Julie Meyer, a leading investor and entrepreneur in digital, high-growth, early stage businesses, has argued in the Financial Times that “a local alternative to Silicon Valley’s disruption mantra is needed,” as start-up value rushes from Europe to Palo Alto.
Although every industry faces a digital disruption – a phenomenon that lies at the root of Palo Alto culture – Julie is convinced that “the unit economics are much stronger in start-ups that enable and extend the existing infrastructure than in those that disrupt the incumbents.” Julie believes that these traits are more likely to be found in Europe, where they “fundamentally want a sustainable ecosystem: for consumers and employees both to win.”
Julie explains that “if Europe tries to imitate Palo Alto it will always be second rate.” As such, she notes that the industry should reflect on the unique assets of its entrepreneurs, and the context in which they build their businesses.
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Writing for the Washington Post, innovation guru Vivek Wadhwa highlights 7 admirable start-ups that are driving social change.
Vivek comments that the tech industry surely deserves the criticism it receives for thinking small and focusing on silly apps – just look at the industry’s heavy hitters and venture capitalists who provided $1.5 million to seed a useless app such as Yo. But there is hope, he says, with many entrepreneurs doing great things. Vivek believes that “the tide is turning and that in 2015 we will see more and more emphasis on technology that returns us to the moonshot roots of Silicon Valley.”
This is evidenced by Google Ventures, which is focusing more on health care and life-sciences companies, and Y Combinator, the most powerful start-up accelerator in the world, backing seven non-profits in its latest class. Here are seven companies that stand out:
- Mountain Hazelnuts Group – building a major hazelnut production capability in Bhutan.
- CriticaLink – a non-profit mobile-app company that helps first aiders get to accident scenes more quickly.
- Scanadu – hopes to make medical technology devices for consumers.
- Range Networks – makes open-source software for deploying and operating cellular networks using commodity equipment.
- Totus Power – builds a battery pack with the same output as a conventional battery backup system, but weighs only one fifth as much and can be a tenth the cost.
- Bayes Impact – seeks to bring the power of big data to needy organisations in the government or non-profit sector.
- Revivn – collect unused electronics and provide them to people who lack computer access.
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Vivek Wadhwa, Vice President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University, recently wrote a column in the Washington Post on the arrogance and self-righteousness of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
Not long ago, venture capitalists were the kings and kingmakers of the tech industry; when they walked into a room, entrepreneurs bowed. However, now they have largely become irrelevant to start-ups and the tables have turned.
Vivek explains that although venture capitalist attitudes haven’t changed, despite their reduced functionality, the public no longer accepts their frat-boy behaviour, sexism, racism, and arrogance. The irony here is that social media, a technology that the tech industry created, is causing them to be accountable and to change.
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