Bill Gates: It’s OK If Half Of Silicon Valley Startups Are “Silly”

Bill Gates: It’s OK If Half Of Silicon Valley Startups Are “Silly”

Posted 11 hours ago by Gregory Ferenstein (@ferenstein)

Microsoft Founder Bill Gates doesn’t worry that Silicon Valley is the home of billion-dollar texting apps and farming games. “Innovation in California is at its absolute peak right now. Sure, half of the companies are silly, and you know two-thirds of them are going to go bankrupt, but the dozen or so ideas that emerge out of that are going to be really important,” Gates told Rolling Stone, in a wide-ranging interview on government surveillance, financial inequality, immigration reform, and the cultural backlash against Silicon Valley.

Gates’ sentiment is a nice to response to a New York Times spread that lambasted Silicon Valley investors for encouraging their brightest minds to work on solving the problems of yuppie 20-somethings.

“Why do these smart, quantitatively trained engineers, who could help cure cancer or fix healthcare.gov, want to work for a sexting app?”, asked writer Yiren Leu in the aptly titled “Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem”.

It’s important to keep in mind that many of the technology industry’s most impactful companies were originally targeted at the recreational lives of (relatively affluent) users. Facebook was built to help ivy league college students share fun photos. Today, Facebook significantly boosts voter turnout, organ donation, and broadband access in developing nations.

Gates also let loose on other important political topics, describing the current U.S. immigration system as “insane.”

“I’d say treatment of immigrants is one of the greatest injustices done in our government’s name,” he argued. “You’ve got 12 million people living in fear of arbitrary things that can happen to them.”

But, Gates didn’t carry the standard tech line on all issues. When asked if whistleblower Edward Snowden was a “hero,” Gates said, “I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn’t characterize him as a hero.”

He also didn’t express as much misgiving about government surveillance.

“Should there be cameras everywhere in outdoor streets? My personal view is having cameras in inner cities is a very good thing”, he said, noting that CCTV in London has reduced petty crime and that the government has good reason to investigate serious national security threats.

Despite our political problems, Gates remains optimistic, “Our modern lifestyle is not a political creation. Before 1700, everybody was poor as hell. Life was short and brutish. It wasn’t because we didn’t have good politicians; we had some really good politicians,” he argues.

What really lifted humanity out of poverty was technology, from electricity to genetics research.

“Innovation is the real driver of progress,” he said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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