band, Moonalice, and Power Lunch's got Moonalice. McNamee and his band mates -- including legendary bassist Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna -- will perform their " '60s sound" music live  on the program. Look for the free downloads.

PG&EChairman and CEO Peter Darbee

Powering Up California

As CEO of the parent of Pacific Gas & Electric, Darbee faces unique hurdles: California has some of the strictest regulations in the country and a challenging climate.

But Darbee is embracing the challenge: Last week, PG&E announced a $14 billion capital spending plan, focussing on renewable energy concepts like a wind-power center in British Columbia, generating electricity for the Golden State.

"We need different climates -- when it's hot in California, the wind stops blowing," Darbee says. "We look for energy efficiency first to solve the problem of increased demand. Then, we look at demand management."

Clarium Capital Management President Peter Thiel

Betting on the Bay Area

Thiel was a trailblazer in building the San Francisco dot-com culture of the 1990s: The co-founder and ex-CEO of PayPal sold the online money-transfer service to eBay for $1.5 billion.

And as an early-stage investor in social-networking sites like Friendster, LinkedIn and Facebook (whose board he sits on), he remains a vociferous proponent of the Bay Area's potential.

"You have bubbles in real estate, finance, possibly in emerging markets. But in tech, it's relentlessly moving higher -- and it's not a bubble."

Among other reasons for his confidence, Thiel cites the lack of IPOs in the tech sector, meaning investors are long-term and not seeking to cash out in a hurry.

"In the late '90s, [Silicon Valley] money was flowing from the 'new economy' to the old one -- you even had an online pet-foods store buying ads on the Super Bowl. But at this point, the money is flowing the other way," Thiel says.

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