Skip to comments.Annual Mile High Tech Entrepreneurship Conference
Posted on 03/18/2010 9:34:55 PM PDT by flamberge
Those in the know seat themselves here says the woman behind me. The seats of great advantage are the ones next to electric outlets that can be used to supply power to a laptop. About 10% of the crowd seems to have brought their laptops with them and are peering intently into the displays.
Others in the audience are tapping out important messages on their pocket communicators sometimes to their colleagues across the room.
Seated nearby are a consultant in the music business, a newly graduating attorney, and the owner of a start-up software business which provides secure online questionnaires. It is a mixed audience of people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. There are younger people sprinkled around in small groups who appear to be graduate students in their late 20s and early 30s.
We are all present to hear panelists at the Mile High Tech Entrepreneurship Conference at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Many of us are here specifically to meet the panelists, who include a number of very prominent venture capitalists and investors.
The scheduled panel topics range from mildly controversial (Immigration) to merely obscure (Innovation and Geography). It is the speakers that count, and the reception that will follow.
Vivek Wadhwa (Harvard Law School) leads off with a discussion of immigration. He says that growing xenophobia in the United States is causing a reverse brain drain of highly skilled Indian and Chinese workers who are returning to their home countries at an increasing rate. Apparently 90% of foreign students plan to return to their home countries within 3 years of graduation. Americas loss is Indias gain he says also The Chinese government wants their students back.
Professor Wadhaw points out that 60% of advanced degrees in Science and Engineering from American Universities now are granted to foreigners and that 50% of the Silicon Valley startup companies were founded by immigrants. The 2005 revenue from this activity was over 50 billion dollars. Successful immigrants are usually very highly skilled and well educated.
[Ed. Note .and they often have wealthy families in their home country. The poor and unskilled immigrant who makes good in America is becoming very rare]
The panelists bemoan the arrogant attitude that the American government shows toward immigrants and all agree that immigration quotas are too low. One panelist suggests that foreign students should receive green cards automatically upon graduation.
Professor Wadhaw states plainly that every wave of immigrants competes with the native population for wages thus driving them down. He also mentions that the common H1B immigrants must be sponsored by their employers and have little job mobility. You have a class of people who are bound to indentured servitude for up to a decade before they can expect to get permanent residency. American companies (small startups) cannot access the talent that they need from these immigrants.
[Ed. note. No one on the panels or in the audience wants to point out the obvious connection between lowered wages, indentured servitude to large sponsoring companies, and increasing hostility to immigrants, (xenophobia)]
The panelists agree that government manages the visa programs very poorly and is biased against small companies. Politicians do not seem to understand the difference between small businesses, such as a dry cleaner or a convenience store and technology startups, which can grow to be primary employers of hundreds or thousands of people.
There appears to be incentives to keep things just the way they are now, namely the huge amount of fees paid to lawyers and various government agencies. Comprehensive Immigration reform is impossible, and even piecemeal changes are unlikely or very difficult. Any changes to legal immigration procedures must be firmly de-linked from the topic of illegal immigration. ---
The Conference passes to other matters. Of particular interest are some comments by panelist and venture capitalist Kyle Lefkoff.
Mr Lefkoff makes the point that capital is abundant for the best ideas, backed by proven leaders. Serial entrepreneurs are the scarce resource, not funding or ideas. The critical factors for startup companies are as follows:
Location matters people want to come here and stay here
A great University is required for a high-tech entrepreneur community to exist
Anchor Tenants [local and major primary employers] are key assets.
State and local governments can only be an impediment, not a catalyst.
That last point gets considerable elaboration. The only effective action that State and local governments can take to promote entrepreneurial business is to support technology programs in their Universities. Other than that, Mr Lefkoff says Leave us alone. ---
A reception follows the presentations.
Many of the panelists stay on to speak with interested members of the audience, and new connections are being made at an incomprehensible rate. The A-Players have picked out their targets and move in to chat with amazing deftness and charm. There are potentially millions of dollars in funding that may result from a good contact, but for now it is sufficient to exchange business cards and make a favorable impression. There will be another time to make the big pitch.
As said by Vivek Wadhaw; This area has the greatest concentration of creative people in the world. Hey we all help each other.
Can add Wozniak and Jobs in that too, with a garage--Jobs a college droput (like Gates).
The “Great University” is not for the entrepreneur, it is the source for the smart people that the entrepreneur will probably need to hire.
It is also the source for a great deal of useful advice and possibly some research.
Wozniak and Jobs both made considerable use of people from nearby Universities to build Apple Computer. Edison, not so much.
We have lots and lots of onferences for all kinds of things here. People don’t know that Colorado is a high tech State with more tech than most States with 1/3 of our economy being Aerospace and Defense and about 1/5 being telecom.
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