When the world wide web (www.abc.xyz) was birthed in the early 1990s, over the next few years it was clear just how pervasive its influence could be.
I went to the keynote talk at the Optical Fiber Conference (OFC) in 1995 where Bran Ferren talked and gave an early perspective on the emerging internet. Here is a talk by Bran. In the talk in 1995 he asked a very interesting question: “This Internet thing, its really important right? But is it as important as the fax machine or as fire”. The invention of the fax machine nearly killed FedEx because the need for delivery of overnight letters died over night. So it was very important. But compared to “[man’s control of] fire” which was clearly one of the big inventions of all time!
When Bran asked that audience most of the engineers there voted for fire but a few of us said fire.
Bran said its FIRE – and his reasoning was crystal clear. The internet would fundamentally change the way humans tell each other our stories and the ability to tell stories was one of the fundamental defining elements of being human. Wow. Clear.
Well there is emerging another really dynamic means of changing the world and it is the global use of venture capital, risk capital, private equity (all names for the same basic idea) to transform countries, societies, cultures.
As readers of this Blog know, I live in Singapore and lead an incubator here working to improve the standing of start up companies, entrepreneurs and such here. Small World Group Incubator, PTE LTD, does this in partnership with the Singapore National Research Foundation and so far we have started approximately 10 companies over the last year. All are still thriving, thank goodness; all have pretty much open futures for success still.
Over the last year we have talked directly to small groups in the Czech Republic, Thailand, Indonesia, India and we have relationships through YouNoodle and other groups that work around the world, mainly in what in the past were thought of as “third world countries” but today literally there are perhaps 50 countries that have strong, unique entrepreneurial government sponsored pushes to transform their economies and create businesses that will engage the country and their citizens with the wider world.
You get the idea.
So what is happening is that governments are spending what appears to be large sums of money (at least to individual people and startups) but in actuality they are spending small amounts compared to their overall federal budget and with this money they are trying to transform their economies.
And they are getting Venture Capitalists involved. All of this is causing a dramatic acceleration of ideas, new companies, new business and such all around the world.
So here is the simple message of this column … if Singapore, Chile, Czech Republic can start such programs, what does that mean to similarly sized groups of economically linked people who don’t have such programs or a willingness to engage this way?