Tesla Motors, a start-up focused on high-performance electric cars, appears to be in a bit of trouble.
Although Tesla just raised an additional $40 million, it is asking for $400 million in low-interest loans from the federal government as part of the $25 billion loan package to the auto industry.
Yeah, I know that Tesla is working on cool electric technology for high-performance cars that could help our country ease its heroin-like addiction to foreign oil. That said, are the Valley-based VCs and big-wigs who back Tesla really serious?
Tesla may be a technological marvel and it is located in Silicon Valley, but Tesla is not an IT start-up per se. In the automotive industry, it can take billions of dollars and many years to get a product to market. Didn't the VCs anticipate this type of money and time commitment up front?
As the old saying goes, "When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Valley VCs seem to live by this mantra, believing that all business is like the technology business. You know, fund some smart guys with an idea and development chops, get a 1.0 product out, and then enhance the product as you create a sales and marketing team, build channels, and sign customers.
If you execute well with this formula, you may have a lucrative exit in three to five years. The problem is that other industries don't work this way. The next wave of technology breakthroughs will require big dough and lots of patience--a combination that is really an anathema to VCs.
Good luck, Tesla, but Washington ain't Interop. You can throw lots of clean-energy market hype around, but there won't be much support in Congress to bail out VC firms, Valley multimillionaires, and a shoe-string manufacturer of cars for fat cats. There are too many others who really need the money.