I'm going to do something old-school and blog about a couple of blog posts today. Consider it a break from the latest outragefest on the 'book. Instead, let's share bright ideas about large-impact innovation and how we've been looking for it in the wrong places. It's what happens when two posts, posted months apart, cross my desktop in the same morning.
First up: Jerzy Gangi's post from August, Why Silicon Valley Funds Instagrams, not Hyperloops, runs down the reasons that venture-funded startups keep launching relatively easy web-based software applications. It's worth a read. The short version is, that's what the investment system is looking for, and [insert Willie Sutton quote here].
Next is "Killer Apps" Evolve, Vinnie Mirchandani previewing Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll’s new book, The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups. Google's self-driving cars are one example (built with investment from both corporate and government sources).
We shouldn't be surprised that startups and investors play by the rules of the game. Innovation and addressing the big issues of our time, however, are not the game they're playing.
The M&A market can be characterized as a giant distributed R&D department for major corporations.
— Jerzy Gangi
Remember corporate R&D? Bell Labs, PARC, Lockheed's Skunk Works? Big companies exist to take on projects and markets that are too big for small companies, and part of what they do is large-scale innovation. Whether they invent in their own labs or build from acquired startups, big changes that take place in the physical world will happen only when somebody puts serious capital behind them.
It's interesting that the old-school sources of innovation—university, government and corporate labs—are still out there, and despite long-term reductions, they're still at work. If we're looking for the world-changing innovations, maybe we just need to put more effort into learning about them and their projects.