A couple of weeks ago, Mindee Forman highlighted some key findings from Ethan Mollick's research on crowdfunding. I'm seeing more and more papers crop up on this topic, including what I will be highlighting today, "Crowdfunding Creative Ideas: The Dynamics of Project Backers in Kickstarter," a working paper from Venkat Kuppuswamy and Barry L. Bayus (available here). The paper is interesting throughout and has some factoids about Kickstarter projects that I will not call attention to here.
This paper corroborates many of the findings that Mindee wrote about--that being featured on Kickstarter, having a video, and having a shorter project duration increases the chances of having a successful fund raise. While this may seem redudant, it's important in terms of research for different analysis to draw the same conclusions. We also learn some new information from Kuppuswamy and Bayus about attracting backers:
They also investigate donations along the funding cycle. They find that after initial backers sign on, an average project experiences a lull in attracting new backers, but makes a comeback once the deadline nears.
The authors interpret this in terms of the buzz or excitement a project intially generates, followed by a decrease in interest, followed by a pickup when the deadline approaches. Alternatively, to me this sounds like it could be a good samaritan dilemma--I see that someone else is already helping, so I don't need to contribute here; oh wait, this is more urgent than I thought, I should help!
In any event, Kuppuswamy and Bayus find that posting private and public updates as the funding deadline approaches helps quite a bit, which is significant because this is something under the project creator's control.
Geographic Distribution of Projects by Success
The circles on this map represent counts of Kickstarter projects by city; the larger the circle, the more projects based in that area. The shading within the circle reflects the portion that were successful—dark green represents successfully funded projects while light green indicates the project was not funded. Based on Mollick's research, odds are that the successfully funded projects in given cities were a good fit culture-wise for that city.
The Kauffman Foundation will be writing some papers on crowdfunding in the near future – stay tuned!
Yasuyuki Motoyama and I have a paper out today about 1 Million Cups (1MC), a program of Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation. 1MC brings together entrepreneurs weekly on Wednesday mornings--two startups talk about their businesses for about six minutes each, followed by Q&A for twenty minutes with the audience, which is compromised of anyone who wants to attend, typically other entrepreneurs, mentors, advisers, and other supporters of entrepreneurship. The program is free and as the name suggests provides ample coffee to attendees. We conducted a survey of attendees of the program back in November 2012, or roughly seven months after the program first launched in Kansas City.
There is a press release about the survey findings from Kauffman here; the paper is here; we have an article in Huffington Post about some high-level findings going up later today and I will update this post when it goes live. **Update: Huffington Post article is here. Last but not least, Jordan Bell-Masterson put together an interactive chart about some of the survey data about other Kansas City programs here.
I think the paper is particularly relevant for community organizers who are starting new programs, especially in small to medium-sized regions. I'm tempted to write more but it would just be regurgitating what is written elsewhere, so I'll just say check out the paper if you're interested in learning more.
Very quickly before I start, I want to point out this research would conceivably extend to all investors that take a sizable chunk of preferred stock in a startup, not just venture capitalist (my opinion, not stated by the authors).
VCs have to work with founding teams and other common stock shareholders when they want to exit their investment, and as initial public offerings have decreased, trade sales, which were already common occurrence, have become even more prevalent in recent years. In a new paper, "Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups," (available here) Brian J. Broughman and Jesse M. Fried analyze 50 trade sales of VC-backed startups located in Silicon Valley.
Broughman and Fried investigate how VCs choose to persuade the entrepreneurial teams and common stockholders to make the sale—either through bonuses or carve-outs to common shareholders (carrots), or through force by terminating the entrepreneurial team, professionally blacklisting the founders, or trying to manipulate shareholder voting (sticks). They find that VCs rarely overtly use sticks but do use carrots with some frequency—at least one carrot was provided to the entrepreneurial team in 45 percent of sales, and on average amounted to 9 percent of the deal value.
The practical application here is that you can hold out on a sale. The infrequent overt use of sticks suggests that VCs don’t want to hurt their reputation by being forceful. There are a couple of other discussion points in the paper you can check out for yourself. I give credit to the authors for writing in an understandable and non-technical manner.
Hat tip to Robert Strom for pointing out this paper.
In 2012, the Kauffman Foundation partnered with LegalZoom to conduct a survey series of new business owners in an effort to establish a broader range of metrics than are available in more traditional data sets. Q1-Q4 saw confidence surveys that helped shine light on entrepreneurs’ particular take on consumer confidence and overall economic health.
