America and High Tech Entrepreneurship

I wrote an essay for the U.S. State Department on high tech entrepreneurship and what policies and cultural attitudes in America enable the creation of new businesses. It’s written primarily to be translated into other languages for various U.S. embassies overseas. (Here’s the Russian and Arabic versions online already.) As a result the sentences are short and simple.

Excerpts:

America’s cultural attitudes are even more important to its entrepreneurial success. In the United States, if you have the courage to start a business, you are celebrated and you are encouraged. You are seen as an innovator, a pioneer, a successful rebel. If you fail — and there’s a good chance you will if you start your own business — most Americans will shrug it off as a learning opportunity. There’s no shame in failing. Families, schools, and the media alike share this acceptance of failure.

In one sense, in the United States you have a permanent fresh start. Youth, in particular, are seen as beacons of innovation and creativity. As an aspiring young entrepreneur, I benefited from these attitudes. I became proud of my individuality and pursued my ideas without embarrassment.

In the United States, the most successful entrepreneurs look different. Google, one of America’s powerhouse technology companies, was co-founded by a brainy Russian immigrant who did not care much for media attention. He earned a PhD in computer science at a top university. He studied how mathematical formulas could improve search engine results. Oracle, another powerhouse technology company, was founded by a college dropout who grew his company with aggressive sales strategies. He has become a media celebrity. All successful American entrepreneurs don’t look or act like real estate mogul Donald Trump; in fact, few do. Instead, successful business owners find the right path for themselves.

8 Responses to America and High Tech Entrepreneurship

  1. Neil says:

    Minor correction: Brin didn’t finish his PhD at Stanford, so saying he “earned a PhD in computer science at a top university” is not quite accurate.

  2. Ben Casnocha says:

    Neil – good catch. You are correct.

  3. Krishna says:

    “In the United States, the most successful entrepreneurs look different.”

    Indeed. I might add some of my countrymen to that list. Vinod Khosla(Sun Microsystems co-founder), Vinod Dham(Father of Pentium Chip) and thousands of others who had succeeded in varying scales.

    I doubt would they have managed so much glory, had they chose to stay on in India then. But now the situation has improved a lot. Now many of them have started giving back to US and India.

  4. Cory Levy says:

    Wow. This is one of my favorite posts from you. Great essay!

    “In the United States, if you have the courage to start a business, you are celebrated and you are encouraged.” From what I have read, heard, and witnessed..Silicon Valley is where that statement is true. ‘In the United States’ is a generalization. Houston for instance is trying to get that ‘start-up’ name to it where it is encouraged to quit your job and start your own company. In my opinion, Houston is on its way to being the next start-up town.

  5. Very interesting post. I wish entrepreneurship had been more widely accepted when I was your age (I’m mid-40’s). When I graduated high school in 1980 or even college in 1984, nobody was starting companies (at least it seemed that way). Sure, there were some great stories from Silicon Valley, but for a guy from CT who ended up in NY working for a bank (retch…), I found that most people frowned on starting a business. I wish I’d had more courage then – it’s a lot harder with a mortgage and 2 kids to worry about (not stopping me though!).

    In the 1990’s entrepreneurship in Europe was also pretty difficult – particularly with the lack of a real VC community. It’s gotten better, but then so has the climate here so there’s still a gap. We’re still in the lead here and I hope it stays that way (though Boston sometimes feels like a different country than you SV people live in). As other countries develop along the entrepreneurship path, the Trump stereotypes will disappear and the diversity of successful founders will be more evident.

  6. gregory says:

    too busy to read the article, from the quote, i get a funny feeling, business is everywhere, every culture, every continent, nothing american about it …. and the state department, you quisling… lol

  7. I hear you, John! I’m a few years older than you are, but I can recall the chilly reception that my entrepreneurial ventures got during the 1980s.

    But I didn’t let the naysayers stop me, and neither should you. Even with the kids and the mortgage, you’ll find a way. Heck, the kids may well help you find it!

  8. Anthony Kuhn says:

    Ben:

    Inspirational words. I linked to this piece in my blog post today for the Innovators-Network so others could vist your blog and check out the entire piece for themselves. Thanks for brightening up my entrepreneurial day!

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