SAN JOSE, Calif.--We sat down recently with Atiq Raza, entrepreneur in residence at Khosla Ventures, interim chief executive of battery maker Seeo (Berkeley, Calif.) and a veteran of Silicon Valley. The discussion ranged across topics including venture capital, the Intel-vs.-AMD battle, the outlook for clean tech.
EE Times: How would you characterize the state of the venture capital sector in Silicon Valley?
Atiq Raza: The VC model is undergoing a transformation. In the last ten years, a handful of VCs gave good returns in, another handful gave reasonable returns, but a very large number gave mediocre returns and an even larger number lost a lot of money.
So it's going to be very difficult for some VCs to raise funds. The total world of VCs is going to shrink dramatically. Thatís not all bad. It will raise the quality of deals.
EET: Is innovation moving away from Silicon Valley?
Raza: There will be substantially less venture money going into Silicon Valley. Thatís a good assumption to make. However I think innovation will increase in Silicon Valley over time. We will re-engineer ourselves into becoming experts in the new technologies.
EET: Like clean tech? What are you doing there?
Raza: I'm researching the possibility of helping to start a company that will address energy storage with a different scientific basis. There is a tremendous need in the world to make batteries have a higher energy density, be safe and have a high-speed way of charging and discharging.
We actually need two kinds of batteries. One kind is extremely high energy density--at least 10x what we have today--and we need a battery or ultracapacitor that allows fast charging and discharging. Classical batteries can't pull energy out for a sustained period rapidly because you are moving atoms and they can't move fast enough.
EET: How big is the battery opportunity?
Raza: It is the only industry in the world that will grow from $10 billion to $100 billion in the next ten years--and it can grow another five times that size in the following ten years. I donít see an end in sight if there are sufficient breakthroughs, and even if the breakthroughs don't come, there will still be a hunger to absorb anything with an incremental edge.
EET: What markets are driving this?
Raza: Today wireless devices still drive the market for lithium ion batteries. There is about 200 million laptops worth of lithium ion battery capacity installed in the world today.
Tesla Motors uses about 2,000 laptops worth of batteries for one car, so 100,000 Teslas would consume the total lithium ion capacity in the world. So there will be a dramatic increase in lithium ion capacity.
As we try to supply cellphones for billions of people in the world and even several mobile devices per person its mind boggling what that will do the wireless infrastructure. The wireless tower will need battery backup. If you count all the energy requirements for all these applications [include smart grid backup] they actually exceed even the automotive requirements.
EET: Who are the likely winners?
Raza: From the best I can tell the Koreans are winning that race. I wouldnít be surprised if in the next two years Samsung and LG emerge as the winners with Panasonic and Sanyo now merging and being left behind as number three.