Readers Comment on “American Innovation in Crisis”

I have received over 100 private emails with reactions to my DHS CATCH conference keynote address, and a number of public comments have been posted on blogs such as Mark Boslet’s TechPulse 360  and Alastair Goldfisher's article on Daniel Primack’s PEHUB.  I have excerpted some of these comments below and only attributed them to the author if they were made in a public forum as opposed to a private comment.

I have received a few comments asserting that there is no crisis because there is still plenty of capital committed to funding innovation in America.  I want to emphasize two very important distinctions in responding to this assertion:  the amount of capital is secondary to (1) the need for cohesive interaction and coordination between the public and private sectors and (2) the need to restore a balance between primary research pursuing breakthrough innovation and efforts to commercialize that research.

Venture capitalists are not in the business of promoting open-ended primary research– we are in the business of development and commercialization. There is a big difference between risk capital that measures success in terms of ROI and risk capital that embraces less sharply defined concepts of success through the achievement of breakthrough innovation.

My core point is that the fundamental nature of global competitiveness has changed. The U.S. is losing ground internationally on multiple technological fronts. We need to recognize this and act to correct it.

Some excerpted comments from readers:

“I read your speech, and found myself saying "amen" throughout. Couldn't agree more!
One additional point: as a nation, we have had the advantage of a risk culture, and mobility. As a diasporic nation, everyone is from somewhere else, a generation or two removed. This culture is either missing or less developed in Europe and Asia (except perhaps Israel). I believe this advantage will erode over time. In particular, it will be less important to innovation in the next few years, as people who are petrified of losing their financial lives sit on their hands in fetal position.”

                     Experienced Silicon Valley Investor

"As dark a picture as this perspective may portray, I would like to thank Pascal Levensohn for such a clear and accurate assessment. In Innovation processes, you are taught to ‘fail fast and fail often’ so that you can achieve your ultimate goal of breakthrough innovation.  Unfortunately, it is perceived that many organizations today share a sentiment of ‘fail once and you’re finished’.  Innovation is the ultimate balance between risk and reward.  No risk, no reward.  Stand up America.  Do your part.  Take the innovation risk!  Rewards will follow!"

                        Brian Roderman (posted on PEHUB)

"This article is the most honest assessment of the American Innovation system that I have laid eyes on." 
Kell Smith (posted on PEHUB)

"The reality is that we are deflating the risk associated with early stage innovation and therefor deflating the exit values it spawns. If you care about innovation, you need to care about the ecosystem it requires and in many ways Pascal is right. We need more risk takers, especially in the investor side (which Pascal represents)."

Georges van Hoegaerden (posted on PEHUB)

"This is a very, very tough challenge and, having worked for 35 years with various efforts by business to "partner" with government, I'm sorry to say that the private sector can easily end up on the short-end of the stick if it's not very careful, and very smart, about the terms of the working relationship. It can be productive but only if the climate is right for innovators to innovate with a minimum of 'governing' by the government!"

Veteran of Public-Private Partnership Initiatives

"We are indeed living off the harvest of seeds planted long ago,
and people don’t understand that America will decline unless the investment is
made now.  Although I appreciate the importance of basic research, I was appalled by some figures [released by] the White House [which] reviewed something like 400,000 government funded research projects and concluded that less than 1% every led to any commercial use.   It may be the research was fine, but the mechanism to make it available to those who could then commercialize it is almost non-existent."  

 Experienced Silicon Valley Cybersecurity Consultant 

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