As if they're not already flying high, California venture capitalists are allying themselves with Superman. In fact, Silicon Valley VCs have turned out to be some of the most ardent supporters of California's Proposition 71, an effort to provide approximately $300 million over the next 10 years for stem cell research. The cause was championed by the late Christopher Reeves, the Superman actor left paralysed due to a spinal injury from a riding accident.

By the time you read this magazine, California voters will have already decided the future of stem cell research within the Golden State with either a yay or nay vote on the proposition in the general elections. The proposal to create the country's largest-ever statefunded scientific research programme in the area has gone directly against the federal government, which, under the pro-life Bush administration, has restricted funding thus far.

Venture capitalists view the proposal as a way to counteract the scientific risks and costs associated with such nascent biotechnology investing. Government money, many VCs feel, can provide the funding momentum necessary to push stem cell research past the frontier levels – and into the investor's world of profitability.

According to a survey done by The Sacramento Bee newspaper of campaign contributions, California's venture capitalists donated nearly $4 out of every $10 raised for a campaign to support Proposition 71, which will be on the Nov. 2 California state ballot. Some of the venture capitalists that contributed to the campaign include:

  • • John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, $2.97 million
  • • William Bowes, founder, US Venture Partners, $1.3 million
  • • Franklin “Pitch” Johnson, general partner & owner Asset Management Co., $1 million
  • • Joseph Lacob, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, $1 million
  • • Brook Byers, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, $770,000