I never did understand the frenzy around startups and small biz as an engine for job creation, but I kept still—no one makes a fool of themselves intentionally.
Then last July I read an article by Andy Grove about what it takes to create jobs and my thoughts didn’t seem quite so ignorant. In September I read that after the first rush of hiring small and large companies are fairly even regarding job creation.
I also couldn’t understand the economic value of companies such as Groupon, Twitter, Zynga or even Facebook. I really couldn’t see how new ways to sell stuff was going to rebuild the middle class; it just didn’t seem that anything new and real was actually being created, but I didn’t broadcast those heretical views, either.
Now I’m seeing my heretical ideas voiced by people with cred.
So if this tech bubble is about getting shoppers to buy, what’s left if and when it pops? [Steve] Perlman [founder or WebTV] grows agitated when asked that question. Hands waving and voice rising, he says that venture capitalists have become consumed with finding overnight sensations. They’ve pulled away from funding risky projects that create more of those general-purpose technologies—inventions that lay the foundation for more invention. “…But they are building on top of old technology, and at some point you exhaust the fuel of the underpinnings.”
Beyond all this is the fact that selling stuff requires a strong middle class to buy it and even startups with real products aren’t contributing to the manufacturing jobs that underpin that same middle class.
“The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that’s the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs.” –Andy Grove
China and India are consumer powerhouses not because of their newly minted uber-rich, but because of their growing middle class.
Most of this has been said in one way or another, but it doesn’t seem to have sunk in. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I am sure that the conversation needs to become a lot louder before anyone notices, let alone takes action.
Image credit: Flickr
Article first published as No Help Wanted on Technorati.