Since I joined the high-tech industry years ago, Silicon Valley has had a fundamental need for highly educated engineers and scientists that could not be filled by American graduates. This reality has been bemoaned by Congressional politicians for decades now, who have essentially done nothing to increase the emphasis on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) for resident Americans, and who instead chose to provide the H1-B Visa enabling Silicon Valley high-tech companies to employ immigrants to fill these crucial positions, and has enabled the high-tech industry to thrive. The election of Donald Trump has changed all that. His platform is almost completely devoid of any acknowledgment of the crucial importance of high-tech innovation to U.S. productivity and economic growth, the need for H1-B immigrants and the parallel need for greater investment in STEM education.
Following my recent blog posts on Reid Hoffman, COP21, and an apparent resurgence of Big Ideas in technology, a growing group of venture capitalists are resurrecting their original mission in industry and the economy. Paul Krugman of the New York Times has also noticed and offers his hope that this trend continues. Max Marmer, who wrote his now legendary 2012 Harvard Business Review article, “Reversing the Decline in Big Ideas,” has stimulated a broad rethinking on what we should be focusing. The successful landing of Space X’s Falcon 9 is a hopeful early indication that Elon Musk is one of those on the right track.
My biggest complaint with venture capital and the current entrepreneurial landscape is the lack of Big Ideas— the superficiality of the technology sector. “We were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters” –Peter Thiel. We also got corporate greed masquerading as “the sharing economy.” Many other well-known observers of this industry share my complaint. Some argue that these Big Ideas are too big for private investment, and can only be funded by governments with the resources and vision to accomplish such large long term projects. I disagree.