Editorial: Finding the 'win:win'

The paranoid in us recognises headwinds are coming, the optimist hopes they can be met.

There are several memes often heard in Silicon Valley and other innovation capital hotspots, such as pay it forward, collaboration and win:win.

The latter might be the most frustrating, as, just as with the parable of the Chinese farmer, it depends on the timescale.

But while Silicon Valley has done a great job of exporting through soft power its concepts for how to organise a venture ecosystem, its underlying assumptions expressed through its memes can clash with ecosystems that struggle to recognise or relate to them.

The European Council on Foreign Relations’ paper on Ukraine looks on p72 about the “zoopolitics” – a term coined by Volodymyr Yermolenko - of a geopolitical as a survival-of-the-fittest battle involving different values.

What will happen when the cultural values of many in the innovation capital worlds meet with those that pay less attention to them or have radically different agendas?

There are some big sums at play. Since 2000, French state-owned BPIfrance has provided financing to 60,000 companies from its €18bn pool of finance and has committed to 200 venture funds, according to news provider RudeBaguette’s sponsored article, while China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation(CIC), has created a $5bn direct investment group to help Chinese companies invest overseas, in the latest of a series of state-backed funds to support its economy on top of a $6.5bn venture programme announced earlier in the year. Governments can make and skew markets.

For the entrepreneurs it will be another challenge to meet.

Venture capitalist Brad Feld in a recent blog picks up on former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s autobiography, Only the Paranoid Survive, and writes: “While he [Groves] leads with the idea of being intensely paranoid, there’s a thread of clear optimism through his big decisions.

“When faced with brutal challenges, he dealt with them. When there was daylight in front of him, he ran incredibly hard in a positive way to cover as much ground as possible. But he always knew he’d face more challenges….

“I ignore the macro. I recognize that I have no control over it.… I know the cycle will change and the companies I’m part of will have the opportunity to be successful regardless of the situation. But I also know they have the opportunity to fail.”

Two great headwinds - the next economic downturn and the cultural values challenge of Silicon Valley - are or will emerge to affect a globalising world of limited capital and population controls and technological disruption.

The paranoid in us recognises these headwinds are coming, the optimist hopes they can be met.

Yuval Harari’s thoughtful book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, argues our evolution from a marrow-eating niche to dominant species was partly driven by our ability to plan, cooperate and share fictions following the cognitive revolution. Silicon Valley-ites summarise this as find the win:win but for few winners.

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