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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 05:53 GMT 06:53 UK
Google investor's success secrets
Michael Moritz
I think the notion of retirement is just a dreadful, dreadful idea and I hope I never have to do that
Michael Moritz
Perhaps it is his status as one of the world's most successful venture capitalists that allows Michael Moritz to admit the occasional blunder.

"I want to reassure you we have made more mistakes than you can imagine," says the Cardiff-born Oxford graduate.

Of course, when you have nearly 600m, you can afford to be self-deprecating about how you made your stash.

All the more so when the businesses you have successfully invested in include giants like Google, YouTube and eBay.

He left Britain for the US after university. "This was at a time in the mid-1970s when all of Britain seemed to be on strike and the lights kept going out and the future seemed rather bleak," he said.

"So I decided to move to America, not ever expecting to be in America more than 30 years later."

He began his career as a journalist, before restlessness prompted him to found a technology publishing company in California in the early 1980s.

Three decades later, aged 53 and worth 558m, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List, he was back in the land of his father, giving talks to Cardiff Business Club and at BBC Wales.

Forbes magazine put him top of its "Midas List" of venture capitalists last year. But having made his fortune through technology, he has another confession: "It's one of my many shortcomings and one of the things I wish I was much better at," he said.

"My undergraduate degree was in history, and I wish I had been smart enough to really excel at maths, physics, chemistry or biology because... the voyagers and adventurers and real contributors - that's where they come from."

It's hard to imagine today, barely 100 weeks since the company was formed, that last month 200m people around the world used the service that is now called YouTube
Michael Moritz

He described the relationship between venture capitalists and the businesses in which they invest as "removing one of the many risks that they face - which is running out of money".

Shortage of cash is not a problem likely to face his most prominent partners today. Mr Moritz's company invested early in both Google - founded in 1998 and now worth nearly $200bn,(100bn) - and YouTube, bought by Google last year for $1.65bn (890m).

He recalled Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as intensely focused on developing an internet search engine that would be "of far greater use to ordinary mortals - and to say the least, they've been proved right".

Internet whizz-kids

The founders of video-sharing site YouTube were given rooms in Sequoia's offices when they started, as they tackled the challenge of how they could send videos easily.

When Mr Moritz admitted with a smile that he sometimes wondered whether YouTube existed because its founders were never there in the morning. "Like lots of 20-somethings their days didn't begin until two in the afternoon," he smiled.

Google logo
Google quickly became the world's most popular search engine

But those unconventional methods paid off. "It's hard to imagine today, barely 100 weeks since the company was formed, that last month 200m people around the world used the service that is now called YouTube," he said.

While the likes of Google and YouTube are already huge, he listed several web businesses which may be less widely known but are growing rapidly.

These include Dash, offering the internet and two-way connectivity in the car, Sugar, which hosts a series of blogs on everything to celebrity gossip to cooking, and Kayak, "the next generation" of travel sites.


The Moritz recipe for business start-ups includes trying to imagine what the company will need to grow, the significance of a good relationship with customers, and the "super-critical" importance of recruiting good people in the early days.

While the US has long been his home, he says Wales retains "an extremely warm and fond corner in my heart".

"I have a small family here but as the years and seasons move on, inevitably there are fewer people who live here than when I left Howardian High School in 1973."

But his homeland is not always as high profile as he might want.

"I did have one person say to me some time ago, 'Oh you're from Wales, you really have a Scottish accent'. So people are a little hazy, shall we say, about Wales. Is it to the west of London or is it part of Australia, they say."

He has no plans to stop working. "I think the notion of retirement is just a dreadful, dreadful idea and I hope I never have to do that.

"Look at [News Corporation chairman] Rupert Murdoch: he's 76 and he's so full of life and vital and charged up about the business he's in, and there are so many people I know like that in America.

"I have two partners in California: one of whom is 75 and one of whom is 76.

"They don't work as hard as I do but they are pretty amped up about the business we are in."

Michael Moritz is interviewed on Wales@work on BBC Radio Wales at 1832 BST on Tuesday.

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