What may seem like the golden age of entrepreneurship, Ross Baird, president of Village Capital and author of “The Innovation Blind Spot,” says otherwise.
“Actually, entrepreneurial activity is at a 40-year low in the U.S.,” Baird said. “For a few people in a few places, our innovation is working great.”
Baird addressed a full crowd at Goizueta alongside a panel made up of moderator and Social Enterprise @ Goizueta’s Peter Roberts, Goodie Nation’s Joey Womack and Rimidi’s Lucienne Ide during the Social Impact Panel Series sponsored by BNY Mellon Wealth Management.
“Eighty percent of starting investment goes to three states: New York, Massachusetts and California,” Baird continued. “There’s a reason startups in Atlanta and investors in Atlanta both go to other states to find money or find investment opportunities.”
In fact, looking in detail at the startup landscaping, Baird said about 5 percent of investment in new businesses go to companies run by women and about 1 percent goes to companies run by African-Americans or Latinos.
“The society we have is not reflective of who’s getting resources,” Baird said. “This is not because there aren’t any good startups in Atlanta or Cincinnati or Central Virginia. It’s because the way our innovation economy works is filled with blind spots.”
The hardest part about blind spots is the inability to see them yourself.
“The one thing about blind spots is that you can’t ever see them no matter how self-aware you are,” Baird said. “You need other people to reflect them back to you.”
Blind spots can occur everywhere, but what’s key and what can help entrepreneurs move forward is the ability to learn from those blind spots.
“A few things we noticed in terms of blind spots is that especially around social impact, the narrative makes a huge difference in terms of decisions from partners to invest, buy, etc., and what we were seeing was that the founders with the best stories, not necessarily the ones that can move the needle the most, were getting the most attention,” Womack said.
Although most investments go through the three core cities, Baird is beginning to see a revolution in the innovation world. Ide focuses her time in the healthcare sector and quickly realized Atlanta was the ideal location.
“We have the perfect market right here,” Ide said. “It’s a business community that I love and that loves to count the fact that we have more health tech here in Atlanta than anywhere in the world. I challenged it by asking, how is that helping people who live in Atlanta? How are we taking that technology to solve our own problems with access to health and literacy, and shame on us if not. And that’s been a really great for us.”
Concluding the session, Roberts explained it’s truly about learning from every entrepreneur across all platforms.
“Look across the boundaries and really pay serious attention to the entrepreneurs of different places, of different problems, of different skin colors or genders,” he said. “Instead of looking at them as people who need to be advised, be very cognizant of the fact that there’s a wealth of understanding and experience and ideas that need to be taken seriously.”