By SHELAGH BRALEY
Entrepreneurship is not the same as innovation.
“Always be in beta.”
“Iterate, iterate, iterate.”
“Hustle and grind.”
It’s all talk, and we know it. But we nod appreciatively, despite constant proof that these adages of modern entrepreneurship have taught another generation to pose and talk in catchphrases while building very little with impact. The number of companies that make it to $1 million in revenue? Less than 4 percent. The number that build useless, first-world solutions? IMMEASURABLE.
Our poster boys for entrepreneurship in hoodies and Rollies–our sharks and serial role models–they Instagram their way to brand status, and revel in the adulation. But the ripple effect is deadly.
Their protégés aspire to the fame but don’t want to climb the mountains–or raise others up with them. The apathy is astounding.
Where is the actual innovation? Less and less, it’s coming from our entrepreneurial circles. People solving other people’s real problems have to subsist for years and hit impossible proof points before they find support.
Yet, look at what does make it, it’s all the same. We fund curated food delivery while people are starving. We support social networking apps but people stay isolated and poor in spirit. We growth-hack our way through martech, location-based gaming, photo-sharing, and on-demand everything while people are jobless and scared.
We mostly shrug and build and fund more AI-based-enterprise-Uber-for-who-cares, just like everywhere else. Boston is supposed to be the Hub of the Universe, the deep end of the innovation pool. So why aren’t we taking the biggest swings and using it to differentiate our ecosystem? We talk about solving problems but it isn’t actually happening. The world’s problems are still waiting for us.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have clean water on demand? Health care is still a desperate need, the environment is melting, the economy is fractured, education is fragmented and failing.
Tell me again how entrepreneurs win.
We say we want entrepreneurs to solve a problem–but that’s not really borne out in the typical process of launch, build, fund, scale. Not yet. Our unicorns are not solving the world’s problems.
The next shift has to merge our best technology with our biggest challenges. Otherwise, what good is it?
The next phase of entrepreneurship has to start with enormous empathy and vision–from founders and funders. The visionary has to have his or her sights locked onto a problem and especially onto the people who suffer for it. Then run through literally thousands of possible ways to solve it. And finally, enlist an army of others to get behind the process and push, with all their skills, experience, time and sense of commitment and responsibility to work for the greater good.
When our words match the commitment, and the thesis matches the scope of real problems, and the solutions that get funded quickly use our best technology and expertise to solve what we’re capable of solving, only then will we truly earn the right to wear the Innovation Economy badge.
Innovation is for solvers. Solve bigger.
Shelagh Braley is the editor-in-chief of FoundersWire. Are you solving an actual problem? Please send more information to email@example.com or apply for coverage at GetCovered@founderswire.com.