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Dumb money will lose in tech bubble

@CNNMoneyTech May 9, 2011: 2:21 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Yes, we are in a tech bubble again -- but only dumb money will lose this time around. That's what 39% of attendees said in a pop poll at the Wired Business Conference in New York City on Tuesday.

The question was posed to the audience during a panel discussion about tech startup funding. Wired magazine senior writer Steven Levy moderated the talk with Harj Taggar, a partner at uber-incubator Y Combinator, and Chris Sacca, Lowercase Capital's influential founder.

Both Taggar and Sacca said the popularity of angel investing has changed their firms and how they look at promising new startups.

"I was at Google when I started investing, and it wasn't popular to invest when you had a full time job," Sacca said, dryly adding, "I also didn't have very much, you know, money."

In fact, Sacca made his first angel investment -- in Photobucket -- on a credit card.

"That was probably illegal, breaking SEC rules, but the statute of limitations is probably up," he deadpanned.

Sacca's second investment went to Twitter in its early days, though he said he has since refocused Lowercase Capital on later-stage startups.

Levy, the moderator, noted that Mark Zuckerberg "had to sign away so much of his company in order to get just a few thousand in funding."

That's not the case anymore, said Y Combinator's Taggar.

"YC was originally focused on funding people who couldn't get funded elsewhere," he said. "Now our profile has grown larger, and we filter more. But we still fund great people, even if they don't have a full product yet."

Taggar said Y Combinator encourages its startups to take buyouts if they're interested, as long as the deal is fair and clean. Sacca seemed to echo those sentiments, though he noted that valuations have soared into the stratosphere.

"I've read essays with people saying, 'These dips--t companies are exiting in early stage,'" Sacca said. "But it's like, why does this not really count? Is this not real money?"

Even if the startup tech industry is in a bubble, Sacca said, there's an important distinction: "These are all real businesses this time around. Like Twitter is just starting to create a great business. Anyone telling them to sell now wasn't watching what happened on Twitter the other night with Osama bin Laden's killing. They're naive and not paying attention."

Still, Sacca said, many Silicon Valley startups have fallen prey to a potentially fatal flaw: "They're really good at creating these warm and fuzzy products, but business isn't really in their DNA."

That void has given the New York tech scene some room to grow, Sacca said: "Those startups are really commerce focused. They're about making money -- which is, of course, important." To top of page

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