Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bill Joy for CTO-in-Chief

Al Gore’s boss, Kleiner Perkins VC John Doerr, is recommending Bill Joy as Barack Obama’s first CTO. I think it’s a brilliant choice: California gave Obama so many votes and so much money, but as a novice senator from the Midwest, he knows almost nothing about the place.

Joy has the maturity, the contacts and credibility to serve in the role, and no obvious axe to grind. He also has tremendous name recognition, and since he’s not currently in a startup, the opportunity cost is low. (Perhaps neo-renaissance man Elon Musk can run in 10 years when he has all his business and personal commitments straightened out.) He also actually has done the tough to work to make something of value, unlike friend-of-Barack Marc Andreessen.

(Valleywag reports that: Obama has appointed a fellow Harvard Law grad to be the lead technologist on his transition team. Not a good sign for the new administration giving policy jobs to those people in life who have actually created value, rather than merely redistributing it.)

Doerr has a number of technology policy recommendations, some fairly obvious. It’s a given that Obama will invest a lot in renewable energy. Doerr is also hoping that the government will promote more engineering graduates

I would create a specific program to double the number of engineers we graduate in the U.S. from 30,000 a year to 60,000.
Some of the engineering shortage is a supply issue, kids who give up on math too early. But it’s also a demand issue — young people are becoming lawyers because it pays better. (Something no Democrat administration in our lifetime is going to change).

So if Doerr wants more engineers, why doesn’t he pay them more? He‘s done pretty well by the free market, so perhaps he could send some market signals to encourage more supply.

Perhaps Doerr could get fellow loyalist Eric Schmidt to also put in a good word for Joy, cofounder of the (now-flagging) company that really launched his career. The visibility of an engineer-in-chief could make the profession cool again, without Doerr (or Schmidt) having to part with their hard-won billions.

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