Steve Blank is famous in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur and teacher of entrepreneurship. In particular, he has a Secret History of Silicon Valley which shows the importance of the military and cold war in its development.
He recently published a very optimistic blog When It’s Darkest Men See the Stars.
He claims entrepreneurship barriers are changing. These were:
1. long technology development cycles (how long it takes from idea to product),
2. the high cost of getting to first customers (how many dollars to build the product),
3. the structure of the venture capital industry (a limited number of VC firms each needing to invest millions per startups),
4. the expertise about how to build startups (clustered in specific regions like Silicon Valley, Boston, New York, etc.),
5. the failure rate of new ventures (startups had no formal rules and were a hit or miss proposition),
6. the slow adoption rate of new technologies by the government and large companies.
And we are facing a new world he calls “The Democratization of Entrepreneurship” and he sees
– A Compression of the Product Development Cycle
– Startups Built For Thousands Rather than Millions of Dollars
– A New Structure of the Venture Capital industry
– Entrepreneurship as Its Own Management Science
– Consumer Internet Driving Innovation
I reacted on his blog and wrote this: I have to admit I am puzzled. Let me elaborate.
On the positive side, the optimism expressed is very refreshing and I felt really good after reading it. I tend to agree with the lower barriers to entrepreneurship, and probably I kept my sun glasses in the dark too long, so I do not see the stars. (But I will think this is a great article that I want to mention to my own little network.) But on the other side, I am concerned that the same barriers still exist in biotech, semiconductor (and most hardware products if they embed radical innovations) or even in cleantech/greentech (which by the way maybe be more a bubble than a real new field). In these fields, product development is as long, VCs are afraid sometimes of the capital requirements, Richard Newton, the Berkeley professor (http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~newton/presentations), had noticed a long time ago, that most talents go out of these tough fields to easier or more promising fields (it was from electronics to internet in the 90s). It might be that we do not (have to) innovate as much in these classical fields anymore, in which case you are totally right. But if not, we are just moving to the low hanging fruits of innovation, and we are blinded by superstars but do not see the myriads of others (needs, opportunities) we should also focus on…