Even for a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, this was a bold prediction: Draper Fisher Jurvetson founder Tim Draper last month told a Palo Alto, California, technology conference that life would be discovered on Mars. "I am optimistic," he explains to Institutional Investor. "I wouldn't be surprised if we found it this year."
The forecast from Draper, whose firm specializes in early-stage tech investments, even raised a few eyebrows on a panel of visionaries that included Jim Breyer of Accel Partners, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Esther Dyson of EDventures and Tony Perkins, creator of tech-insider Web site AlwaysOn. But Draper -- a longtime Internet investor who invented the term "viral marketing" and is currently advocating voice and video communications over the Net -- isn't about to back off. "I was asked to make some outrageous predictions," he says. "That was clearly one of them."
Draper also asserts that in the future "we may be wearing a communications earring wirelessly attached to our cell phones, our cars, our pens, our GPS [global positioning systems] and our iPods." These, he adds, could be connected to a "personal area network" using Bluetooth wireless technology for as little as $5. "We might end up looking like the Borg," he told the crowd in Palo Alto, referring to the cyborg race from the Star Trek series. In that case, at least, Draper is putting his money where his mouth is: His firm has invested in IXI Mobile, a four-year-old Silicon Valley company that develops new kinds of networking technology.
Says Draper, "I have predicted a lot of stuff that hasn't come to fruition yet, and some that has -- similar to my investment record."