Feeds

UK tech inventors defeated by cash drought

TiVo inventor says VC shortfall stymying innovation

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

British technology is being crippled by a lack of venture funding, according to a leading UK entrepreneur who made his fortune in Silicon Valley.

TiVo founder Mike Ramsay says a lack of cash is forcing inventors to lower their hopes and ambitions.

Edinburgh-raised Ramsay, who invented the trailblazing TV hard disk recorder the TiVo, told weekly technology podcast OUT-LAW Radio that a lack of investment forces inventors to trim their own sails before they have the chance to test out ideas.

"There's no question in my mind that the talent is here, the entrepreneurs are here, and they're every bit as passionate and smart and savvy as any of them in Silicon Valley," said Ramsay. "The issue is money. Sources of funding for young entrepreneurs are not nearly as fluid as they are back there.

"As a result I think companies that could be high potential are not able to raise the funds that they want, and they reset their expectations to something that fits with the funds that they can get, and if those expectations are below critical mass the company won't break out, and that's a shame."

Ramsay said UK business is awash with private equity funding, but that very little of it is available for start-up tech firms. "I think the money is there, it's just not applied to that type of activity. There's private equity out there but only a small portion of that goes to venture capital. I think it's much more fluid in the US," he said.

Ramsay worked at Hewlett-Packard after leaving Edinburgh University and moved with the company to Silicon Valley, where he eventually joined animation computer specialists Silicon Graphics.

He and Jim Barton left Silicon Graphics to form a company in the late 1990s and managed to raise $3m in venture capital funding before even having a fixed business plan. The pair came up with the idea for the TiVo and faced extreme legal pressure from the television networks which believed their business was threatened by the machines' ability to fast-forward past advertising.

"There were all sorts of arguments about, 'your right to watch television in the United States is a right that is only granted if you watch the commercials'," he said. "At the end of the day it was the Sony/Betamax ruling, that was a Supreme Court ruling, that came out of a lawsuit Sony was involved in when they first came out with the video recorder. The result of that ruling gave people freedom to record for personal use."

TiVo won its arguments and television networks eventually even invested in the company. "Over time they realised this was not a TiVo thing, we had created a DVR [digital video recorder] and it had a life of its own and it was going to exist independently of us. Over time the climate changed, but initially it was interesting."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.