Google Employee Manifesto Continues Diversity Debate in Silicon Valley

One of the reasons that I argue the university is the best entrepreneurial ecosystem is that it has a diverse collection of people — diverse across multiple variables (life stage, place of origin, field of study, political persuasion, home country/state, full time v part time, etc).

This diverse population (when combined with available assets and liberty/freedom) leads the drive for change, creativity, innovation, production and commerce – in today’s world – entrepreneurship.

As the debate over diversity in Silicon Valley continues and grows — questions and definitions of diversity have been raised. Most recently by a Google engineer offering a manifesto criticizing the company’s diversity effort. From Matthew Lynley at TechCrunch:

A screed from a Googler against the company’s diversity policies appears to be circulating internally at the company, according to Gizmodo, which has published the memo.

Motherboard first reported on the existence of the document making the rounds, which Googlers condemned on Twitter. In it, the author of the “manifesto” appears to try to argue that the gender gap in technology is not a product of discrimination — but rather inherent biological differences between men and women in general.

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes,” the memo states at the beginning as published by Gizmodo. “When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber.”

Update: It looks like Motherboard has an internal response from Danielle Brown, Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. Here’s part of what she says, according to Motherboard:

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Brown also says that document is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages,” according to Motherboard.

There is no doubt there is a lot that corporations and other large organizations could learn from diversity as it exists on university campuses — the kind that takes place day to day in classes, coffee shops, dorm rooms, labs, sports teams, bands and clubs, departments, and more. As my research argues, this diverse environment (with thousands pursuing their unique paths), leads to the creative, productive output and American research universities are lauded for.

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Regional Policy Makers in Europe Call for More Entrepreneurship

As with their colleagues across the globe, European Union leaders are keenly interested in entrepreneurial ecosystems and see the regional level as a good approach.

A recent release from the European Committee of the Regions:

With its new start-up and scale-up initiative the European Commission (EC) wants to give Europe’s innovative entrepreneurs every opportunity to grow and become successful worldwide, paying attention to the need for regionally interconnected EU-wide clusters and ecosystems.

” We have to work together and be even more ambitious and proactive if we want to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems in our cities and regions. If companies find the right framework locally they can be successful globally. That’s why we need to create the right circumstances to allow the next generation of success stories to grow in Europe, stimulating growth and development across the entire Union “, said rapporteur Tadeusz Truskolaski (PL/EA), Mayor of Białystok.

Later, they offer a laundry list of policies:

Suggests to create new opportunities through:

  • Creating a start-up visa and a catalogue of conditions enabling a safe use of qualified intellectual and financial capital from third countries
  • Additional funding for start-ups to develop and protect intellectual property rights
  • Expanding the Enterprise Europe Network’s (EEN) range of services including advice on scaling up and cooperating more with local business incubators, science and technology parks
  • Creating a separate instrument dedicated to networking projects in less-developed regions
  • Encouraging new public procurement procedures exploiting the potential of start-ups and scale-ups

Welcomes the EC’s suggestions to facilitate access to finance through:

  • Establishing a European venture capital fund of funds
  • Creating innovation brokers linking buyers interested in innovative public procurement with innovative companies and helping them to access venture capital
  • Increasing the budget for COSME, the EU’s main instrument supporting the competitiveness of SMEs
  • Looking into the opportunities of and a regulatory framework for crowdfunding platforms

The piece goes on to mention three regions in Europe that have been recognized for their work building their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

To support regional entrepreneurship the CoR has created the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) award that yearly identifies and rewards three EU regions which show an outstanding and innovative entrepreneurial policy strategy, irrespective of their size, wealth and competences. For this edition Central Macedonia, Ile de France and the Northern and Western Region of Ireland convinced the EER jury with their credible, forward-thinking and promising plan for the year 2018.

Entrepreneurship policy is the holy grail that all are searching for. The challenge, in my humble opinion, is that policy generally follows entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Not the other way around.

Facebook Offers Outlet to University Researchers

According to recent reports, Facebook is making funding available to the most creative researchers at the most elite universities, basically offering a potential of breaking the bureaucratic log jam the is involved in much of the research funding universe. Ideally this type of initiative will look beyond the usual suspects (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc) as the company itself had to look well beyond elite university students to grow.

From USAToday,

Facebook’s secretive lab Building 8 has signed a collaboration deal with 17 universities to speed up the research cycle for hardware and software.

Building 8, headed by former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency chief and Google executive Regina Dugan, has entered into a “Sponsored Academic Research Agreement.”  That means Facebook can get new research projects launched in weeks, bypassing the nine to 12 months it usually takes, Dugan said in a Facebook post

This is just another example of the most innovative firms (often with roots on the campus) are going back to the campus to find creators, innovators and entrepreneurs.