At year’s end, we followed up on these confidence indexes with a final survey of 1,431 newly incorporated businesses focused on identifying founder and venture characteristics. The official report already offers a good summary of the important details gleaned from the data, so let’s instead explore some of the data’s limitations and what they mean for this survey and entrepreneurship statistics beyond it.
The scope of the survey starts coming into focus with a breakdown of the financing. When respondents were asked where they obtained startup capital, personal funding dominated all other external sources (83% of ventures used personal funding; 59% used it as the sole source). Investors backed just 7% of ventures in the sample, and only 5% of owners secured bank loans. With most funding coming out-of-pocket, we should anticipate these businesses to be relatively small, and the data back up this expectation. 82% of companies in the sample had revenues between 0 and $49k, and 70% had no employees other than the owner(s).
Given our sample’s slender financial profile, it is unsurprising that the top business type among respondents was “Consulting” (followed by “Other” and “Service: Other Services”). First, we should account for the possibility of selection bias here – self-employed consultants are likely to have more time and therefore greater inclination to answer a survey than do owners with responsibilities to multiple employees and complex revenue streams. Nonetheless, we should not expect selection bias to account for the entirety of such a heavy weighting toward this type of business activity.
Accordingly, we should be wary not only of our own data’s limitations, but also of any statistics on small business which do not specify revenue or employment. For example, should a city or state boast responsibility for having “x” new businesses started in 2012, it’s worth the deeper dive to see how many of those will truly be impact businesses that bring jobs and money to the region. The research of Davis et al. demonstrates that nonemployers can and do migrate to the employer-universe, becoming a substantial source of revenue and growth in the period surrounding the transition. Nonetheless, only 3% of nonemployers ever make this transition, meaning that our sample’s economic footprint is bound to be very limited given the size of the survey. Nonemployers of all stripes play a role in the economy, but policymakers will want to focus primarily on those with growth aspirations, making “new businesses” with no further distinction a crude, weak metric.
Finally, perhaps more interesting than any information contained in the survey was the information that couldn’t be included. Among the respondents, 91% worked on their business for more than a month before incorporating. 60% worked on it for more than 6 months, and 35% did so for over a year. This is the black box of entrepreneurial studies, and the biggest problem facing the field: how do we obtain information about businesses in that crucial planning and preparation period? Could we only obtain information about that window of time with retrospective surveys, and if so would the data be tainted by the imperfections of memory? If we were able to contact entrepreneurs as they toiled through the development phase, would the very act of observation change their actions and invalidate the experiment? We may be no closer to answering these questions today, but our respondents have soundly reaffirmed the need to try.
How much do individual entrepreneurs really matter to their firm’s performance? We intuitively suspect and anecdotally hear about how hugely important the individual entrepreneur is to a firm. A working paper by Sascha O. Becker and Hans K. Hvide, “Do Entrepreneurs Matter?” (available here) puts some numbers and analysis behind intuition.
Becker and Hvide look at roughly 65,000 Norwegian firms established between 1999 and 2007, in particular studying firms where the entrepreneur dies before 2009 (so firms are between zero and eleven years old in this sample). In this case, an entrepreneur is defined as an owner with at least 50 percent ownership, though most of the analysis focuses on entrepreneurs with more than 50 percent ownership (341 instances).
They find that firm performance drops significantly after an entrepreneur’s death relative to other similar firms that do not experience a death event: on average, four years after an entrepreneur’s death, sales drop by about 60 percent, employment drops by about 17 percent, and firms have 20 percent lower survival rates two years after the entrepreneur’s death. The effects appear to be long lasting and firms show no signs of recovering from them.
We can say with some certainty that there is causality here—that the entrepreneurs have a causal effect on the growth of the firm—because the authors conduct a series of robustness checks to address many potential questions about the strength of their findings.
No significant differences:
Getting back to the main findings, the authors do not know why there is such a stark difference between the drops in sales (60 percent) versus employment (only 17 percent). They suggest as one possibility that the entrepreneur has spillover effects on employee productivity which would hurt sales proportionately more (i.e. leadership in sales, or was a great salesperson), but don’t have strong evidence to present. This will be an area for future research.
I think this research serves as a precautionary tale to startups that will unfortunately face unexpected life events. Besides an entrepreneur’s death, other unexpected life events could see an entrepreneur suddenly removed from their firms. I am not convinced this research extrapolates to founder removal due to internal firm conflicts where a decision is made (either by majority of co-founders or investors), because those decisions are made by choice.
