Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has listed the three “big failures” in tech entrepreneurship around the world.
Schmidt outlined the failings in a speech he gave at the Centre for Entrepreneurs in London this week. He later expanded on his thoughts in an interview with former BBC News boss James Harding.
Below are the three mistakes he outlined, with quotes taken from both a draft of his speech seen by Business Insider, and comments he delivered on the night.
1. People stick to who and what they know
“Far too often, we invest mostly in people we already know, who are working in very narrow disciplines,” Schmidt wrote in his draft.
In his speech, Schmidt pegged this point closely to a need for diversity and inclusion. He said companies need to be open to bringing in people from other countries and backgrounds.
He said entrepreneurship won’t flourish if people are “going to one institution, hiring only those people, and only — if I can be blunt — only white males.”
During the Q&A, Schmidt specifically addressed the gender imbalance in the tech industry. He said there’s a reason to be optimistic about women’s representation in tech improving, predicting that tech’s gender imbalance will vanish in one generation.
2. Too much focus on product and not on platforms
“We frequently don’t build the best technology platforms to tackle big social challenges, because often there is no immediate promise of commercial return,” Schmidt wrote in his draft.
“There are a million e-commerce apps but not enough speciality platforms for safely sharing and analyzing data on homelessness, climate change or refugees.”
Schmidt’s omitted this mention of socially conscious tech from his final speech, but did say that he sees a lot of innovation coming out of network platforms, which allow people to connect and pool data, because “the barrier to entry for these startups is very, very low.”
3. Companies aren’t partnering up early enough
Finally, Schmidt wrote in his draft that tech startups don’t partner enough with other companies in the modern, hyper-connected world. “It’s impossible to think about any major challenge for society in a silo,” he wrote.
He said in his speech that tech firms have to be ready to partner “fairly early.” He gave the example of a startup that wants to build homecare robots.
“The market for homecare robots is going to be very, very large. The problem is that you need visual systems, and machine learning systems, and listening systems, and motor systems, and so forth. You’re not going to be able to do it with three people,” he said.
After detailing his failures in tech entrepreneurship, Schmidt laid out what he views as the solution. He referred back to the Renaissance in Europe, saying people turned their hand to all sorts of disciplines, from science, to art, to business.
“No one tried to put Leonardo da Vinci in a silo,” he said.