 

GE, Carnegie Mellon Announce Robotics Fund

News from last week highlights that more big innovators (and funders) know the value of the campus.  GE has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and announced a $20 million robotics venture accelerator fund for campus. robotFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures could brand Pittsburgh as the official home of the globe’s growing robotics industry.

CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, the investment arm of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an independent, early-stage startup accelerator program designed to draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and to keep those started here firmly in place.

The for-profit Robotics Hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at CMU and the NREC to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization.

Report Says UK Struggles with Research Commercialisation | Times Higher Education | #highered

The Times Higher Education site has an interesting piece highlighting the difficulties British universities are having commercializing all of the research funding they receive from their government. A new report on the subject has supported this criticism. From Elizabeth Gibney:

“British entrepreneurs are being badly let down by a lack of access to financial support and a system that often forces them to sell out to private equity investors or larger foreign companies to get ideas off the ground,” said committee chair and Labour MP, Andrew Miller.

MPs said they had been encouraged by the work of the Technology Strategy Board and its network of “catapult” centres, but said that they were concerned about the access of small firms to facilities, and that government grant funding was often highly bureaucratic to apply for and only enough to “get an idea off the ground”.

The report, Bridging the Valley of Death: Improving the Commercialisation of Research, adds that while academic research is the “jewel in the crown of UK innovation activity”, the committee had concerns about how universities interact with the commercialisation of research.

It questions whether changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which reward institutions that have already benefited from successfully commercialising their intellectual property, might further decrease the success of already struggling institutions.

“We would like to see how well changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund improve commercialisation activity; whether there is a need for greater amounts of proof of concept funding in the sector; and challenge the institutions to become more accommodating to non-traditional backgrounds among their academic staff,” it reads.

“We have concerns that driving an innovation agenda too aggressively through universities may have diminishing returns with regard to commercialisation and risk damaging the academic research that is working well,” it adds.

via MPs criticise government over research commercialisation | News | Times Higher Education.

New Master of Entrepreneurship Program | University of Michigan

The University of Michigan, a leader across many disciplines (and my alma mater) has announced the creation of a Master of Entrepreneurship. Its great to see it is a joint venture between business and engineering. I was fortunate to interview Michigan Alum and supporter Sam Zell a few months back and it was evident in our short talk that Michigan, its leaders, and supporters were fully aware of the interdisciplinary nature of entrepreneurship. This is a great development for Michigan and the practice, research, and teaching of entrepreneurship in higher education. From the Michigan Master of Entrepreneurship website:

The Michigan Master of Entrepreneurship (MsE) gives students the ability to create new technology-focused ventures, either as standalone entities or within established innovative organizations.

This instruction is not available through conventional business or engineering curricula. Most business schools focus on the skill set required in larger, more mature organizations. Most engineering programs do not include market assessment and commercialization skills. The MsE program brings these two cultures together in a novel synthesis that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The first students will begin in August 2012 and the application is available online. Go Blue! (I can write that, this is a blog!)

via Master of Entrepreneurship | University of Michigan.

D.C.’s Newest Accelerator “The Fort” Debuts Inaugural Class | TechCrunch

More accelerator news in the DC Metro. From Techcrunch

Hot, new Washington D.C. tech accelerator known as The Fort is debuting its inaugural class of startups today. The organization grew out the efforts from early stage VC firm Fortify Ventures LLC, also known as Fortify.vc (that’s its URL, too), which had previously invested in nearly dozen D.C.-area tech companies.

Over the past 9 months, The Fort’s co-founders, Jonathon Perrelli and Carla Valdes, have been busy trying to spark innovation in the nation’s capital. They set up the fund, invested in group of startups, created the accelerator, hosted a pitch competition called “Distilled Intelligence” which handed out $25K to winners, and selected a dozen more startups for The Fort’s first program.

“D.C. is not a place where people are always working together,” says Perrelli of the group’s efforts, “but now there is this uprising. People are trying to build something here.”

He notes that the area, despite being the center of government where important policy decisions are made, has been slow to join in the burgeoning tech scene. But things have been changing. With The Fort, the hope is to provide a path to get D.C. area startups off the ground.

The program, which gives founders anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 in seed capital, was lured to the area from nearby Arlington thanks to a $100,000 grant from D.C. Mayor Vicent Gray. Now set up in offices on K Street two blocks from The White House, the organization its opening its doors to 12 new companies who will spend 6 months in its program.

Its interesting to note that accelerator founders are now playing the  economic development game. And, once again we see more pressure on universities in the entrepreneurship education space. BTW, I met some of the founders in the The Fort’s first class at GWU’s Startup Job Fair earlier this week.  Some cool new ventures.

via D.C.’s Newest Tech Accelerator “The Fort” Debuts Inaugural Batch | TechCrunch.