Editor’s note: “The Angel Connection” is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share his views on the annual CED venture conference. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over 100 members throughout the Southeast.

PINEHURST, N.C. – The first full day of was well attended by enthusiastic entrepreneurs and investors seriously looking for good companies.

We had a full plate of great companies who made their presentations to packed rooms.

Wells Fargo introduced to North Carolina

The day was started by John Stumph, chief executive officer of Wells Fargo which bought Wachovia, who gave a sincere presentation about how much he is impressed with North Carolina. Believe it or not, this was his first trip here. He has met with many community leaders, including current and past governors as well as senators and congressmen.

He assured everyone that their Wachovia accounts are safe and that the transition will be carefully done to protect its Wachovia customers. Stumph gave a compelling history of Wells Fargo and related the strong culture of his organization that truly cares about its people, customers and communities in which it resides.

As for the financial crisis, he quite precisely described the fundamental causes but quite frankly had no crystal ball telling him when the recovery will occur. He was bullish about the fact that Wells is lending money now and is actively looking for new loans to make. The company is in a very strong cash position.

All in all, Stumph said that he would not “bet against America.” We have been through difficult times in the last few decades. He is confident that we will pull through this one too, explaining that this is what Americans are good at.

Entrepreneurs are at the heart of the recovery

Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system, started his presentation with a humorous discussion about what a lousy politician he is and now how happy he is taking on the challenges at UNC.

He too gave us a dose of reality concerning the challenges that face the education system today. Last year’s $50 million budget cut is near trivial compared to this year’s $175 million cut with a potential cut of another $200 million next year. This will cut to the bone of classes, people and potentially education quality.

Bowles noted that we are in a rapidly changing world. What we prepare our students for today will probably be obsolete in 10 years or less. He knows that the “old NC manufacturing jobs” will never come back as we move more and more to a knowledge-based economy. He said that we have to accept that we will continue to lose jobs to foreign countries that can provide many of them at much lower costs.

He pointed to the entrepreneur as being one of the major contributors to our return to a strong economy. He cited the need for increasing innovation and the support infrastructure that fosters it as being essential to our ultimate recovery.

North Carolina University is making substantial changes in its culture, technology transfer practices and accountability for academic results. Bowles stated that we have to focus on producing students that can think, communicate, be innovative and get things done in this new economy.

GreenTech – The next industrial revolution

To close out the day, John Denniston, partner at investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, made the proposition that we are on the verge of the next industrial revolution driven by the energy crisis. The revolution will be based on new energy sources driven by green technology.

Although an exciting premise, it was a disappointing presentation void of specific descriptions of innovations and technologies that would drive this kind of change. Quite frankly, this slow moving and elementary presentation addressed the audience as if we were eighth graders and couldn’t possibly have understood the basis for the industrial revolution of the early 1800’s or even understand who Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were. Nobody likes being talked down to.

Denniston cited the crisis as first being driven by man-made climate change as unanimously verified by United Nations organized scientists. Boy that sure isn’t very biased at all, from an organization that wants to transfer our wealth throughout the world through green house gas taxation.

Secondly, and more compelling was his concern about energy security in that we are far too dependent on foreign sources of energy from countries that hate us. And finally he explained the alarming advances that are being made in innovation in other countries like China, asserting that America is losing competitiveness to them.

He then made sweeping analogies based on Moore’s law, claiming that similar improvements will be made in alternate energy source technologies using 1995 data to illustrate his point. He compared the sum total of all of earth’s natural energy sources to those of the sun, concluding that we need to tap into solar energy for that reason. The presentation continued to a merciful end without much substance about today’s green technology innovation.

Kleiner Perkins is the world’s leading venture capital firm, but this presentation fell far short of showing their expertise in green technology innovation and what it will mean to the future of our economy.

Entrepreneurs and investors enthusiastic

The entire conference was buzzing with enthusiasm and positive attitudes about what we need to do to recover from this economic downturn. New innovations are abundant. Investors are interested and engaged. Just rubbing shoulders with them all was a major pickup for me.

About the author: Bill Warner is the managing partner of Paladin and Associates, a business consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park area of central North Carolina, and is the chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast.