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Venture Capital Notebook: Some Odds and Ends From the Seasonal File

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Influential author George Gilder, known for his bullish views on optical networking, broadband Internet and telecommunications companies, was in town this week speaking about ways to reignite the tech economy.

But the tech guru reserved most of his talk at Benaroya Hall to describe the telecom meltdown, something he characterized as “truly a cataclysm.”

A cataclysm indeed.

Thirty-five major telecommunications companies have gone bankrupt in the current slump, Gilder said. Several of those firms, including Global Crossing, were onetime favorites of the futurist.

Compared with Enron — a single trading company that Gilder called a “marginal contributor to the economy” — the telecom bust has had a real effect on the way we live.

Still, Gilder is optimistic that a rebound will occur.

“We haven’t seen anything yet, the technologies are coming to fruition,” he said. “They would be coming to fruition now if this cataclysm, this ‘tele-chasm,’ did not occur. But they are going to be coming on in an amazing barrage in the next five years.”

Specifically, Gilder’s bright spots include Terabeam, with its free-space optics technology that beams Internet connections through office windows. Gilder has always been hot on the Kirkland company, declaring two years ago that the “Terabeam era” has begun. But after raising more than $500 million, the “Terabeam era” has been slow to arrive.