The post-Bretton woods world driven by profits is not a particularly inclusive or equitable one. Assets globally are governed by accountants while GDP remains the global benchmark for national performance, despite it reflecting an unsustainable and inequitable economic model. It all seems like a very myopic way of looking at the world. The time is well overdue to review what we value as a society. Valuing people and the planet seem to be no–brainers, and yet they are not baked into the global economic system.
As measured by GDP, the USA went through the longest period of economic expansion in the last decade, in its history. Yet, despite this relentless growth, the country is recording its highest ever income inequality. Two American citizens are reported have more wealth than half of the country. Growth has in many cases, not meant development.
We now live in a world of breath-taking digital transformation. In the past 10 years the innovation ecosystem has changed our lives. We all carry mobile phones which increasingly rule our lives. The biggest companies in the world are the giant platform companies of Facebook, Google and Amazon. Data is heralded as the most precious resource of our time.
Yet, we also live in a world that is failing to capture the value of innovation. To be clear, innovators are not those incrementally reshaping products; but those offering fundamentally new and superior ones. On occasion, they make the quantum leap and create an entirely new market. We have not been fostering an innovation ecosystem that encourages this, but one where investment piles into the incumbents, rather than the insurgents. To concentrate their market share, these companies then continue to snap up much of the talent, only to then smother its originality. Its left innovators and entrepreneurs not effectively addressing the major social challenges of health, education, food, water, jobs, finance, security and environment.
The Economic Innovation Group’s own research discovered that despite all this talk of ground-breaking change, the most striking feature of modern business is the complete lack of dynamism and innovation. One figure that stands out in its Dynamism in Retreat report was that the number of businesses created in the US between 2010 and 2014 was less than a quarter of the number created between 1983 and 1987.
Our innovation culture is being stifled. Many of our brightest, high potential innovators with tech start-ups are struggling to survive. Research conducted by Harvard Business School found three out of four start-ups will fail, never to return any cash to investors. Far fewer than that ever return the original investment. Raising capital for start-ups has become an almost impossible process and innovation stops where fear begins. Now more than ever we must establish the right environment and incentives for innovators. We need to create an ecosystem where industries can work together with start-ups, universities, corporates, governments and investors to solve societal problems effectively.
The centralization of capital is killing innovation and slowing down economic growth. We must be able to deploy capital accurately at speed and at scale – which only decentralization combined with knowledge transfer can reach. Innovation is happening outside of universities – in co-working spaces, garages, accelerators and start-up collaboratives. Some of today’s most innovative ideas are coming from these groups. We need to embrace, engage and propagate these communities.
Entrepreneurs are already leading the start-up community; investors must focus on how we find and support this talent. It’s time to fix the funding and incentives for innovation and build a culture based on collaboration and research. We must change the paradigm that has been created by accountants and let the balance sheet reflect innovation as a new highly investible asset class.
Kevin Monserrat is the CEO of Consilience Ventures, a disruptive new collaborative community connecting capital, growth companies and business expertise.