Elizabeth G. Pontikes and William P. Barnett have a working paper about "salient events" and entrepreneurial entry, "When to Be a Nonconformist Entrepreneur? Organizational Responses to Vital Events" (available here). I don't have much additional commentary to offer on this as the authors do a good job of giving the practical implications in the abstract (bold is my emphasis):
Salient successes and failures among organizations, such as spectacular venture capital investments or agonizing bankruptcies, affect consensus beliefs about the viability of particular markets. We argue that such vital events lead to over-reactions in the organizational entry process, with new firms flooding the market after salient successes and a dearth of entries after salient failures. Particularly notable are the implications of nonconformity under these conditions. An entrepreneur who bucks the consensus and enters a market after salient failures must endure considerable scrutiny, and so is likely have a strong fit to that market. Such a nonconformist will be spared from a passing fad, whereas an entrepreneur that follows trends is more likely to enter markets that are not a good fit for the organization. So we propose that in the wake of salient vital events nonconformity is a preferable approach. We find support for this idea in an analysis of software firms: Organizations that enter a software “market space” after salient bankruptcies are especially likely to remain, while those that enter a space after high-profile venture capital funding events are especially likely to leave.
Don't follow the crowd--I would imagine a comforting research finding for many entrepreneurs and startups out there facing headwinds.
Just found out about this: http://www.techstars.com/tv/techstars-u/videos/, an assortment of instructable videos from TechStars about common startup questions.
Has anyone else watched these and found them helpful? It will take me some time to get through some but I am curious if anyone has any comments.
I continue to worry about (and worry) the issue of what the experience of the past generation tells us about the relationship between short-run cyclical economic downturns and long-run enterprise, entrepreneurship, and growth...
From the end of World War II until the beginning of the 1990s, it looked as though the Japanese economy was "converging" to the American economy in living standards and productivity levels--that although Japan started the post-World War II period with a labor force inferior in education, with a lower level of installed technology, and with a capital stock deeply depleted by the fact that Curtis LeMay's bombers had made the rubble of Japan bounce, that eventually Japan's economy would "catch up" to that of the United States.
Last week for Practically Friday, Jared examined conflict resolution looking at evidence from married couples. This week for Valentine's Day, we look at something essential to any successful relationship, whether business or personal: trust.
Just as there are many reasons a person chooses a spouse, numerous factors determine whether or not venture capitalists or angel investors will fund a company. The traditional and most frequently studied reasons include market size, past performance, and the company's future projections. But that's not everything. "This approach, widespread though it is, fails to consider that an investment in an early-stage company is a decision to commit to a business idea and, just as importantly, to an entrepreneur who will lead the business idea," says Kauffman Dissertation Fellow Lakshmi Balachandra, an assistant professor at Babson College. In her Ph.D. dissertation (abstract and executive summary here) she examined two research questions regarding the role an entrepreneur's perceived trustworthiness has in an investor’s decision to provide capital:
To determine how trustworthiness played a role in funding, Balachandra looked at 101 videos of entrepreneurs pitching to angel investors and analyzed them based on the ultimate investment decision, post-pitch survey results, and the demographic information of the involved parties, as well as third-party ratings regarding the behavior of the entrepreneurs during their pitch. Her results were as anticipated:
Investors’ assessment of the entrepreneur’s trustworthiness following the pitch directly impacts and moderates any interest in investing that they had from evaluating the economic factors of the business. I found that, as hypothesized, the economic factors of the venture are the primary consideration for angel investors. However, the investors' evaluation of the trustworthiness of the entrepreneur directly influences the way the investors then assessed the economic factors of the business. That is, when investors found the entrepreneur to be trustworthy, they rated the economic factors as more attractive as well.
The difference? A full 10 percent: "when entrepreneurs 'pitch' more trustworthiness, they are 10% more likely to have investors interest[ed] in investing in their business." So what qualities made an entrepreneur appear more trustworthy? Coachability or character (who a person is) mattered three times more to investors than competency (aptitude at a point in time and prior experience).
So what did these entrepreneurs actually do to appear trustworthy? (Since this is Practically Friday and all.) Most importantly, they:
In considering if they can trust the entrepreneur from his/her pitch, investors must believe they can make up for any lack of competency of the entrepreneur. For example, if an entrepreneur doesn’t know financial accounting, a professional accountant can be hired to fill this knowledge gap. This is in stark contrast with character: there is no way for an investor to compensate for differences in character which I measured as coachability in my study. This quality is critical to the investor since if the investor invests, the investor will be working with the entrepreneur for the foreseeable future.
