The Democratization of Innovation | Yes That is What is Occurring

Earlier this month I was fortunate to participate in a panel on the Democratization of Innovation. Participants included, Mark Walsh CEO of Genius Rocket, Mike Lincoln of Cooley LP, Ashish Jaiman of Microsoft, and Edmund Pendleton from MTECH at the University of Maryland. Jonathan Aberman of Amplifier Ventures and co-chair of Startup VA was the moderator of our panel.

We convened at the Artisphere in Arlington, VA and really had a fascinating discussion surrounding the JOBS Act, 3D printing, low cost software development and other factors supporting the democratization of innovation.

Marcia Moran of Modern DC Business covered the event in a post titled Tectonic Economic Shifts Coming and she discusses specific issues such as crowds ourcing, but also structural shifts and what they mean going forward for entrepreneurs and young, recent college grads. From Moran:

There’s no denying that administrative headaches blossom when hundreds of uninformed, unsophisticated investors take interest in your company. The entrepreneur also loses the voice of experience and talent that comes with funding from seasoned angels or venture capitalists. Perhaps the personal touch from a mentor that comes with institutional funding will be the entrepreneurs’ greatest loss. Successful businesses gain support from a larger community, particularly when chemistry and complementary business philosophies come into play.

I wonder what will happen when the ties to these networks weaken? Yet, when you think about it, only a select few get funded. Maybe it’s time for change after all. The Millennials use technology to build and maximize the power of social networks, and perhaps we’ll need to develop a new mentoring paradigm to match.

When you think about the high unemployment/underemployment rates for college graduates, I want to reach out and tell them the old economic model is dying. If you cannot find employment, maybe you should consider creating your own. Sure, not everyone has the qualities to be a successful entrepreneur. But the rules of employment are changing anyway.


Ashish shared his thoughts and notes from the event, with some really useful and specific insights the democratization of the software economy. From Ashish:

It was a fun event, I had a chance to talk about democratization of software and field some of the questions around it. To prepare for the panel, I started putting my thoughts together and then thought I would share them in the blog, I am also putting some other learning’s and thoughts from the panel.

I think there are two main enablers for democratization of software

1)      Cost of Hardware has come down significantly

  1. Cost to build, host, run the software have come down
  2. There is a computer in every pocket and most laps and desks

2)      Internet  accessibility

  1. Penetration of broadband even in remote regions
  2. Connected devices over wifi, cell networks

On the framework of the two main enablers we can divide the democratization of software into 3 main categories.

1)      Democratization of creating or building software – how easy it has become to create software and how everyone with an idea can build software.

2)      Democratization of delivering and running software – how easy it has become to put the software in the hands of your customers.

3)      New business models and monetization approaches – new and proven business models and monetization opportunities.

There is no doubt in my mind that universities have a huge role in the democratization of innovation; this includes everything from creating new knowledge via research to disseminating knowledge via classes, publications, and efforts such as MITx.




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