It has been two months since the last post, partly because I’ve been overly busy, and honestly, partly because I got a bit discouraged, after a year of postings and only 58 subscribers. But that doesn’t move the ball forward, so I’m back at it again, hoping no one has given up on me, in despair or boredom.
In this past weekend’s Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal, there were two very interesting and germane op-ed pieces. One was the weekend interview of Glenn Hubbard, by Tunku Varadarajan. Hubbard, currently Dean of Columbia University’s Business School, had served as President Bush’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. I will quote a few key (and supportive) snippets from the piece: “you’ll see that the goal for economics isn’t GDP, it’s to deliver a kind of mass prosperity, with people feeling like they’re all part of the system”; “I think it’s more about opportunity than inequality”; and “America’s policy makers need to be in the middle—the debates we’ve seen in Britain and here in the U.S. are centered on people who feel like opportunity has left them, and they may be right—I think that is a government problem”.
The other editorial was by Senator Orrin Hatch, who issued a cry-from-the-heart against Identity Politics, the labelling and stereotyping of individuals, according to their race, religion, party affiliation, ethnicity or other grouping. This “tribalism” as he calls it, creates separating walls and barriers, obstructs or even eliminates debate of ideas, and has the possibility, even probability, of destroying E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one”. “Identity Politics conditions us to define ourselves and each other by the groups to which we belong. Soon, we lose sight of the myriad values that unite us. We come to see each other only through the distorted prism of our differences”.
Along with these fine points by experienced leaders, I have seen signs of movements everywhere to stand up for centrist approaches, whether they are independent third party attempts, or the Congressional “No Labels” caucus. All we need is a recognized leader who can look well beyond the next election, to build a movement or party that can win back the governance by consensus and compromise, rather than striving to destroy the opposition without ever listening to them.
Enough of that. Now I am going to tell you a (true) story of innovation and incentives on display. In March, with one of my startup clients, I saw, in real, visible, audible and tangible mode, the incredible American machine at work. And it was amazing and energizing!
In my consulting practice, I am helping a couple startups launch exciting businesses. One with great potential based on the entrepreneur’s scientific innovation, needs to raise capital to get underway. We attended a West Coast Venture Summit in Silicon Valley. Several hundred people attended, and I am guessing it was about 70 % entrepreneurs, 15% service providers, and 15% venture capitalists or angel investors.
It started on Tuesday evening with a wine/beer reception in a crowded space, that was essentially speed-dating for dollars. It continued the next day with panels discussing relevant topics and with entrepreneurs making their pitch for financing. Startups got about 3 minutes each, and more mature companies about 7 minutes. The range of projects and companies was very broad, from MD’s who had invented products and processes for weight loss, through complex energy usage sensing, analysis and corrective action, to a commercial website that enabled parents to connect with coaches for their children in music lessons, sports, tutoring, arts, etc.
It was a match-up of entrepreneurs who were risking their career and fortune to meet new needs of society, with investors who were willing to take huge risk with their money (or that of the people who invested in them), to help bring these new products and services to fruition in the marketplace. What enticed them all was the opportunity to make money, which a capitalist and market economy permits. Certainly there were other motivations—to build an organization, to brag about insight, to be the proud parent of a success among others. But what united them, and created the match between source and use of funds, was financial opportunity.
The system works.