I have been staring at a very gloomy graph--at the Congressional Budget Office's forecasts of "potential output", of what the economy can produce without starting to "overheat" and putting upward pressure on inflation:
Looking at this graph tells me that:
Founders are kind of like married couples in terms of the intensity and importance attributed to arguments, right? If you follow me on that point, then the forthcoming paper (working paper available here) “A Brief Intervention to Promote Conflict Reappraisal Preserves Marital Quality Over Time” by Finkel et al. could help you with conflict resolution.
Married couples that were tasked with reappraising a recent significant argument from a third party perspective reported significantly greater marital satisfaction than those that did not receive in the intervention.
The intriguing aspect is that the intervention was very brief—devoting just seven minutes once every four months. Additionally, the authors find the intervention was just as effective for newlyweds as it was for long-married couples, so it appears the intervention would be effective regardless of your business’s development stage.
Does sitting down to think about your feelings sound silly? Depends on the person. More importantly, does it work? It was highly effective in this study. I’ve adapted the prompts in the paper (pages 6-7), substituting startup terminology for original references to marriage.
Write down your most significant conflict from the past four months, or more specifically, provide a “fact-based summary of the most significant disagreement… focusing on behavior, not on thoughts or feelings.” Now, think about it again:
These directions really stress the importance and difficulty of taking on the third party perspective. It’s hard to do. We’re first person viewpoint people by nature. But if you can work on taking on that viewpoint, you could have much less conflict-induced stress.
If you missed the 2013 Kauffman Foundation State of Entrepreneurship event yesterday, a video of the entire program is embedded below. Other materials and event information are available on the official Kauffman website.
I’m focusing this post on the panel discussion that took place after opening speaker remarks and Kauffman CEO Tom McDonnell’s address. I’ll organize my thoughts about the panel discussion along three major points, with the overarching theme that startup activity is on the rise:
After quick introductions, moderator Robert Litan, director of research at Bloomberg Government, set the stage for discussion, quoting federal statistics about startup activity and employment. A couple of other speakers at the event also referenced these stats; I think the most concise presentation is in Reedy and Litan (2011), which we’ve highlighted here on Growthology before, but it bears showing again.
This chart demonstrates the downtrend in new startups since 2005.
The two charts above speak to the decrease in total employment by startups and the decrease in their average starting size.
The data in these charts are only available up through 2010. With this in mind, Litan asked the panelists what they thought more recent years have looked like. My general sense is that the panel was in large agreement that the current state of entrepreneurial activity is much more positive—that is, they expect that these official data will show upticks when additional years are added. This was, I think, the primary theme of the panel.
Here’s a one-sentence summary of their discussion: More platforms enable community support of and participation in startup activities now more than ever. There are, of course, more nuances to what was covered, which I detail below.
When discussing trends, right off the bat, the topic of geography came up, with many panelists echoing a theme we’ve discussed here countless times—startup activity happens outside of Boston, Silicon Valley, and New York. The panel offered examples like participation in the Startup American Partnership or the Kauffman Foundation’s own 1 Million Cups.
A more informal measure was also given—an increase in number and geographic dispersion in invitations to speak at startup-related events. Speaking to general interest in starting up independent of geography, a casual poll of Harvard Business School graduates was cited: Out of 90 students, 86 stated that either upon graduation or at some future point in their career they want to start a business. Additionally, there is a reported 50 percent increase in the number of HBS graduates starting up right after graduation. All told, the panel spoke to a groundswell of interest in startup activity. We will have to wait and see if this plays out in official statistics.
Related to this point, the panel spoke about recent developments like crowdfunding (donations-based already available through things like Kickstarter; securities-based regulations still under development)1 and other investment platforms such as AngelList that enable the discovery of different geographies of entrepreneurs and informs investors about opportunities to invest in their local communities.
Thoughts on crowdfunding were peppered throughout the latter portion of the panel, so it’s difficult to pull them as separate points, but I shall try. Crowdfunder.com founder Chance Barnett reported that rulings for securities-based investment by accredited investors could be established relatively shortly, but there will be a longer delay in rulings for non-accredited investors (predicted second half of this year).
Generally speaking, I think I am correct to say that the panel thinks that crowdfunding can be a good thing, particularly in light of the catalyst role it can play in local communities, and that concentrating on the potential negatives is not as productive. The panel did not say that there are no concerns about crowdfunding investments not working out, but rather the potential outweighs these issues.
