‘Tim O’Reilly to software developers: Get serious’

by Jon Thompson on October 12, 2008

My snarky comments about Team Cyprus (see below) came after reading an LA Times’ article on Tim O’Reilly.  From the article:

O’Reilly argues that Silicon Valley has strayed from the passion and idealism that fuel innovation to instead follow what he calls the “mad pursuit of the buck with stupider and stupider ideas.”

Flush with money and opportunity following the post-dot-com resurgence, he says, some entrepreneurs have cocooned in a “reality bubble,” insulated from poverty, disease, global warming and other problems that are gripping the planet. He argues that they should follow the model of some of the world’s most successful technology companies, including Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which sprang from their founders’ efforts to “work on stuff that matters.”

Not everyone is convinced that business is the right vehicle to tackle social or environmental ills. But Jim Schorr, who lectures on social entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says he can’t imagine “a higher calling for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.”

Not everyone is convinced that business is the right vehicle to tackle social or environmental ills. But Jim Schorr, who lectures on social entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says he can’t imagine “a higher calling for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.”

“The opportunity to focus technology and tech entrepreneurs on the unaddressed, underserved segments of society is enormous,” Schorr said. “Developing and extending technologies with limited profit potential, using market-driven approaches, can deliver both social and financial impact and sustainability.”

Though the Web 2.0 generation has a reputation for indulgence and narcissism, O’Reilly can point to a number of ventures using Silicon Valley ingenuity to deliver on Schorr’s ideal.

The Omidyar Network, created by EBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, makes grants to and investments in worthy causes. Benentech.org, started by former rocket scientist Jim Fruchterman, creates software for human rights activists, environmentalists and people with disabilities.

The market is not so much interested in helping the developing world rather they want to corner it.  I agree that most of the IT world is locked in their own reality believing that they alone know how to save the world.  (I didn’t have this cynicism when I jumped into this side of the pool but everything I have seen so far has given me little hope that change is on the way.)  I really think that Silicon Valley has to bottom out before things get better and the ideas get fresher.  The problem with many of the social ventures, foundations, etc. is that they are simply being populated with folks that still live in the ‘reality bubble’.  Those same glassy eyed individuals who danced their way through ‘Don’t stop believing’ are now deciding that they want to do more with their lives so they are simply moving their offices, pulling in a comparable salary and producing the same tepid ideas that are weighting down the companies they are leaving.  We really need to send the kids somewhere for the summer and not just to some exotic island where they can cavort with babes in matching bikinis.  Who are those women anyways?

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