Here at Defrag today, Vivek Wadhwa spoke about innovation. Despite starting off as little more than a travelogue and a list of people Wadhwa has met, he went on to talk about the barriers to entrepreneurship. He made some specific points about the funding decisions of Silicon Valley VC firms and even called out a recent funding decision by Dave McClure, suggesting that rather than funding a young entrepreneur, McClure should have funded the product from an older founder.

Like Andy Kessler’s neo feudalistic talk last year at defrag, Wadhwa really stirred passions up at this event. My passions were arounsed by two distinct but major flaws in his approach:

Replacing –isms with –isms

Wadhwa call for investors to fund companies started by women and older people, while making a nice impact on the bell shaped curve of investment, does little to bring out the best and brightest in technology. Investors should be funding the very best technology – regardless of who is behind it. By criticizing the stereotypes that Silicon Valley VCs use to make their funding decisions, Wadhwa introduced an entire new level of stereotypes. As one commenter posted on Twitter:

railing against stereotypes while leveraging your own is of cognitive dissonance.

The model is broken

Wadhwa suggested that the problem with innovation lies in the fact that the world is trying to emulate Silicon Valley and that the focus is on Governments building incubators and trying to invest in University research. He suggested that the return from that approach was marginal at best. This got me riled up – the issue here isn’t who VCs chose to fund, isn’t the well-meaning, if ineffectual attempts of Governments to foster innovation – rather the issue is an economic system that, by definition is based on debt-fuelled, exit-pressured and hyper-competitive pressures, rather than on building good tools an a nurturing environment.

I get what Wadhwa was trying to say, I understand that it takes big statements to get people thinking, but reverse racism, sexism or ageism is mindless. Criticizing the moves of those who are forced to act in a particular way by a certain economic system is mindless. Wadhwa – if you really want to think big, go for the root causes of innovation deficit – an economic system that forces it in one direction only.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.


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