In a point I’ll touch on next, in light of the increased focus of venture capitalists on high-technology startups, crowdfunding could be important in supporting startups in underserved industries.
I felt the panel offered a qualification on the first point about increased startup activities. The panel went on to distinguish between startup activity generally and startup activity in the high-technology industry.
There were various comments about how high-tech startups are increasingly ample in numbers and that this is a “hot” space—perhaps too hot. There were comments that tech startups are well-served by the existing capital ecosystem, but startups outside of this industry are being underserved, and the panel called for paying increased attention to startups outside of the high-tech sphere.
A Q&A session at the end offered the following nuggets:
1 For more background information on crowdfunding, see the Jumpstart Our Businesses Act which was signed into law last year. Wikipedia has a decent summary.
After arguing a few years ago in a Kauffman paper that the VC industry needed to shrink back to heath, it has mostly done so. Granted, the industry isn't exactly thriving yet, but most of the asset class shrinkage is now over, so further gloom and doom is more a reflection of a particular writer's psychological state than of the merits of cutting VC industry by larger amounts from here.
From the WSJ, here is a new graphic showing same:
I would have liked to see the industry contract somewhat more, but we're not far off where I thought we would get to, back to a run rate not far off -- in inflation-adjusted terms -- where we should be based on 1990s figures.
Where do we go from here? Guess is we will see an uptick in allocations to venture against this year, even if the number of firms funded doesn't increase markedly. Nevertheless, improvement equity returns and a better IPO market will bring more investors into the fold, for better or worse, and even a collapse in the embarrassingly overheated accelerator segment -- a collapse that will almost certainly come later this year -- will not change that materially.
Tomorrow, the Kauffman Foundation will hold its annual State of Entrepreneurship address in Washington, D.C. beginning at noon EST. The event starts with remarks with from Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, and Kauffman President and CEO Tom McDonnell. This will be followed by a panel discussion about entrepreneurial finance policy.
Bloomberg TV will live stream the event tomorrow at http://www.bloomberg.com/live-stream/.
The address coincides with a report that will be released at the time of the event. I will post the report tomorrow and try to have a summary of highlights from the panel session up after the event.
I am not terribly surprised by the results. We might intuitively expect video failing to stream smoothly or quickly would lead to viewers giving up on watching the video. But the authors importantly establish a causal link and offer some nuanced findings that I think are informative. My high-level takeaway is that as internet speeds increase, consumers become more impatient and expect better quality from video providers. Here are some selected highlights from the paper:
Knowing this is important because abandonment rate, how long videos are viewed, and return viewers are all factors for generating revenue.
My overall point in this post is to say that interview timing and order matters a lot. Perhaps the early bird does get the worm after all. More nuanced explanations follow below after I present some stories and evidence. Now, onwards to the text…
Growing up, I played alto saxophone for a number of years. I played on my own and took lessons while also playing in the official school bands in middle school and for most of high school. And like many band members, I attended band camp—specifically for me, Midwestern Music Camp at the University of Kansas for an entire week (you stay at the KU dorms; you rehearse in Murphy Hall and perform at the Lied Center; very cool for a band kid etc.). I think I did this for four or five summers.
KU runs a very large camp, so they split campers into multiple bands depending on skill level. My recollection is that to decide skill level and chairs,1 you audition with the department head of your instrument at KU. I’m foggy about the exact process, but I remember signing up for an audition time and spending hours in agony practicing and waiting before being able to get the audition over with. Don’t quote me on this, but I want to say that you could check-in and audition in the morning and afternoons over a two-day period (perhaps it was only one day; I can't remember).
I was not even the best saxophonist at my own high school, but overall I was fairly good. One of the later years I attended band camp, I made 2nd chair in the top flight band, which I was estatic about. What displeased me, and to the best of my recollection the rest of the saxophonists in the band as well, was the skill level of the individual who was given 1st chair. Frankly, this person was very mediocre. They misplayed all week long and at multiple points just dropped out of sections of songs entirely because they could not keep up with the music. I was very annoyed that this person was given 1st chair ahead of me.
Perhaps it had something to do with the audition timing.
I’ve been a longtime reader of Ed Yong, who a couple of years ago highlighted a paper by Shai Danzigera, Jonathan Levavb, and Liora Avnaim-Pessoa that documents an odd trend in judge parole rulings (Ed Yong’s summary here; full paper here). Here is the most relevant chart from the paper:
What this shows is the proportion of parole rulings that favor the prisoner over an average day of rulings (tick marks on the x-axis note every third case). Data were collected from 1,112 hearings over a 10-month period. The dotted lines represent food breaks and effectively creates three ruling sessions each day. The chart shows that prisoners at the beginning of each session have a much greater likelihood of receiving a favorable ruling than those at the end of each session. This holds across the entire sample of judges and rulings (more controls for other variables and explanation are available in the full paper). What Danzigia and his co-authors theorize is that the judges' mental resources are used up early in each session, so they are sticking with the easier status quo decision as they tire out; the food breaks help judges reset. Whatever the interpretation, there is clearly some unfortunate bias against prisoners who receive rulings scheduled later in each session.
A recent paper by Uri Simonsohn and Francesca Gino analyzed thousands of interview timings of MBA students (gated full paper here; earlier working paper version here; press release summary here). They find that interview position matters here too. Over multiple days of interviews, what does an interviewer do if the best applicants all come on the same day, or even all on the same day right next to each other? Simonsohn and Gino find that an interviewer expects to recommend the same number of applications each day and that this constrains their ratings. Once they near this subconscious daily quota on each day, they are hesitant to approve additional applications from that day regardless of their overall merit. This means that interviews early in the day have a negative impact on interviews later in the day; if early interviews are given high scores, the subsequent applicants are more likely to receive lower scores regardless of the applicant’s characteristics. This effect grew even stronger as the day wore on.
I cannot remember what time of day I auditioned at band camp so many years ago. However, knowing myself, I would have been sleeping in and saved a couple of hours to practice at KU before the audition, so there is no way that I auditioned in the morning. If we assume I am objectively able to rate and compare my saxophone skills, I can say that I am now disappointed to now find out years later that logically it looks like my audition timing helped seal my second-best chair position. I perhaps did not look as strong in the afternoon as I might have in the morning.I think the research I’ve summarized here extrapolates well to startups—who have to interview, pitch, and audition to various parties all the time—particularly the interpretation from the MBA interview paper that high scoring early on creates a bias against later candidates. This is particularly important to consider in the context of startup competitions or submission of competitive bids. I will weakly suggest that if you have an option, perhaps going early in a competitive scenario is better than waiting. The more powerful interpretation is something you have no control over—hope that your strongest competition isn’t interviewed or reviewed around the same time you are? Yikes, that’s depressing. Perhaps judges and reviewers should make sure to take plenty of breaks when they are reviewing and scoring pools of applicants.
1 Chair is music terminology referring to skill and seating position within a band or orchestra. The best player of a given instrument is 1st chair of their section and second-best is 2nd chair, and so on and so forth.
...all of these are topics that I think fall within the proper purview of this event. And now that they have given me the keys, I am trying to think about how to make it as productive as possible.
Here is a draft of what I might say to open the conference on April 12, 2013, at 9 AM CDT:
Thirty-five years ago my father bought my family’s first personal computer. Eighteen years ago my former roommate Paul Mende told me:
Hey, this World-Wide-Web thing is revolutionizing scholarly communication in Physics via the http://arxiv.org/ web server. You should check it out.
Fourteen years ago I noticed that both of my mentions in the then-most recent Foreign Affairs--one by Jagdish Bhagwati and one by Paul Krugman--had come not from things I had published but from things I had thrown up on my website...
Twelve years ago I decided that somebody should go all-in and attempt to win the intellectual influence game via the strategy of always-putting-something-new-and-interesting-up-on-the-web. And as a guy with tenure at an institution that seemed to me to be the global optimum, I was one of the few people in the world who could do so with no significant possible downside risk.
And today here we all are. Everybody here has at least tried hard to significantly raise the level of the debate wherever their feet have trod on matters economic, and tried hard to raise it significantly above what it would otherwise have been--to evade the dumbness filters that surrounded us and impeded communication and education. We all seem to have come remarkably close to maximizing the win, for some value of “maximize” and “win”, at least for ourselves if not for our institutions and our causes.
But the struggle is ongoing. There is still an enormous amount of headroom.
How do we keep maximizing our collective personal win? What are the tools, networks, and communities that we are going to use and deal with in the future? How will we deal with the other communities and modalities of communication on our borders. We, of course, seek total universal domination. Is that realistic? If so, how? If not, for what should we settle and how should we settle for it? And how do we maximize the societal win?
Does this draft introduction have a chance of triggering the kind of conversation on April 12 that it would be useful to see? If not, what should I say instead? And what else should I say to open the conference? Suggestions welcome.
The conference is invitation only, alas! For our budget and our space is very limited...